ENCOURAGE AND VALUE THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHILE EXERCISING CAREFUL DISCERNMENT THAT PROMOTES GODLY MORALITY
Illustration: I want you to think about a NASCAR driver. Maybe you have someone you like in mind … but even if you think the sport is about driving in meaningless circles … picture a driver who is absorbed in winning the race. His mechanical team has been working feverishly to help him qualify with the fastest time and make sure everything in the car is finely tuned for the conditions he will face that day. Now comes that adrenaline charge as the race begins, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” What if the crew chief shouted instructions in his ear to just floor the car and run it full out – through all the turns – never throttling it down. Throw all caution to the winds. Or what if went the other direction and for safety sake asked the driver to stay a few lengths back of the entire pack of cars so he would never get caught up in one of those spectacular crashes. Not much chance of winning the race either way. The driver must use his skill and all the resources of his car to navigate the track with both objectives of speed and safety and mind.
The Christian life is all about balance. Some people can be real free spirits – anything goes; they don’t have a critical or analytical bone in their body. They are purely driven by their emotions and by their intuition. They revel in spontaneity. They can make life very interesting … but also very dangerous when they are fanatical and unrestrained. They are like a NASCAR driver trying to operate at full throttle around even the most dangerous turns. The charismatic movement grows out of this emotional and experience-oriented approach to spirituality. Others want to see life completely regulated by rules and detailed guidelines (the legalists and formalists). They can’t tolerate surprises. Everything must function in their life like clock-work. Change is anathema. They can be very boring and predictable. They would be slow to take risks and would have trouble in the high energy dangerous NASCAR arena. These are the intellectuals who must have everything proven to them beyond a shadow of a doubt before they take any steps forward. The Apostle Paul speaks against both extremes – against overly restricting the ministry of the Holy Spirit and against being careless and not discerning truth from error. He seems to be focusing primarily on the context of our worship and ministry when we come together as believers.
Robert Thomas: Control is necessary, but overcontrol is detrimental. So it is the responsibility of leadership and the whole community to find the right balance.
What is your approach to the ministry of the Holy Spirit – Corporately in our meetings together for worship and prayer and instruction and fellowship? — as well as Privately in your own walk with the Lord Jesus – trying to be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit of God?
Paul teaches us to BE FREE . . .BUT ALSO . . . BE CAREFUL
ENCOURAGE AND VALUE THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHILE EXERCISING CAREFUL DISCERNMENT THAT PROMOTES GODLY MORALITY
Special emphasis on the Word of God, the Word of Truth – encouraging and valuing its proclamation, its reception and its application in our lives – requires careful discernment that promotes godly morality
I. (:19-20) BE FREE – ENCOURAGE AND VALUE THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT — LIBERTY IN MINISTRY
A. (:19) In General: Are we Encouraging or Quenching the Ministry of the Holy Spirit?
“Do not quench the Spirit” — the Spirit, stop quenching??
Let the Holy Spirit do His thing; don’t put handcuffs and unnecessary restrictions on the ministry of the Holy Spirit
“Quench” – extinguish, put out, restrain (the Spirit), suppress, stifle
The Holy Spirit is omnipotent; like the wind it blows where it wills (John 3) and we can see its effects but we can’t control it; we certainly can’t extinguish it … but we can suppress or stifle His ministry through us
Don’t put restrictor plates on your car that slow it down and won’t allow it to operate at full efficiency.
[Other NT usages are in the physical sense of quenching something:
Matthew 25:8 “And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’”
Mark 9:48 “where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.”
Eph 6:16 “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”]
Cf. the Imagery of God as a powerful fire
OT imagery: Ezekiel’s vision of divine glory in chap. 1:27
“Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him”
(Ex. 13:21; Mal. 3:2-3)
Remember when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in power on the Day of Pentecost the imagery was of tongues of fire (Acts 2) as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues
Wiersbe: Fire speaks of purity, power, light, warmth, and (if necessary) destruction. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and churches, we have a warmth of love in our hearts, light for our minds, and energy for our wills. He “melts us together” so that there is harmony and cooperation, and he purifies us so that we put away sin.
