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Author Topic: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15  (Read 384 times)

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Hidden In Him

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1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
« on: December 02, 2018, 12:32:42 AM »
The Importance Of Not Quenching The Spirit, Part 1

     Even in Pentecostal churches today, few seem to teach on the importance of not quenching the Holy Spirit. Maybe this is part of why we see so little of the gifts being practiced today. But it was clearly a focus of the apostle Paul's teachings from the earliest days of his ministry, and one of his driving points as he closed this first letter to the Thessalonians:

     But we beseech you, brothers, to know those laboring among you, and taking governance over you in the Lord and admonishing you, and regard them exceedingly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace amongst yourselves. But we exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be long-suffering towards all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue the good, both towards one another and towards all. Rejoice always, pray incessantly, give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus towards you. Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-19)

     Paul had just gotten through comparing them to "soldiers of light and soldiers of the day," who therefore should not give themselves to spiritual "drunkenness and sleeping," but remain prepared for attacks to come from the enemy at any time:

     We who are of the Day should remain sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of deliverance, for God has not appointed us unto wrath but to obtain deliverance through Him who died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ, that whether you may watch or we may sleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore exhort one another and edify each other, even as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11)

     In order to remain strong in the face of such attacks, Paul exhorted them to edify, i.e. spiritually strengthen one another as spiritual soldiers, and since true spiritual edification came only when the Holy Spirit was speaking through them to one another, any activities that quenched the Holy Spirit were to be avoided. Paul mentioned some of these in his exhortation to the Ephesians as well:
     Be angry yet sin not. Let not the sun set on your provocation, nor give place to the Devil. Let the one stealing steal no more, but rather let him labor, working good with his own hands that he may have something to impart to those who have need. Let no foul word proceed out of your mouth, but only that which is good for edification when needful, that it may bestow grace upon the hearer. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by which you were sealed till the Day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and indignation, and wrath, and shouting, and slander be removed from you, together with all malice. (Ephesians 4:26-31)

    There were certain recurring activities mentioned in the New Testament that were leading to strife, bitterness and infighting within the churches; things like bitter doctrinal disputes, power struggles, and theft and cheating. These activities needed to be corrected, lest their prevalence lead to some giving themselves over to the influence of demonic spirits rather than God.

Watching Lest Churches Give Place To The Devil

     How were believers giving place to Satan within the churches? James mentions one of them clearly. Too many were presuming to be teachers, and then getting into bitter arguments with one another over doctrinal disagreements. But the supposed "wisdom" they were sharing with one another in such circumstances was not coming from the Holy Spirit but from the enemy, since according to James it was "earthly, soulish, and demonic," and leading to them cursing one another:

     My brothers, do not become a multitude of teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation... If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your heart, do not boast and lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom coming down from above, but is earthly, soulish, and demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there is restlessness and every evil thing. (James 3:1, 14-16)

     Along with letting the enemy have their tongues, another instance was when believers stole from each other, and/or mooched off of one another. This was the sort of provocation Paul specifically named as leading to some giving place to the Devil.

     Be angry yet sin not. Let not the sun set on your provocation, nor give place to the Devil. Let the one stealing steal no more, but rather let him labor, working good with his own hands that he may have something to impart to those who have need. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
     What they were probably stealing here was clothing or money, which was provoking some to anger and resentment, just as mooching off of others by taking bread without working was causing problems elsewhere like among the Thessalonians. These sins needed to be corrected, lest they lead to serious divisions being created within congregations. But chastising those who were sinning could also lead to resentments, which is why Paul urged that those who did such work be highly regard in love for their work's sake. Taking governance over others and correcting them for their behavior was not always easy work, but it was necessary. They were charged with watching out for their welfare, and for the welfare of the congregation as a whole.

     Obey those who have governance over you, and yield [to them], for they watch over your souls as those who will give an account, that they may do this with joy and not groaning, for this is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

     Let the elders doing well in taking governance over you be counted worthy of double honor, especially those laboring in word and teaching, for the scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox that treads the grain," and "The workman is worthy of his wages." (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

Strife Was Leading To Immaturity In The Gifts

     The responsibility to admonish the disorderly fell first and foremost upon the elders, but Paul commanded everyone in the congregation to admonish them, if in no other way then by avoiding and shunning them until they corrected their behavior, as he would tell them in his second letter:
     But we command you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to avoid every brother who is walking irresponsibly, and not according to the tradition they received from us.... For even when we were with you we were commanding you that if anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some are walking irresponsibly among you, and not working at all but are being meddlers. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

     Satan was using such situations to generate resentments among the brethren. Among the Thessalonians, it appears some did not appreciate having to feed others only to watch those who were not working mooch off them while lazing around and meddling in their personal affairs. So the command was for everyone and not just the elders to admonish such brethren, lest their behavior lead to resentments and ultimately to divisions within the church quenching the Holy Spirit among them.
     A similar situation almost resulted in a rift being created between Gentile and Jewish believers early in the church era, when the Gentile believers took offense to their widows being passed over when it came to the distribution of food:

     But with the disciples multiplying in those days, there arose a murmuring of the Greeks against the Hebrews, because they were overlooking their widows in the daily distribution. (Acts 6:1)

