COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 5:19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." KJV
(1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)
Spiritual life is sensitive - not sensitive like hyper-emotional person, but sensitive like pupil of the eye, or a precious and valuable flower. There are appointed influences that sustain the soul. They are not mere technicalities, but are personal involvements vital to the maintenance of the life we received when we were quickened from death in trespasses and sins. You will also observe that these involvements are not simplistic, like those experienced by a mere child. They require focus, attentiveness, and judgment. Neither, indeed, can they be sporadic, or occasional. There is no time when the admonitions before us can be ignored or considered secondary and non-essential. These are not for special times or seasons. They are not mountain peaks for the soul, but the road on which we travel to glory. It is not unusual for professed believers to live their lives in the crisis mode. By that, I mean they fervently apply themselves to matters pertaining to the soul only when life becomes too difficult to negotiate alone. This manner is not only impractical, it is totally unacceptable. Those who only resort to the Lord when the seas are stormy will not make progress toward glory. Such seek the Lord when they "are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" (Psa 107:23-31). Thus spiritual life is sought to be maintained from crisis to crisis, or storm to storm. Our text will not shows us the "better way," it reveals the manner in which we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). These are areas in which the Lord works in us, to do and to will of His good pleasure.
QUENCH NOT THE SPIRIT
" 5:19 Quench not the Spirit." Other versions read, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." NIV "Extinguish not the Spirit." DUOAY-RHEIMS "Do not put out the light of the Spirit." BBE "Do not stifle the Holy Spirit." NJB The word "quench" means cause to cease, thwart, block, stifle, suppress, and restrain. It is a strong word! It is the same word Jesus used when speaking of the fires of hell - "the fire is not quenched." It is also the same word our Lord used in the parable of the ten virgins, when He said the lamps of the foolish "are gone out" (Matt 25:8). The word "quench," therefore, is not a frothy and inconsequential word, as though we are admonished not to discourage the Spirit or make His work difficult. This is not speaking of slowing down the work of the Spirit, but of stopping it altogether. It is not lowering the flame, or making the influence of the Spirit less prominent, but extinguishing it altogether.
QUENCHING THE SPIRIT? To "quench" the Spirit is to stop His illumination, so that we are no longer able to perceive or comprehend the things of God. It is to stifle His power, so that we are no longer able to stand, or be renewed in the spirit of our minds. Those who "quench" the Spirit refuse to let the fire of godly devotion burn in their spirits. They grow cold and calloused, becoming indifferent to the needs of their soul. Heaven is no longer their goal, and the presence of the Lord is no longer sought with fervency. All of these are evidences that the Holy Spirit has been grieved. Many a religious soul is living in a state where they have so quenched the Spirit of God that He no longer works within them. They often attempt to fix the blame for the condition upon others. The truth is, however, that they themselves have quenched the Spirit. No other person has the power to extinguish the flame of the Spirit within an individual. If His work is stopped, we are the ones who have done it!
A similar expression is found in Ephesians 4:30. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Here the emphasis is on the effect of human neglect upon the Spirit Himself. He is "grieved," or made sorrowful by the inconsideration of those who "neglect so great salvation." The Spirit Himself is distressed and pained by those who stop His work within them. On the other hand, quenching the Holy Spirit has to do with thwarting His work, stopping the remarkable change from "glory unto glory" by a preference for the things of this world.
We should not be surprised that such a thing is possible. It is said of ancient Israel, "Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel" (Psa 78:41). Here, the word "limited" does involve being pained, troubled, or wounded. However, it also involves the cessation of God's work for the individual, for God does not work for good in those who continually cause Him grief. The impact of Israel's hardheartedness on the Lord is recorded in Psalm 78:21-22. "Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation." Again, the same chapter records these words, "When God heard this, He was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel" (v 59). Again, Psalm 106:40 declares, "Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance."
Do not imagine that those who provoke the Lord to anger will still be blessed by Him. Are we not solemnly warned, "Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than He?" It is still a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31), and those who "quench" the Spirit are doing precisely that - falling into His hands. We must settle it in our minds that the Holy Spirit is providing an inner means through which the Lord can bless and direct us. Apart from His indispensable work, Christ does not dwell in our hearts (Eph 3:16-17), and the blessing of God cannot be upon us.
