To Quench or Not to Quench? by Tony Cooke

To Quench or Not to Quench?
Tony Cooke

To Quench or Not to QuenchThere are two particular usages of the word “quench” in Paul’s writings that are very important in our walk with God.

…taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:16)

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

What’s immediately clear is that believers are given instructions to quench something in one verse, and not to quench Someone in another. We must quench the fiery darts of the enemy, and we are not to quench the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at both of these directives.

Quenching the Fiery Darts of the Wicked One

Other translations of Ephesians 6:16 use such terms as burning missiles and fire-tipped arrows. The enemy has some nasty devices, but Paul tells us that faith and unwavering confidence in God will function as a shield to extinguish the effects of the attacks of the enemy.

The term Paul uses here for shield is the Greek word thureos which is from a similar word meaning door. This type of shield was rectangular and oblong, covering the whole body. In battle, it was planted firmly in the ground, and a soldier could stand safely behind it, untouched and untouchable. It was no flimsy, puny, or insufficient shield that Paul said our faith would be in time of battle.

God never tells us to do something—or not to do something—unless we have the potential of complying. Therefore, we must have the ability to quench, extinguish, and put out the effects of the devil’s attacks against us, or to diminish God’s work on our behalf. Many are smoldering from fiery darts that were never quenched instead of being ablaze with the Spirit.

Stop and think about it… there are three things we can do with a fire.

    1. We can put it out, quenching and extinguishing it.
    2. We can let it run its natural course.
    3. We can put more fuel on it and accelerate it.

The fiery darts of the enemy primarily come in the form of words. Words that are condemning and accusatory—words that degrade, belittle, and incite fear. The words of the accuser (Revelation 12:10) are containers, and like the Trojan Horse of old, they hold destructive and toxic forces. 1 Samuel 17:11 portrays this well: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” Good words are also containers; they are full of love and kindness, and they can “…impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

Scripture assumes that corrupting and corrosive words (and other negative spiritual forces) will come against us. Paul said, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Isaiah also gave us outstanding insights into spiritual warfare. “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me, says the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17).

It’s not an issue of whether assaults will come. That is a given. The issue is how are we going to respond to them. Will we stand confidently behind the shield of faith and allow our Word-inspired, Truth-based confidence to nullify and neutralize the poisonous words of our adversary, or will we not.

The shield of faith is an essential part of our weaponry. Faith is revealed by what we believe and by what we say. When we believe and say what God says about us, then our faith and our words become a shield that protects us. As a result, the words of the enemy and the spiritual forces contained therein are repelled from our lives.

Not Quenching the Holy Spirit

Various translations of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 admonish us…

    1. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire… (NIV)
    2. Do not smother the Holy Spirit… (TLB)
    3. Do not put out the light of the Spirit… (TCNT)

The Holy Spirit is Person, and He can be resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and even insulted (Hebrews 10:29). Likewise, our relationship with the Holy Spirit can be cultivated, and we can encourage a greater working of His Presence and influence in our lives. If we follow the admonition of Scripture and do not quench His work in our lives, we can be, “…not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” as Paul directed in Romans 12:11. Other translations render “fervent in spirit” as:

    1. Be on fire with the Spirit. (Gspd)
    2. Be aglow with the Spirit. (RSV)
    3. Be aglow and burning with the Spirit. (Amp)
    4. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. (Msg)

Paul admonished Timothy to, “stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). The Amplified renders this, “stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you…”

There are works of the enemy that need to be quenched in our lives, and there is a work of God that needs to not be quenched, but rather cultivated in us. But this is not automatic, and we can digress from our sense of burning passion about the Word of God. If we are told to not quench the Spirit, it must be possible for us to quench the Spirit. If we are told to stay fervent in spirit, it must be possible to become un-fervent. If we are told to fan into flame the gift of God on the inside of us, then it must be possible to let that flame grow dim.

God Doesn’t Quench Us!

One amazing thought in Scripture pertains to God’s attitude and actions toward us, even if we are struggling. In Matthew 12:20-21, Jesus said, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory.” The Living Bible reads, “He does not crush the weak, or quench the smallest hope; He will end all conflict with his final victory.”

William Barclay said of this verse, “A man’s witness may be shaky and weak; the light of his life may be but a flicker and not a flame; but Jesus did not come to discourage, but to encourage. He did not come to treat the weak with contempt, but with understanding; he did not come to extinguish the weak flame, but to nurse it back to a clearer and stronger light. The most precious thing about Jesus is that he is not the great discourager, but the great encourager.”

I also like what the Pulpit Commentary says about this verse. "He will not lightly lose that which he prized so highly; he will cherish the slightest flickering of the flame of life in the…soul. Then quench not the Spirit; quench it not in yourself by sin or despondency; quench it not in others by harshness or contempt. Listen to the softest whisper of the blessed Spirit of God. Listen like Samuel; it will fill your whole being with its pervading influence."

In short, when the Word says, “A smoking flax He will not quench” and "Do not quench the Spirit," God is saying:  "I won’t put out your light; don’t you put out mine." To quench or not to quench? Let’s obey God, quenching all the assaults of the enemy, and be diligent to never quench the precious Holy Spirit.