1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Paul is telling believers that they have the ability on some level to block the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying ministry to them. Certainly, from the standpoint of God's sovereignty, no human being is powerful enough to stop the God of the universe from doing what He wants through His Spirit, but on the "every day" level- we could apparently engage in quenching the Spirit's sanctifying ministry in our lives. The Holy Spirit's ministry serves the purpose of bringing glory to God by moving us, the redeemed, closer to Christlikeness. The Holy Spirit is the prime mover in our sanctification. Our dying to sin is the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Paul says here, “Do not quench the Spirit” -very importantly-he is specifically referring to the Spirit’s ministry through the revealed Word of God ("do not despise prophecies").
I have wrestled with what it means to quench the Holy Spirit. The word quench seems to reveal much. One of the most vivid pictures of the Holy Spirit is as fire. The word quench here is undoubtedly meant to evoke the image of pouring a dampening agent on a fire. The Holy Spirit, as fire, is seen in Scripture to be an enlightening agent, and enlivening agent, and a purifying agent. The Holy Spirit, in a very real sense, acts like fire in the life of a believer. Quenching the Spirit is the act of stifling the work of fire trying to take place. Other English versions translate verse 19- “Do not restrain the Holy Spirit”, “Do not hold back the work of the Holy Spirit”, “Don’t turn away from the Holy Spirit.” All seek to bring out the activity of refusing to heed what the Spirit has made known. All seek to bring out the activity of cutting off the revelation of God’s truth intended for them. In the context of this verse, quenching the Spirit means to not take seriously and authoritatively the Word of God (prophecies). Paul here says, “Do not quench the Spirit”. He issues a negative imperative here. Paul is encouraging us to allow the Spirit of God do its refining work in our lives. I shouldn't put the fire out, so to speak, but rather give the fire more oxygen. Again, the way we can be grow in our relationship with Christ is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us, primarily through His Word.
1 Thessalonians 5:20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Prophecies were authoritative teachings, primarily through the Apostles, that were being written and uttered during the immediate period after Christ’s resurrection. Prophecy is not always predictive, in fact it is mostly proclamation of God’s truth. The New Testament was not completed until 30-40 years after Christ ascended. During this time the Apostles were ministering and writing God’s Word. The Holy Spirit was moving through a particular spiritual gift of prophecy, as well as through other revelatory gifts unique to the time of the Apostles. So then, when Paul says, “do not despise prophecies” he is referring to the special revelation that was coming to the people of God directly from God through a human agent, primarily the Apostles. He is saying to them – "do not despise the Word of God! Listen intently to that which is from God. Do not belittle prophecies. God’s revelation should not be ignored or taken lightly".
How does this translate to us today? For us, living over 1900 years after the completion of the NT, prophecy refers to the finished Word of God. The Holy Spirit’s main work now is to take that deposit of truth, the bible, and apply it to the lives of God’s people.
So, when I neglect time in, study of, and sitting under the Word of God, it has the effect of quenching the Spirit's ministry in my life- a ministry I must have to grow in grace. The Holy Spirit is a fire, the Word of God is oxygen, I want to feed the fire!