If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:21-32)
The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus not to grieve (quench) the Holy Spirit by participating in sinful behaviors. According to verses 22-24, Christians are those who have put off their old lives and embraced the new life they have in Christ Jesus. Christians are new creations, created in righteousness and holiness.
Specifically, Paul said followers of Jesus were to:
- Stop lying, and always speak the truth
- Never let the sun go down on their wrath
- Never give place to the Devil
- Never steal, making an honest living by their own hands so that they can meet the needs of others
- Never let corrupt communication come out of their mouths
- Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice
- Not be wrathful
- Not be angry
- Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving
Failing to diligently keep these commands leads to Christians quenching the Holy Spirit — the third person in the Trinity who lives inside of every believer. To quench the Spirit, then, means suppressing (reducing to an ember) the power, influence, direction, and control of the Holy Ghost in believers’ lives. In other words, finite, sinful beings can hinder the work of an infinite God in their lives by behaving certain ways.
The Holy Spirit is a fire dwelling in each believer. He wants to express Himself in our actions and attitudes. When believers do not allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions or we do what we know is wrong, we suppress or quench the Spirit. We do not allow the Spirit to reveal Himself the way that He wants to.
To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed.
Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good—so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.
I was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB Bible college in the 1970s, and pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I heard numerous sermons about quenching the Holy Spirit, and preached a few myself. Far too often, “quenching the Spirit” was used as a stick to beat church members into submission.
Take Tony Hutson, pastor of Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee:
Hutson is known for telling fanciful stories (AKA lies), so take his illustration with a grain of salt. He wants his congregants to know that if God (the preacher) tells them to do something, they better do it lest they quench the Holy Spirit, and God has to discipline (abuse them with a leather belt) or kill them.
IFB pastors are known for their authoritarian tendencies. Hutson, and others like him, are control freaks. Believing they are supernaturally “called by God” to preach the words of a supernatural book to frail, sinful followers of Jesus Christ, IFB preachers expect church members to obey and practice what they say. If believers refuse to do so, they are quenching the Spirit.
When people think for themselves and voice their differences of opinion, IFB preachers often tell them that they are getting in the way of what God is trying to do; that they are standing in the way of the Holy Ghost doing something great. Often, IFB preachers will subtly threaten those who are quenching the Spirit with judgment, suffering, loss, and death. All because someone disagrees with them.
The goal of preaching on “quenching the Spirit” is to whip congregants into conformity so preachers can advance their agendas. What is really going on, of course, is that no matter how hard IFB preachers try to quash uniqueness and freedom of thought, congregants refuse to comply. You would think, if the Holy Spirit is what Evangelicals say he is, everyone would interpret the Bible the same way; think the same way; live the same way. That they don’t suggests that the Holy Spirit is a myth; that churches are groups of individuals working towards common objectives. There will always be differences of opinion. Healthy churches allow for freedom of thought and belief, even when congregants disagree with their pastors.
Pastors are not always right. The “Holy Spirit” led me to make bad decisions. I wish people had spoken up or questioned the path down which I was leading the church. Instead, when we had business meetings, people just sat there, nodded their heads, and acquiesced to my will. Conditioned and indoctrinated by years of IFB preaching, church members thought they should follow my leadership at all times; that if I, as the man of God, was led by the Holy Spirit, who were they to stand in the way of what “God” wanted to do? The last thing they want to do was “quench the Spirit,” and risk punishment from God and estrangement from their fellow Christians.
Did your pastor preach on “quenching the Spirit?” Was this teaching on prominent display in the churches you attended? Please share your experiences in the comment section.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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