What does it mean to “quench” the Spirit?

You’re probably familiar with God’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Do you know what it means? For years I never gave it much thought. I didn’t take the time to explore what this meant and how I could be guilty of this sin.

I look back now and realize I not only quenched the Spirit, but I also violated the next verse: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt” (1 Thess. 5:20 NIV). I had contempt toward anyone who claimed to have “a word from the Lord.” I felt it was a righteous contempt because I’d seen people use the phrase “I have a word from the Lord” to manipulate others for personal gain. Cult leaders use the phrase to secure followers and increase their own authority. How can you disagree or even have a discussion with someone who claims they heard directly from God?

So I was against all of it. I was disturbed by any claim of prophetic speech. Looking back, I believe my concerns were valid but my actions were not. The biblical response would have been to “test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21–22NIV). Rather than rejecting the possibility of God supernaturally speaking through people, I should have tested what I was hearing in the context of faithful community.

On the flip side, if churches that practice prophetic utterances were quicker to reject the false prophets and prophecies by calling them out on their biblical inconsistencies (“avoiding evil”), then maybe the conservative world would be less skeptical about prophecy.  Some conservatives may quench the Spirit by ignoring His working, but surely putting unbiblical words into the mouth of God is a form of quenching the Spirit as well. We need the Spirit in order to live faithfully. But we also need each other as we work out our faith.

How can you tell if a Christian gathering is empowered by the Holy Spirit?

Sometimes I leave Christian events wondering if we resemble the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 more than Elijah. The prophets of Baal had a loud, passionate worship gathering that lasted from morning till evening. When they were done, they had a great time of fellowship (I think you can call it that). But “no one answered; no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29). After all of that, Elijah prayed. God heard his prayer, and fire came down from heaven.

My favorite part of that story comes when it is all over and the prophets of Baal are saying, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39 NIV). They didn’t say, “Elijah is a great speaker” or “Elijah sure knows how to connect with God!” They were stunned by God. They were in awe of His power. They knew that what they experienced could not have been manipulated by Elijah. They experienced the power of God.

Is that what happens at the Christian gatherings you attend? Or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced before Elijah prayed? We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.


Take a look at the motivation behind the scenes of BASIC.Holy Spirit

What if the Holy Spirit calls me to radical, bold living?  My Christian friends will think I’m crazy!

My hope and prayer for you is that church people don't try to normalize you. What I mean is that in American churches we often try to calm people down who are just too passionate or too sacrificial and radical. I know at times I have done this to other people. And I've had it done to me.