Do Not Quench the Spirit

Dr. Brian Allison

Humphrey Jones' story is a tragic one. In 1858 revival had broken out in America, and Jones was used mightily of the Lord. Being a Welshman, he longed to see revival in his own country. He returned to his homeland in order to "set Wales alight." He came in the fullness of the Spirit of God, and with empowered preaching. It was partially through his preaching, as the fruit of the prayers of God's people, that revival came to Wales. In the early months of 1859, Jones was preaching in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth. It was a hard ministry, and he saw very little fruit. Apparently, he was driven to distraction. Consequently, he changed his focus. He made claims to special divine revelation, and began to speak prophecies to his congregation. He turned his focus from the Lord to himself; and directed attention to himself. Apparently, in the absence of visible spiritual fruit, he took matters into his own hands. That was his fatal mistake. The prophecies that he spoke proved to be false. Brian Edwards, in his book Revival, writes, "Humphrey Jones was greatly used in Wales in 1859 until his pride robbed God of the glory, and then his effective ministry was ended" (p. 122). He never attained to the spiritual heights and power in ministry that he had formerly experienced. He died in 1895 in America in obscurity.

Humphrey Jones lost the Spirit; that is, he forfeited the presence and power of the Spirit. This tragic account is a warning to us. We too may lose the Spirit. We too may forfeit the presence and power of the Spirit; and, through the judgement of God, never experience that presence and power again. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 reads, "Do not quench the Spirit." This verse may be translated: "Stop quenching the Spirit." What seems to be implied is that these Thessalonian believers were in the process of quenching the Spirit, and Paul says, "Stop it!" Once the Spirit is gone, where are we left? Once the Spirit no longer reveals Himself, what can we do? So, it is possible to quench the Spirit, which is a rather disturbing possibility. I did not say that it is possible to lose our salvation. If we are truly saved, then we are always saved. That is not the issue here. The issue is this: We can lose the presence and power of the Spirit. To quench the Spirit simply means to extinguish or put out the Spirit. Once the Spirit is put out, though we are saved, we may never kindle Him again. This is indeed a serious matter.

As we consider the context of this text, we must primarily understand this prohibition in a general/corporate, prophetic sense, but I think that we also may understand this truth in a specific, personal sense. There is a principle here that is equally relevant and applicable to us as individuals. In our individual lives, we may forfeit the presence and power of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit is the fire of God

The term 'quench' is used in relationship to fire. For instance, Mark 9:47,48 reads, "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED [same term in the original]." Again, consider Hebrews 11:32-34a, "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched [same term] the power of fire."

Symbolically speaking, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the fire of God; and thus appropriately we have the prohibition, "Do not quench the Spirit." In Acts 2:1-4, we read, "And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place [praying and seeking the Lord]. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind [representative of the Spirit], and it filled the whole house where they were sitting [and praying]. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire [symbolic of the Spirit's presence] distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them [the disciples]. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." In Revelation 4, we have the heavenly scene of the throne room of God; and we read, "And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven [i.e., perfect] Spirits of God (v. 5)."

The Spirit of Truth and Power

Now, in the Scriptures, there is a direct correlation between symbols and that which the symbols represent. Accordingly, when we think of the notion of fire, we are presented with characteristics that relate to the person and ministry of the Spirit. What are the main characteristics of fire? Heat and light. The Spirit is the source of spiritual heat and the source of spiritual light. On the one hand the Spirit gives energy, passion, zeal, enthusiasm, life – spiritual heat; and on the other hand, the Spirit gives understanding, insight, revelation, and illumination – spiritual light. That is, on the one hand, we have the Spirit of Power; and on the other hand, we have the Spirit of Truth.