Hiebert: The Spirit’s fire is quenched whenever His presence is ignored and His promptings are suppressed and rejected, or the fervor which He kindles in the heart is dampened by unspiritual attitudes, criticisms, or actions. Certainly any toleration of immorality and idleness, against which they have been warned (4:1-12), would quench the Spirit’s working in their midst. They must not allow the operations of the Spirit to be suppressed either through yielding to the impulses of the flesh or by imposing a mechanical order upon the services which would hamper the free movements of the Spirit.
Think of the children’s Sunday School song: “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” – it is possible for us to pour cold water on the flame of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and what He is trying to accomplish in us and through us for the glory of God
Similar command to: Eph. 4:30 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” – but this relates more directly to sin as opposed to ministry
Application specifically to prophecying we will look at in the next verse: Don’t forbid God’s truth to be proclaimed; or don’t hold back from proclaiming God’s truth, no matter how unpleasant the message.
But keeping it more general for now — What does the Holy Spirit want to do in our lives and in our church and through our ministry?
Practical Contrasts in Promoting vs Quenching the Ministry of the Holy Spirit:
1. not pursue the development and exercise of my spiritual gift
2 Tim. 1:6 “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee” stir the fire again into life
2. not allow the free expression of spiritual gifts in the assembly; make people jump through too many hoops so that we control the ministry – example of Diotrephes (3 John)
3. not responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit to witness to a person or to meet their needs – positive example would be John 4 and the divine appointment that Jesus Christ kept with the women at the well who desperately needed His love and forgiveness
– Rom 8:14 “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”
– But it might get messy if I actually get involved in peoples’ lives . . .
4. pour cold water on someone’s passion or fervency for Christ and for spiritual ministry; instead of encouraging people to walk by faith we actually are more comfortable when people don’t take any risks = walking by sight
5. stand in opposition to the objectives pursued by the Holy Spirit – must understand what those are:
– our sanctification – 1 Thess 4:7-8 “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you”
– peace and unity of the body of Christ – Eph 4:3 “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
– fellowship of the gospel – act as an isolationist – Phil. 2:1 “fellowship of the Spirit”
– love of the brethren – “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” Gal. 5:22
– proper expression of rejoicing and celebration of worship – 2 Sam. 6:14 – “And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod” – 2 key expressions of worship: The Presence of God should evoke holy reverence and exuberant celebration – Who are we to judge others in this regard?
Lots of issues come up here regarding Liberty … vs Decorum (what is proper);
Principle: Be Free . . . But also . . . Be Careful
Walvoord: Yieldedness to the Spirit includes, then, submission to the plain teachings of the Word of God, obedience to the guidance of the Spirit, and acceptance in faith of the providential acts of God. All of these are a part of the moment-by-moment experience of living in the will of God with an indwelling Spirit who is unquenched.
The Holy Spirit is an incredible resource with which God has gifted us … How foolish of us if we quench the ministry of the Holy Spirit
B. (:20) Specifically: Are we Valuing or Despising the Ministry of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit?
“Do not despise prophetic utterances”
“Despise” – Despise, to make of no account, to regard as nothing, treat with contempt, look down on; count as nothing; reject
Paul specifically says in 1 Corinthians 14 that prophets receive “revelation”: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the other judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent” (1 Cor. 14:30; cf. v. 26, “has a revelation”).
Revelation (apokalupsis), [is] a disclosure of something that was before unknown; and divine revelation is the direct communication of truths before unknown from God to men. The disclosure may be made by dreams, visions, oral communication or otherwise (Dan. 2:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 2 Cor. 12:1; Gal. 1:12; Rev. 1:1).
Other NT usages of “Despise”
Luke 23:11 “ And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him; dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate”
1 Corinthians 1:28 “and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are,”
Acts 4:11 “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone.”
Romans 14:3 “Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.”
