The Ministry of the Holy Spirit (part 5)
John Telgren

Here is a specific instruction concerning the Spirit.

"Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thess 5:19).

Obviously, God does not force the Spirit on us without our cooperation. But what does it specifically mean to quench the Spirit?

I remember a discussion with someone on whether we have a low or high view of man. The low view is that man is inherently incapable and helpless to please God due to sin and depravity, and that it is only through the transforming power of God that man can be good and holy.

In contrast, many have held a high view of man. Sometimes the rhetoric seems otherwise, but actions speak louder than words. Actions of brethren have demonstrated the view that humans need to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." The underlying attitude is that sanctification is more an act of human will than a ministry of the Spirit. Much emphasis has been placed on the human side of transformation, while very little is placed on the deity side. Many prayers are offered for sickness and thanksgiving, but rarely to create in us a clean heart, transform our will, or change us. It almost seems as if it is completely up to us to change and that we just simply need to try harder.

But merely trying harder is not enough. Simply trying harder leads either to despair or self-deceptive legalism. Those who do not quit out of despair often become legalists like the Pharisees. There grows a Spiritless legalism, the fruit of which is fear, doubt, jealousy, selfishness, competitiveness, pride, and things of this nature. Rather than transformation, there is a memorization of selective rules that makes the legalist feel better about himself. For instance….

"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12);

We need to "work out" our own salvation. If there are problems, it is because you don't want to try hard enough. The result of this high view of man is that brethren often do not know how to help someone stuck in sin. Indeed, these brethren can't help, because in their mind it is solely up to the sinner. But…continue reading…

"…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).

"To will" is talking about our desire, fortitude, and determination. It appears that our will is not strong enough on its own. We are "not even able to please God" (Rom 8:7-8), so we need God to transform us. Perhaps relying on ourselves and not the power of God is one way of quenching the Spirit. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It is God who is at work in you, so there is no room for pride. This is great news. It is not completely up to us. God has given us a "helper," the Spirit. It would seem that prayer (Jude 20), the right attitude about ourselves (2 Cor 12:9; Gal 5:16-17), time in the word (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:11-12), and fellowship of the Spirit (Phil 2:1), are all ways to kindle the Spirit rather than quenching it.