Personally speaking, the Spirit of Truth recently gave me spiritual light. As I was reflecting upon prayer, the Spirit revealed to me that prayer should be likened to the Most Holy Place. The Temple and the Tabernacle were divided into two main sections. There was the first room called the Holy Place in which were the table for the shewbread, the altar of incense, and the golden lampstand. And behind the Holy Place was the room called the Most Holy Place in which was the Ark of the Covenant, on which was the mercy seat, flanked by the cherubim. Recall that God came down and met and communed with Moses in the Most Holy Place – "And you [Moses] shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I shall give to you. And there I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel" (Ex. 25:21,22). When I read and meditate on the Scriptures, I am in the Holy Place, which prepares me to enter prayer, the Most Holy Place. When I turn to God in prayer, in that spiritual context, I remind myself that I am on holy ground; and in that faith (because it is a faith response), God meets me there, and communes with me. This insight was light for me from the Spirit, and it has advanced my prayer life.

One's prayer life may also be advanced in relationship to the Spirit of Power, Who gives energy and passion. I was recently speaking to a young Christian lady who has her share of difficulty and trouble; but what delighted and encouraged my heart was that she said, "I had such a good time of prayer this morning." I asked her how long she prayed for; and she replied, "I prayed for one and a half hours. It was a wonderful and meaningful time of prayer." Most people cannot even pray for 5 or 10 minutes, and not get bored, let alone one and a half hours. God lifted her up and carried her along, and for an hour and a half she worshipped God in joy. I suggest to you that she was able to do that because of the Spirit of Power; the Spirit enabled her and granted such an experience. You cannot pray for one hour and a half, two hours, three hours, etc., so that it seems like a moment in time and exquisite delight without the Spirit of Power coming upon you. You cannot do it in your flesh. Praying in the flesh is labour. It is a drudgery for you to pray in your flesh more than 15 or 20 minutes; but when the Spirit of Power comes, He changes everything.

The Spirit of Judgement

Let's carry the simile (and even metaphor) through – the Spirit is like fire. What does fire do? It consumes. Divine judgement is often portrayed in terms of fire consuming, ravaging, destroying (e.g. Deut. 32:22; 2 Kgs. 1:10; Jb. 15:34; Jer. 49:27; Lu. 9:54). On an individual level, the Spirit is the consuming fire of God in our lives. As believers, He judges and consumes our sin. He burns away the dross of evil, the residue of corruption. The Spirit of God purifies us, sanctifies us, makes us holy. By what means does the Spirit actually do this great work? By giving us an understanding of the truth, as well as by enabling us to respond to that truth, resulting in spiritual fruit in our lives. Is the Holy Spirit doing that in your life? Is He bringing you light and power, and making you holy? Or do you find that rather than having light, you have darkness, you are in confusion? And rather than having power, are you experiencing weakness and frailty? And rather than being holy, sanctified, and consecrated to God, are you pathetically worldly? Maybe you are living in sin and your present spiritual condition does not even bother you, because your heart has become as hard as granite. Perhaps, when you think of your sin, you are not humbled; and you do not feel any contrition, or remorse, or sorrow. You know intellectually that your sin is bad and wrong, and displeasing to God; but there are no pangs of disturbing, biting conscience. There is no breaking of the heart, there is no sense of being overwhelmed at the horror, the evil, the wickedness, and the blackness of your sin. You may realize that you are stiff-necked, resisting the will of God. Is that where you are spiritually right now? If it is, then something is desperately wrong, because the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and He brings spiritual light; He is the Spirit of Power, and He brings spiritual heat. He is the Spirit of holiness; He is the Spirit of judgement and He consumes sin, and burns up the immoral dross. He is the fire of God. Paul warns, "Do not quench the Spirit." If you do, my friend, you are on your own. We could state the warning and prohibition this way, "Do not chase away the Spirit. Do not live in such a way that the Spirit turns away from you." I am not denying the sovereignty of the Spirit; He is God. But God is pleased to work according to certain principles which He has put in place; and He is pleased to honour those principles. If we sin, then He will withdraw Himself. If we repent and seek Him, then He will reveal Himself. These are inflexible principles which govern the kingdom of God.