1 Cor. 16:11 let no one despise the ministry of Timothy when he comes to visit
Gal 4:14 do not despise or loathe Paul on account of his unpleasant physical affliction but receive him as an angel of God
Look at OT for examples of despising the ministry of the Word of God:
1) example of the prophetic ministry of the prophet Jeremiah – 2 Chron. 36:11-16
2) example of the prophetic ministry of the prophet Ezekiel – Ezek 2:7 “But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.”
This text in 1 Thess. 5:20 is used by charismatics to criticize those of us who take the view that the gift of prophecy (and healing and tongues and the office of apostleship) was limited to the foundation period of the NT church. [We have had teaching on that subject earlier.]
Hiebert: Today the prophetic ministry in the church is not the disclosure of new revelation directly from the Spirit but rather the proclamation of God’s message for His people as gathered from the inspired Scriptures under the illumination of the Spirit and made relevant to the contemporary situation.
Young disciples at Thessalonica probably had some bad experiences with some false prophecies that might have disillusioned them – caused them to be jaded so that they no longer were as open to God’s prophetic ministry; 2 specific errors we know about:
– “The Lord told me to quit my job because He is coming any day” – failing to live a responsible lifestyle
– We are already in the day of the Lord – that is why we are experiencing such severe persecutions – wrong understanding of end times events
Specific ways we tend to despise the ministry of the Word of God:
– Put-your-head-in-the-sand approach — ignore God’s truth and fail to respond to it
– look at how the unbeliever does that – turns a deaf ear to all of the warning passages:
“Today is the day of salvation” — Is that so?? I think not … not for me …
– look at how the believer does that … Isn’t the preacher through yet … I have other things I would rather be doing; that was a nice message … but no follow through; Or maybe your wife points some area out where you need to change and you shut her down
– Know-it-all approach — thinking that we know it all and have no need for God to continue to teach us His truth
– Throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water approach — reject truth because of some fault in the life of the messenger
– Cafeteria approach — choose for ourselves what commands of God we will obey or give attention to
How are we showing God today that we value the ministry of His Word in our lives? What a privilege the access we have to His Word and to faithful teaching – But Paul goes on to teach us that we cannot just accept that teaching uncritically – we cannot assume that everything we hear is accurate and helpful
II. (:21-22) BE CAREFUL – WHILE EXERCISING CAREFUL DISCERNMENT THAT PROMOTES GODLY MORALITY — DISCERNMENT IN MINISTRY
A. (:21a) Careful Doctrinal Discernment
“But examine everything carefully”
“Examine” – test, examine, interpret, discern, discover, approve, prove, demonstrate
The right type of critical spirit – not judging motives … but judging words and actions and comparing them to the objective biblical standard
Casillas: A favorite word of Apostle Paul; process to check out whether coin is genuine; to determine whether someone is fit for political office; 1 John 4:1; Somebody might say, Who am I to test?? I haven’t studied the original languages … 1 John 2 – reference to anointing of Holy Spirit which we have all received; that will keep us from being deceived; you have the written Word of God; you have the resources you need to put it to the test; don’t place too much authority in the preacher; he needs to be held accountable; needs to voluntarily subject oneself to that type of scrutiny
In our age, there is a reaction against the need for this type of careful examination – you are being too critical; unloving; not promoting the unity of the Body –
Remember our key principle: Be Free (there is great liberty in the Spirit) . . . but also … Be Careful – there must be balance
MacArthur: The church’s de-emphasis of the Holy Spirit’s working through the Word has led to a pronounced lack of spiritual discernment. 6 Basic Symptoms of this Deficiency:
1) Wishy-washy — a general weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction within the church. Many Christians no longer think biblically and theologically, and they consider it wrong and unloving to be dogmatic, even on the most basic doctrines such as the inerrancy of Scripture and the definition of the gospel
2) Fogginess — much of the church is no longer antithetical in its thinking. It does not make sharp distinctions between true and false, right and wrong, but instead embraces subjectivity, relativity, and pragmatism
3) Marketing distortion — image and influence have replaced the proclamation of the truth as the essence of evangelization. The church is reluctant to risk offending unbelievers with a clear, convicting gospel message. Instead, it relies on marketing philosophy to present a seeker-friendly message that focuses on people’s felt needs.