HOW IS THE SPIRIT QUENCHED? Quenching the Spirit is the opposite of walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16,25). It is the antithesis of "obeying the truth through the Spirit" (1 Pet 1:22). Quenching the Spirit is the reverse of sowing to the Spirit (Gal 6:8). It is the opposite of walking in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).
A carnal mind quenches the Spirit, "for to be carnally minded is death" (Rom 8:6). The Holy Spirit leads us to "put to death the deeds of the body" NKJV (Rom 8:13). Quenching the Spirit, therefore, is refusing to put those deeds to death. Being "unthankful," or being ruled by ingratitude, puts out the flame of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:2). When "an evil heart of unbelief" is found in men, the Spirit is quenched, for He cannot and will not work in an environment of unbelief (Heb 3:12). The dreaded blight of lukewarmness abruptly terminates the working of the Holy Spirit (Rev 3:16). It is the business of every believer to see to it that the Holy Spirit is not "quenched," for there is no hope in such a state.
You will have no more of the Spirit than you intend to have. You will get no closer to the Lord than you intend to get. You will be no more like Christ than you intend to be.
DESPISE NOT PROPHESYINGS
" 20 Despise not prophesyings." Other versions read, "do not despise prophetic utterances," NASB "do not treat prophecies with contempt," NIV "Do not despise the words of prophets," NRSV and "Do not scoff at prophecies." NLT
"Prophesyings" are insightful words uttered under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. They can be the foretelling of the future, but that is not the emphasis of this word. Prophesying refers more to forth-telling than fore-telling. Here it is used in the New Covenant sense. "But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" NKJV (1 Cor 14;3). Through words, the souls of men are strengthened, built up, and made adequate for the good fight of faith. Through words, men are moved to engage themselves more fully in the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Through words men are comforted, their sufferings alleviated, and the struggles related to living by faith are mitigated, or made bearable. In this sense, a "prophet" is able to skillfully handle the Word of the Lord (2 Tim 2:15), opening it up to the hearts of men. He is able to make the will of the Lord more discernible, confirming that it is both sensible and accessible.
"Prophesyings" are words that pertain to "life and godliness." They are utterances that clarify Christ and His work, confirm the transitory nature of life in this world, and shine the jewel of hope. Such words put the foundation stone in place so that men can build their lives upon it. They lift men from the domain of temporality into the "heavenly places."
DESPISE NOT! To "despise" is to regard lightly, or perceive to have little or no significance. It is to esteem least, and refuse to give the place of preeminence to a thing. It involves disdaining something, or disregard it, rejecting it as something vital.
We live in a time when professed Christians have been brought to despise prophesying, or insightful words that bring edification, exhortation, and comfort. Some people prefer praise to prophesy. Others favor music over prophesy. Some would rather have discussion than to submit their minds to insightful declarations. It is not unusual to follow whole bodies of younger people who would rather play games than to hear prophesyings. The solemn word to all such people is this: "Despise not prophesyings!" Do not put them into the background as though they were not fundamental. "Prophets" rank only behind Apostles in the Divine order of things (1 Cor 12:28). A single person prophesies at a time, with no more than two or three at a gathering. So vital is the speech that it is to be "judged" by other prophets - tested and evaluated to determine its truth (1 Cor 14:29).
Prophesy is the superior gift that is to be sought. In an extended word on this matter, the Spirit declares prophesy to be especially sought. It yields edification, exhortation, and comfort. Paul desired "even more" that saints prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in an unknown tongue (1 Cor 14:1-5). How serious it is, therefore, to despise prophesyings, pushing them into the background and accounting them nothing.
CONTEMPT FOR DOCTRINE. In some circles, it is fashionable to speak derisively of "doctrine," as though there was something inherently unprofitable in it. Doctrine is teaching, or the communication of realities upon which life is founded and the understanding made profitable. The Scriptures themselves are "for doctrine" (2 Tim 3 :16). God refers to His own speech as "My doctrine" (Deut 32:2). The recovery of man from the snare of sin is declared to involve "learning doctrine" (Isa 29:24). The preaching and teaching of Jesus were called "His doctrine" (Matt 7:28). The early church "continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42). In a very real sense, to despise prophesyings is to disdain doctrine - to consider it inconsequential and subordinate to other interests. The solemn word from heaven is, "Despise not prophesyings!"