Pride is the root cause

Now, the big question is: How do we quench the Spirit? How do we extinguish Him from our lives? The root cause is pride. Saul, the first king of Israel, is a clear example of this. When Saul came to the kingdom, he was a humble man. We read, "And Samuel said, 'Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel'" (1 Sam. 15:17). He was a massive, handsome man, with outstanding features, gifted in so many ways. God took this man of humility and exalted him to the highest position in the kingdom. Unfortunately Saul eventually took matters into his own hands. He became proud and presumptuous. He disobeyed the law of God. Because of his pride which led him to disobedience, God took the Spirit from him and gave it to David. We read, "Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him" (1 Sam. 16:14). The Spirit Who was given to Saul as king, by Whom he was to rule, left him forever. His pride quenched the Spirit. Through pride he lost the Spirit. It is our pride that repels God. It is our pride that makes us a disgust to God. He distances Himself from the proud – "For though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar" (Ps. 138:6). He wants nothing to do with the boastful and the arrogant.

The reason is unbelief

We grieve the Spirit through our disobedience; we quench the Spirit through lack of faith. There is a vital connection between the presence of faith and the presence of the Spirit. There is a direct correlation – when there is a lack of faith, there will be an absence of the Spirit. The Spirit manifests His presence and His power in the spiritual context of faith. It is faith that allows the Spirit to make Himself known. This is a principle of the kingdom: Those who are small in faith, will be small in the Spirit. Thus, we need to acknowledge and accept the work, ministry, and manifestations of the Spirit (and I am not necessarily referring to extraordinary manifestations) as taught by the Scriptures. We need to embrace, in belief, the Spirit's working, or the Spirit will not work. Again, the Spirit responds and reveals Himself in the face of faith.

So, the lack of faith quenches the Spirit. This truth is implied in Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope [Paul describes God as such, having in view what he wants to emphasize; and this designation sets the backdrop, and gives significance and power to his subsequent words; God is able to effect certain graces because He Himself is the source of such graces] fill you with all joy and peace in believing [that is, may God give you these particular virtues of joy and peace while you are believing; that is, in the context of believing], that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." We have to believe; and as we believe God is pleased to respond with power. We are looking at coextensive realities. As we are believing, with joy and peace 'sprinkled in' the believing, we abound in hope; but it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the hope is realized. The power of the Spirit requires, and even presupposes, faith. Again, faith allows for the manifestation of the Spirit – the manifestation of His presence and His power. Consider also Galatians 3:2, "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit [of God] by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith [or literally, the 'hearing of faith'; that is, did you receive the Spirit by seeking to be a good person, in conforming to the law of God, being a moral person? Or did you receive the Spirit as you heard the Word of God in the context of faith? Was it a faith-ful hearing? Was it faith that embraced the truth of God, and thus translated it into power in your life?]?" Now, Paul is not referring here to conversion, but to the Christian's life, and the manifestations of the Spirit in the Christian's life. Galatians 3:5 makes this patently clear, "Does He [God] then, who provides [or better, 'supplies'] you with the Spirit and works miracles [i.e., demonstrates His power] among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" Of course, the implied answer is, by the hearing with faith. God is pleased to pour out His Spirit as we respond to truth and receive it by faith.

Now, the question is this: Do we believe God's Word? Do we embrace His truth by faith? When we read the Scriptures, when we consider the promises of God, do we embrace the truth and promises of Scripture in faith? If we do not, then there will be no realization of those promises, there will be no fulfilment of that truth, in our lives. The Spirit reveals Himself in the presence of faith.

Some of you who read this message want to be revived. Some of you want to see a greater demonstration of the presence and power of God in your lives. When you read God's Word, do you believingly embrace it? Do you embrace the promises by faith so that you have that assurance "It's done!" It may be that you are not experiencing the manifestations of the Spirit because you have no faith – much knowledge, but no faith. The problem is not with God, my friends. If I can put it this way, He has more than enough Spirit to spare; you cannot out-receive God. The problem is with us. Those believers who are experiencing the presence and power of the Spirit, are those who are walking by faith. The great saints of old whom God used mightily, whose lives were enriched and enriching, who had deep prayer lives, were the ones who walked by faith. They did not get there through their own effort; they simply embraced the Word of God with childlike belief, and God supplied His Spirit. Imagine – waves and waves of the Spirit rolling in, making the spiritual wilderness and desert a plush and fertile place. God can do that. As you are reading this, do you even believe these words? If it simply seems good, and that's all, then you will not know the manifestations of the Spirit, you will not know the fire of the God.

