Last week we looked at public worship and saw the elements of joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. We can worship God regardless of our circumstances simply because of who He is. Paul continues with some instructions for the church that are still elements of public worship.
Grab your Bible once again, turn to and read 1 Thes. 5:19-22.
The first instruction Paul gives us is don’t quench the Spirit of God. Remember how the Thessalonian believers began their walk with Christ. Back in 1:6-7 Paul said, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Their transformation wasn’t just in words. The Holy Spirit had so transformed them, even in persecution, that they were examples for others to follow. Don’t quench the Spirit comes right in the middle of a pack of instructions. This instruction can be applied to the previous instructions and the ones after it. In fact, this is just a plain good instruction.
Quench means to extinguish or put out as in a fire. The fire of the Holy Spirit is seen throughout the Scriptures. 2 Tim. 1:6 says, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.” Speaking of Jesus in Luke 3:16 John said, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Fire signifies purification and cleansing.
Firefighters talk about the fire triangle and you probably learned about it in school. The fire triangle consists of heat, fuel, and oxygen. If you remove any one of those elements ,the fire goes out. So what can put out the Spirit’s fire?
- Church politics.
- Some people think that if you have some order to a church service that immediately quenches the Spirit.
- Some preachers/pastors think that it takes at least 60 minutes for the Spirit to move in a sermon.
All of these and more can quench the Spirit and Paul is very clear, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
Secondly Paul says we need to listen. In v. 20 Paul says, “Do not despise prophetic utterances.” We’re supposed to pay attention when the preacher is talking. It’s different today than it was in the days of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Nahum, and all the rest of the prophets. When they said this is what the Lord says, people had better listen. The people didn’t have the written Word of God like we do now and they had to rely on the prophets to give them the Word. Even though we have the Bible, this instruction still applies to us.
Today we don’t have prophets or prophecy in the strictest sense of the word. If you remember from our spiritual gifts study, prophecy comes from the Greek word pro that means in front of, prior or forth, and phemi that means to show or make known one’s thoughts. So then prophecy literally means speaking forth the mind and counsel of God, to set forth matters of divine teaching by special ability. Prophecy is simply forth telling for another. A prophet would then be someone who proclaims a divine message or a person gifted in the exposition of the truth. Paul says don’t despise what the preacher, the Sunday school teacher, the Bible study teacher, or the Community Group leader says.
Don’t quench the Spirit and don’t despise what the preacher says, but we must still examine what we hear. Paul says, “But examine everything carefully.” Examine comes from the word that means test or scrutinize. This word is what the assayer would do to precious metals to test their purity. 1 Cor. 3:13 says, “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” The work is evident based on the tests. As a pastor and preacher, I want you to test my words carefully to see if what I’m saying is true. Do this with anybody that handles the Word of God.
But you just don’t test the Word, you, “Hold fast to that which is good.” Whatever passes the test means you need to hold onto it. This word hold means to take possession of or to keep it. That’s what the Bereans did. Acts 17:11 says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” They didn’t just see if what the preacher was saying was true, once they found out it was true, they took possession of that truth.
If we would do this, we would avoid lots of problems. How do you think heresy is introduced in the church? It’s nothing new. Paul addressed this issue with the Galatians. Look at Galatians 1:6-9. The Judaizers of the day wanted to add things to the grace of God. In 1 Tim. 1:3 Paul told Timothy, “Remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.” 2 Cor. 11:4 “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” It still happens in the church. We have pastors that don’t preach against sin. We have people that say you need to be baptized to gain eternal life, some say you have to join a particular church to go to heaven. Others encourage people to walk down an aisle and pray a prayer. None of these are true. It is simple belief that saves. Now the result of that belief is action. We’ve talked about that before. Salvation produces change.
Don’t quench the Spirit, listen and examine, and finally, Paul says we need to abstain. “Abstain from every form of evil.” Evil means morally objectionable and is always bad. Biblically, the word is used for gossip in Matt. 5:11. In Matt. 5:37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Romans 12:9 tells us to abhor evil. Satan is called the evil one in Eph. 6:16 and 1 John 2:3. Motives can be evil according to James 2:4. Unfortunately, evil has become relative. What was once considered evil by society and even the church, may not be anymore. Evil may be a moving target, but it shouldn’t be. There is absolute truth. Heb. 13:8 declares that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Paul says, “Abstain from every form of evil.” There has been a propensity in the church for Christians to draw as close to the line of sin as they can. Some things are clearly black and white. Don’t do evil. But what about those gray areas? We should always err on the side of virtue.
Don’t quench, listen, examine and apply, abstain. These are clear instructions for us to follow. Are you willing to obey?