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Quenching the Spirit

I built a fire pit once around an old tree stump that had been chopped down close to the ground but the roots were never excavated. I simply stacked some wood on top of it and lit a fire, it ended up burning really well. The stump of that old tree heated up, and the warmth of the fire went deep into the ground. A full 24 hours after the fire had died out that stump was still smoldering, burning deep beneath the ground. It took several days for the fire to be fully extinguished from that stump.

This is the language that the apostle Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 where the NIV translates not to ‘quench’ the spirit, literally meaning not to extinguish Him. Just like a fire that roars in blazing heat and dances with beautiful but dangerous colors of red, orange, and blue, amongst the black backdrop of the night, so the Holy Spirit can be ablaze in our hearts, minds and lives, yet become fully extinguished if not tended. Quenched to the point that there is nothing left, no heat, no flame … just the remains of white ash. This is why Paul reminds his protege and partner in the gospel, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift of God that he had given him (2 Tim 1:6), literally to rekindle afresh; to rekindle the fire that is smoldering where the flames have grown small and dim.

It can be difficult for many of us to relate in the developed western hemisphere, where the need to constantly make fire is no longer a part of our daily lives as it was to our great grandparents. Now with the advantages of central heating and air systems, not to mention the ambiance setting flick of a switch that turns on a gas powered fire with crystals or wood that don’t burn up only to be turned off just as effortlessly as it was turned on, we often don’t connect with the real struggle and diligent attention it takes to keep a fire going strong over time. In ancient times nomadic peoples, like the native Americans, when they needed to travel due to running out of local resources or water sources drying up, would carry a hot ember from a fire carefully wrapped in heat resistant vegetation so as to keep it warm during their travels, so they would be able to use the ember later that day to start another fire more easily than starting from scratch.

“Do not quench the Spirit” - 1 Thes 5:19

And so it is with the Christian as they walk with the Holy Spirit. It is something that requires constant attention and care in order that the Spirit’s is not quenched and extinguished in our hearts and minds. Just as fire takes ignition, oxygen, and fuel (such as wood, gas, or some other flammable substance) in order to produce flame, so it is with the Christian life. Peter tells us that the ignition of the Holy Spirit’s fire in our life and His residence in us is when we believe the message about Christ, repent and are baptized in his name (Acts 2:25-40). The oxygen and fuel that it takes to keep the Spirit’s fire and presence strong in our lives comes through our adherence to the spiritual disciplines of daily reading and study of God’s word, prayer in and through His Spirit, meditation on God’s precepts, confession of our sins to God and others (1 Jn 1:9-11), fellowship and consistent meaningful relationships with other believers (Heb 4) and daily putting what God teaches us into practice (James 1). Through daily spiritual disciplines such as these we supply the oxygen and fuel that the Holy Spirit needs to continue to burn brightly in and through us to the glory of the Father.

Without this oxygen and fuel, even after proper ignition, the Holy Spirit can indeed be extinguished. And any of us who have been walking with him for more than a short time have seen this happen to others around us; who beginning with strong ignition in the Holy Spirit and walking boldly with him, only to see the Spirit’s fire quietly burn out until He is fully quenched (Gal 3:3). Some of us might have even experienced that phenomena in our lives personally.

“You can have all your doctrines right - yet still not have the presence of God.” ~ Lenard Ravenhill

I believe it is important to mention at this point the concept of “falling away” from the Lord (Heb 6:4-8), which is contrary to the understanding that it means simply to leave a particular church. The concept of “falling away” presented in Hebrews 6 is a state in which it is impossible for someone to come back to repentance (and presumably, thus salvation itself). When exactly someone gets to this state of having “fallen away” and unable to be brought back to repentance is ultimately unknowable by any human being, even perhaps the individual themselves, because every human being is bound by time and none of us know the future. It is only God, from his eternal non-time-bound perspective, that can ultimately know if someone has “fallen away”. It is at this point as well that I would advise the reader to adapt their language appropriately if needed, to more accurately represent God’s word when referring to others. Technically we can never say for sure if someone has “fallen away” biblically. We can can use language that is perhaps more accurate, such as they no longer believe in Jesus (especially if that’s what they are communicating), or have wandered away or stopped following Jesus, or have left our fellowship, etc..

Just before Paul tells the Christians in Thessolonica to not quench the Spirit, he gives them some insight into how not to do this. He tells them to rejoice always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances, for that is God’s will for them in Christ Jesus (1 This 5:16-18). It is so easy to not be thankful during difficult times. It is so easy to not be joyful, but rather sullen, faithless, and cower in the face of adversity. It is so easy not to pray, but instead lean on our own wisdom and understanding to lead us forward in life during difficult circumstances.

These are the types of things that can quench the Holy Spirit of God within us.


Memory Scripture:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 - Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.


  • Lord, let me fan into flame the gift of your Spirit that you have given to me. Help me to prioritize in the midst of chaotic daily life to give attention to not letting your Spirit be quenched within me.

Action Item:

  • Plan a personal spiritual retreat (at least half a day, longer if you can) in which you will specifically fan into flame (fuel and oxygen) to the Spirit’s fire in your life.

Study Questions:

  1. Have you received biblical “ignition” of the Holy Spirit? How can you know? What scriptures from God’s word give you evidence of this?

  2. Has the Spirit’s fire begun to be quenched and extinguished in your life? How so?

  3. In what ways are you providing the Holy Spirit with “fuel” and “oxygen” in your life to continue to burn brightly? In what ways do you need to add “fuel” and “oxygen”?


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