Opponents of faith

There are enemies of faith. Maybe this is why you may be lacking in faith. Obviously, doubt kills faith. We are not to doubt in our hearts when we ask God for His blessing, particularly wisdom, because that is the opposite of faith; and God only responds to faith (see Jas. 1:5-8). We need to ask God to help us with our doubting spirit, for He turns away from a doubting heart, because a doubting heart indicates a double-minded person. God does not deal with double-minded people. He never has, and never will. God deals with people of integrity, people of righteousness. But apart from doubt, fear is the main enemy of faith. Recall that Jesus, at one time, was asleep in a boat when a great storm came upon the Sea of Galilee; and we read, "And they [the disciples] came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing!' And He said to them, 'Why are you timid, you men of little faith?'" (Mt. 8:25,26a). Is that your problem? Fear and faith cannot coexist.

Let us consider one more passage in this connection. 2 Timothy 1:5ff., in which Paul writes to Timothy, reads, "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. And for this reason [because you have this sincere faith] I remind you [do not miss the consistent imagery here] to kindle afresh the gift of God [that is a reference to the Holy Spirit, as the following sentence clearly indicates] which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear, cowardice], but [God has given us the Spirit] of power and love and discipline." Paul, in effect, says, "Timothy, I know that you have a genuine faith in Christ and His Word; therefore, I say to you that on the basis of that faith, and in keeping with that faith, rekindle the dying embers of the Spirit within you into a blazing fire. Timothy, because you have faith, remind yourself of the Word of God and the promises of God. Let your heart be challenged by the directives and commandments of God. Open up your heart to God. Let Him expose and convict you through His Word." Do you have a spirit of timidity? It will rob you of the presence and power of the Spirit.

We have a fireplace in our home. We like to have a fire in the winter time. We put kindling and wood in the fire place. We ignite the kindling in order to cause the wood to burn. After we ignite the kindling, we close the glass doors of that fireplace, open the air vent a bit, and eventually the wood begins to burn. If we close the air vent, the fire begins to go out; when we fully open the air vent, the fire blazes. The practical point is this: Rather than extinguishing the fire of God by pride and lack of faith, we are to feed and stoke it. Do you know what feeds the fire of the Spirit? The Word of God. That is the fuel. It is the Word of God that feeds faith and brings faith to life and strength (see Rm. 10:17). In feeding our faith by the Word of God, we are, at the same time, feeding the Spirit. It is no wonder that He is called the Spirit of Truth.

But spiritual feeding alone is not sufficient. You can read your Bible all day, and if that is the only thing you do, it will be like the air vent pushed in, the fire will go out. There may be lots of wood there, but it is not burning. Along with the feeding with the Word of God, you need the 'stoking' of prayer. Prayer is the air vent that causes the flame to rise high and consume the wood. It is prayer that allows us to understand the Word; it is prayer that translates the Word into our lives; it is prayer that gives power to the Word of God in our lives. The Word of God is the spiritual fuel; prayer is the spiritual force or drive that makes the spiritual machinery go. Much sincere prayer results in much of the Spirit.

So, if you are not reading and meditating on the Word of God, you are not feeding the fire of God; and your experience will be one of dryness, and even deadness. If you are not praying, you are not stoking the fire of God; and your experience will be one of form and emptiness. If you fail to do both of these spiritual exercises – the spiritual lifeline – you will quench the Spirit. You will be proud and arrogant. You will live a self-centred, self-sufficient life; you will live a life of deception, of weakness, and of defeat. Is this where you are spiritually? Have you quenched the Spirit? It may not be too late to turn matters around. Repentance is the spark to ignite the flames of revival.