The Law of God and the Church (5)
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5.19
The work of the Spirit
That is a curious word, “quench.” It means “to extinguish” or “to put out” or “restrain.” It’s curious to think that human beings somehow possess the ability to restrain or extinguish the work of the Spirit in their lives.
But what is the work of the Spirit?
In simplest terms, we can say that the work of the Spirit, Who dwells within each believer, is to make us willing and able to live in accordance with the good pleasure of God (Phil. 2.13). Notice the dual emphasis: The Spirit must work both on our desires and aspirations – so that we are, first, willing to do God’s pleasure; then He must empower us for the doing of whatever it is that pleases God.
Our hearts, we know, are not naturally inclined to seek or obey the Lord (Jer. 17.9); thus, if we are ever going to be, in the first place, willing to do what pleases God, we must have some drastic overhaul of our hearts, our affections. This is precisely what the Spirit comes to do in bringing us into the new covenant, as David, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel testify (Ps. 51.10; Jer. 31.31-34; Ezek. 36.26, 27). By writing the Law of God on our heart, the Spirit prepares our soul to seek and act in line with the good pleasure of the Lord.
Power to be witnesses
From the moment we receive the Spirit of God, through the agency of new birth (Gal. 4.4), we begin to be willing to do what pleases our heavenly Father, out of gratitude for the saving mercy He has extended to us in Jesus Christ.
But being willing is not enough. We must also be able. Jesus said that, when the Spirit of God comes upon us, He would bring with Him spiritual power to enable us to be His witnesses. Apparently, being witnesses for Christ pleases the Father, for it is this work that the Spirit is primarily commissioned to accomplish within us.
But being witnesses is first, a matter of the kind of people we are and only secondarily of what we do or say in the world. The Spirit brings power not, in the first instance, so that we might go witnessing, but that we might be witnesses. The work of the Spirit in enabling us to do what is pleasing to God, is above all a work of character-formation, a work unto holiness.
A work which depends supremely on His teaching us the Law of God; which only makes sense; He is, after all, the Holy Spirit, and we would expect any power that He exerts within or through us to be expressive of His presence and character.
The Holy Spirit is working in each believer to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18), and in every church to build it up as a holy temple unto the Lord (Eph. 2.21, 22; 1 Cor. 12.7-11). All other works and manifestations of the Spirit of God in or through the believer are merely incidental or instrumental to the larger end of making him willing and able to do what pleases God, so that holiness may ensue.
And in the local church, the Spirit operates according the Law and Word of God to make the church a holy temple, a house of prayer and worship, unto the Lord.
So, what is it, precisely, that pleases our heavenly Father? Various things: It pleases Him to give us the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit (Lk. 12.32; Rom. 14.17, 18). God is pleased with the life of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and hence, that we should walk in His steps and follow in all His ways (Lk. 2.22; Matt. 17.5). And it pleases God that we should not quench the work of His Spirit, Whom He and the Son have sent in order that we might be holy. And this means giving Him full rein and abundant opportunities, throughout the local church, to teach and affirm the Law of God, written on our hearts.
If we as individual believers, and our churches as expressions of the Body of Christ, would realize the full working of the Spirit, we must resign ourselves to His purposes and His means of accomplishing the ends for which God has sent Him to us. And that has little or nothing to do with ecstatic utterances, mystical visions, or signs and wonders. Rather, it has everything to do with being taught the Law of God by the Spirit of God that we might live, by His power, the life of Jesus Christ unto holiness (Ezek. 36.26, 27).
The life of the Spirit will overflow from within us as we submit to Him and the Law and Word of God (Jn. 7.37-39). But if we neglect the Law of God – through indifference or outright rejection – we quench the Spirit, and thus displease our heavenly Father, to such an extent that even our prayers become an abomination to Him (Prov. 28.9).
The Spirit of God is indispensable to health and growth on the part of believers and their churches; and a major resource in His tool kit for granting life and growth is the Law of God.
1. How can we know when the Spirit of God is at work in our soul?
2. How can we know when the Spirit of God is at work in our church?
3. What are some ways that we routinely quench the Spirit, and deprive ourselves of His power?
For reflection – Transformation: In which areas of your life would you like to see more evidence of the Spirit working? What steps can you take today?
T. M. Moore
This is part 3 of an 8-part series on Purifying the Conscience. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.