The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer provides an inexhaustible and constant source of spiritual direction and empowerment. The ministry of the Spirit, however, is not automatic and is not effective without cooperation on the part of the individual, hence the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.” This command, included in a series of other exhortations, puts the finger upon an essential requirement for vital Christian life and conformity to the moral will of God. Quenching is a concept used in relation to extinguishing or suppressing a fire. In Hebrews 11:34 the heroes of faith are said to have “quenched the violence of fire.” In the spiritual conflict discussed in Ephesians 6:16, the shield of faith is “able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Hence, it may be concluded that quenching the Holy Spirit is to suppress, stifle, or otherwise obstruct the ministry of the Spirit to the individual. In a word it is saying no and replacing the will of the Spirit with the will of the individual. This, in brief, is the whole issue of morality—whether man will accomplish what he wants to do or whether his life is surrendered and yielded to the will of God.
The major conflict of all creation is between the will of God and the will of the creature. This began with the original rebellion of Satan against God outlined in the five “I will’s” of Isaiah 14, summarized in the ambitious goal, “I will be like the most high” (Is 14:14). This original act of rebellion against God on the part of Satan was extended to the human race in the Garden of Eden. The conflict of the ages is accordingly between the will of the creature and the will of the Creator.
In order to attain a biblical standard of morality, it is necessary for the believer to be like God, and this involves yieldedness of his own will to the will of God. Accordingly, in Romans 6:13 the exhortation is that we should stop presenting (present tense) our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness, and once for all (aorist tense) present ourselves to God as a single and definite act. In doing this, we should let the Holy Spirit direct our lives and guide our steps and thus achieve the moral standards and goals which are God’s will for us.
A similar exhortation is found in Romans 12:1 where the believer is exhorted to present (aorist tense) his body as a living sacrifice once for all and thereby achieve through knowledge and fulfillment “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Ro 12:2). Many believers in Christ have never realistically yielded themselves completely to the will of God, and accordingly their whole life is spent in self-will and self-direction instead of achieving the high standard of fulfillment of the moral and intelligent purpose of God in their lives.
The command of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is probably best interpreted as, “Stop quenching the Spirit.” The implication is that there have been hindrances to the will of the Spirit being established in the life of the believer, and this action of hindering the Spirit should cease. There can be no achievement of the moral purpose of God in the life of the believer apart from an intimate and vital relationship between the guidance and direction of the Spirit and the life of the individual.
Yieldedness to the will of God implies first of all yieldedness to the Word of God and the standards of moral excellence which are set forth in the Scriptures. Many issues which face the Christian, however, are not taught explicitly in the Bible. Hence, second, there must be yieldedness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to the individual to provide guidance in these matters. That is, His purpose is to apply the general principles of the Bible to the particular issue which is facing the individual.
Third, in addition to being yielded to the Word of God and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, yieldedness implies adjustment to the providential acts of God, whether it be of the nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” or anything else which might prompt rebellion against God’s dealings with His child. The believer must be willing to accept divinely appointed situations, although he is still free to pray and ask God to change them. The role of the Spirit in comforting the believer is often related to providential situations in which, contrary to the believer’s own desire, God is fulfilling His purpose in providing a means and context for life which ordinarily would not be the situation of human choosing.
The supreme illustration of such yieldedness, is, of course, Jesus Christ. This is described in Philippians 2:5-11, and speaks of His condescension and humility. Christ is revealed as being willing to be what God wanted Him to be, willing to do what God wanted Him to do, and willing to go where God wanted Him to go. In a similar measure, Christians in the will of God may have unpleasant tasks to perform which require yieldedness of heart and the sustaining grace of the Holy Spirit. Like Christ, the believer must say, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42). Moral excellence in the life of the believer is inseparable from a vital communication and empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit which is only possible when the believer is yielded to the Holy Spirit.
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