     The potential result of such situations would be spiritual immaturity instead of spiritual growth, as everyone's attention turned from God to petty disputes and resentments. Spiritual immaturity was also present among the Corinthians, and a close analysis reveals it is no coincidence that they were operating in the spiritual gifts with a similar immaturity. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul informed them that they were still babes in Christ and unable receive the meat of the word because there were divisions among them. So too would he tell them that they were operating in the gifts more like children than like true spiritual adults, in that many were only speaking in tongues, which without an interpreter was doing almost nothing to edify the congregation:

     So you also, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek that you may abound unto the edification of the church. Therefore let the one speaking in a tongue pray that he may interpret... Brethren be not children in [your] minds, but be babes in malice. Rather be mature in [your] minds... If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be by two or three at the most and in succession, and let one interpret. And if there be not an interpreter let him be silent in the church, and speak unto himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:12-13, 20, 27-28)

     How many Pentecostal congregations today walk in the same spiritual immaturity specifically because division and infighting has distracted them from seeking the greater gifts? How many have quenched the Spirit of God among them because their membership neglected to admonish those bringing strife and division to the church?

Spiritually Edifying The Fainthearted And The Weak

     Meanwhile, some were succumbing to the fears of what Satan might do to them through persecution. Paul told Timothy that God had not given Christians a Spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Yet the fainthearted were growing fearful of afflictions, while some may have been growing weak to a place where they might give in to Satan's temptations to turn from Christ to avoid afflictions and persecution. This is what Paul was concerned about earlier in the letter when he told them:

     Therefore, no longer enduring, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and send Timothy our brother and a servant of God, our fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and exhort you over your faith, so that none of you should be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed unto this, for even when we were with you we were telling you beforehand that we were about to suffer affliction, even as it came to pass, as you know. And because of this, I also, no longer enduring, sent to know of your faith, lest perhaps the Tempter did tempt you, and our labor should be in vain. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)
     Thus, the fainthearted and those weak to temptations were not abiding in the Holy Spirit as they should. God's was a Spirit of love, power and a sound mind. They needed to be encouraged that Satan would have no victory even over those he managed to kill, hence Paul's encouragement earlier in the letter: 

     But I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are [now] sleeping, so that you not be grieved even as the rest who do not have hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also will God through Jesus bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are still alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remaining shall be caught away in the clouds to a meeting of the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

     As for those enduring hardships and afflictions, the proper mentality was that these only built up for them an even greater reward in eternity:

     Though our outward man is being destroyed, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, gains for us an eternal weight of glory that builds from excellency to excellency, while we look not at the things that are seen but at those things which are not seen; for the things seen are temporary, but the things not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

Not Returning Evil For Evil, But Pursing The Good

     Here is the single-biggest contributor to the quenching of the Holy Spirit in congregations. Why? Because returning evil for evil builds a type of momentum that eventually can't be stopped, like kindling that eventually turns into a forest fire that can destroy everything in its path. This is why James taught to be slow to speak. By controlling the tongue, they could stop the momentum Satan was trying to build up in attempting to overwhelm and if possible destroy congregations with strife. James used several analogies to make this same point.

     If we put bits in the mouths of horses for them to obey us, we turn about their whole body. Behold ships also, being so great and driven by violent winds, are [nevertheless] turned about by a very small rudder in whatever direction the helmsman wishes. So also is the tongue a little member yet boasts of great feats. Behold how large a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire [kindling] a world of iniquity. Thus is the tongue becoming established within our membership, defiling the whole body and setting aflame the wheel of momentum, being set on fire by Hell. (James 3:3-6)

     Emotions like anger are powerful things, and once they build up that can be difficult to control, much like a horse getting up to a full run, or a large ship under full sail. But we have been given a bridle and a rudder to turn powerful emotions back and slow their momentum to a crawl, and this is the tongue. The trouble that Christian leadership noticed they were having during New Testament times was trying to get entire congregations to abide by this commandment.

     For every species of beasts, both of birds and of reptiles and of creatures of the sea, is being subdued and has been subdued by the human species. But no one among men is able to subdue the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of death-dealing poison. By this we bless [our] Lord and Father, and by this we curse men who have been made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth goes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be. Does a fountain pour forth sweet and bitter water from the same opening? My brothers, is a fig tree able to produce olives, or a vine figs? Nor is a fountain able to produce salty and sweet water... (James 3:7-12)

     Just as Jesus taught that a tree was known by its fruit, so Paul taught that a believer should "speak only that which is good for the use of edifying." Believers in Christ during church meetings were to be fountains through which God's Spirit would spring forth true living water at all times, and not the waters of bitterness that might arise from them if they started returning evil for evil. They were to only "pursue the good," which meant only following up on what the Spirit of God was doing among them rather than what Satan might be.
     Why is it important to understand that our current passage was about operating in the gifts of the Spirit? There has to be ministry in the Spirit in our churches. Without it, we are simply meeting in the flesh, and nothing will come of it. Having identified those actions that will quench the Holy Spirit, Paul will now turn to stressing that they continue in those which would manifest the fires of the Spirit burning among them: Rejoicings, prayers in the Spirit, the utterance of prophecies, and the sanctifying of the entire congregation.

« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 12:15:58 PM by Hidden In Him »