"Prophesyings" occur when the Holy Spirit of God and the voice of man join in accord. Included are the promises of the Prophets, who foretold of "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet 1:11). The prophecies of the nature of life in Christ, the reception of a new heart and a new spirit, are not to be despised (Ezek 36:26). He promise of the triumph of those who wait upon the Lord is to be held in high regard (Isa 40:31)
The prophecies of the Apostles regarding apostasy and spiritual decline are not to be despised, as though they had no value (2 Thess 2:3; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 2 Pet 3:3). Their powerful articulation of the effectiveness of Christ's death, resurrection, and intercession are to be highly valued, and not despised. The declaration of the return of the Lord, our gathering to Him, and the rewarding of the faithful, are not to be forfeited in favor of dealing with contemporary novelties and transitory experiences.
Here is surely a word that must be sounded forth in our time: "Despise not prophesyings!" Do not embrace an empty
religious form that allows little place for speaking the mind of God.
PROVE AND HOLD
" 5:18 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Other versions read, "Test all things; hold fast what is good," NKJV "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good," NASB "Test everything. Hold on to the good," NIV
Here is an essential aspect of spiritual life that is much neglected in our time. Those who have embraced a sectarian view of things test little that is declared to them. They suppose the official spokesman of the party is always right. Others assume everything that is unfamiliar to them is wrong. Neither view is right nor tolerable. Our minds must be engaged whenever we hear or read anything that comes in the name of the Lord. Two responsibilities are held before us. They are not optional activities, else we would not be exhorted to engage in them. To fail in any or both of these areas is to give the advantage to the flesh and the devil. Error cannot be avoided, and truth cannot be embraced without these.
PROVE ALL THINGS. Proving all things, or testing everything, is to teaching what refining is to the verification of precious metals, and testing is to the validation of precious gems. We are not to take for granted that every word purported to have come from God is actually from Him. Even the words of prophets are to proved, judged (1 Cor 14:29). The nobility of the Bereans was found in them searching the Scriptures every day to confirm that what was preached to them by Paul and Silas was true (Acts 17:11). Many self-appointed preachers and teachers would soon disappear from the scene if this admonition was taken seriously. Those who speak the truth in Christ have no fear of their words being tested.
Through John the beloved, the Spirit elaborates on the reason for this requirement. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Not a few, but "many false prophets" have gone into the world. Many of them are in our region! It is dangerous to listen indiscriminately to those who speak in Jesus' name. This does not mean we are to be skeptical of everyone. It does mean we are not to be casual or gullible in our hearing. We are not admonished to ignore what people say, but to prove, or test, it.
Satan's messengers are cunning in their presentations. It is not always easy to detect the error of their message. This is because "his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness" NKJV Satan himself "transforms himself into an angel of light," therefore making it difficult for him to be detected (2 Cor 11:14-15). This condition mandates that we enter into the holy work of "proving all things."
HOLD FAST WHAT WHICH IS GOOD. It is not enough to merely identify what is false. Proving all things will also discover to the heart what is true and good. Just as surely as letting go of what is false is important, so it is imperative to "hold fast that which is good." To "hold fast" means to maintain a grip on what is "good," not letting it get away from us. Among other things, this shows us that "good things" (Tit 2:3) cannot profit us if we do not hold on to them. Even after we have heard the liberating truth of the Gospel, we must "give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb 2:1). Keep in mind, your adversary the devil is engaged in an effort to rob you!
The things of God do not stay with you automatically. Fail to think upon them, and you will drift away from them. Decline to mediate upon them, and they will no longer be accessible to you! Remember you are sanctified through the truth, and God's Word is truth (John 17:17,19). That is why it is so necessary to determine what is really "good," and to hold on to it with zeal. This is what Hebrews 2:1 calls "paying much closer attention." NASB
What is held fast will not be able to be taken away by others. This is precisely the point Jesus made about Mary, when speaking to her sister. "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42). No such guarantee, however, is given to those who do not maintain a hold upon what is good. When "good" is held loosely, it cannot be held continually. If neglected, it will eventually slip away from ones grasp, with all of its benefits leaving with it.
Many a soul has fallen away from the Lord simply because they were too easygoing in regard to holding on to what was good. They preferred only minimal exposure to the truth of God, and even then were not zealous to hide it in their heart. Such foolish souls have placed status, pleasure, and temporal things above their own souls. To all such Jesus says, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36). Gaining the "whole world" has nothing whatsoever to do with proving all things and holding fast what is good. Rather, such an unlawful quest requires the neglect of both!