4) Dumbing Down — the church has ceased valuing sound hermeneutics. Many preachers no longer work diligently at the careful and accurate interpretation of the Word. They have substituted anecdotes, psychology, and subjectivity for the objective exposition of Scripture
5) Compromise with Sin — the church has mostly ceased exercising church discipline against those members who persist in sin and error. As a result, the world’s philosophy and practice enters the church and it stops being distinct from the surrounding pagan culture
6) Self-Absorption — all of the preceding features produce and are characteristic of a spiritually immature church. The self-absorbed church, preoccupied with attaining personal comfort, success, and achieving man-centered solutions to life’s problems, possesses a superficial faith that cannot discern between good and evil, or truth and error.
How do we conduct this examination?
If someone claims, “the Lord told me to do …” – how can we examine that type of subjective claim??? Must always get back to the biblical principles; beyond that it is a wisdom choice; you can claim the Spirit’s individual leading; but you cannot enforce that on anyone else
[Wayne Grudem and Sovereign Grace approach to prophecy]
Be especially careful of new or novel doctrines … or changes from a sound, fundamental foundation – look at how churches and seminaries and Christian institutions started off doctrinally sound but then fell away over time … people were not examining everything carefully; allowing error to creep in … it doesn’t take over all at once; it happens very subtly over time – because we are too cowardly or lazy to confront error
1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Example of the believers in Berea: Acts 17:10-11 “for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”
Example of the church meetings at Corinth: 1 Cor. 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment”
Believers today are so gullible – will believe whatever they hear; lack discernment; do not want to take the time to study, to evaluate, to examine everything carefully
Pastors often react very poorly, very defensively when people want to critically examine what they have taught – They should be interested in pursuing truth in fellowship, in partnership – not trying to exalt themselves as the scholar that everyone should worship
[not examine everything with a critical, suspicious spirit]
Pastors/Elders especially are charged with this function of being a checks and balance so that truth is protected
Mayhue: If the test was limited to prophecies alone, the standard would be truth and error, but this is not the language used here.
Our doctrine has practical consequences; leads to our morality
– How serious is lying to the Holy Spirit – Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 – but they were just stretching the truth; or maybe withholding some important details to make the situation seem something that it was not – look at how severe God judged them – yet people see things that are in error and fail to address them; choose to overlook sin; not my responsibility to confront the person
B. (:21b-22) Discernment that Promotes Godly Morality
“hold fast to that which is good”
“hold fast” – embrace wholeheartedly; take possession of
Paul is not just calling for some type of intellectual response to the truth; he wants a life change; revelation demands a response – one that embraces truth in a practical and moral sense so that our lives become more like the Lord Jesus Christ in how we relate to God and how we relate to others
What have you judged to be good that you have committed yourselves to hold fast … to embrace wholeheartedly?
“that which is good” – what is inherently genuine, true, noble, and right (Rom. 7:16; 1 Tim. 1:8, 18; 2:3; 4:4; 6:12-13, 19; 2 Tim.4:7; Titus 3:8), not just what might be beautiful in appearance. When believers find what is good, they must embrace it and make it their own (cf. Rom. 12:9; 16:19; Phil. 4:8). MacArthur
“Abstain from every form of evil.”
“Abstain” – not play around with or thing that it is not impacting you
– every appearance of evil
– every form or kind of evil
Especially every kind of evil that tries to counterfeit itself as appearing to be true and helpful
MacArthur: Evil refers to something that is actively harmful or malignant. Such evil, which includes lies and distortions of truth as well as moral perversions, appears in many forms.
In fact the most dangerous kinds of perversions are things that are very close to the truth … just off by a little bit … that is how apostasy occurs. Satan is very deceptive and tricky.
Amazing lack of discernment: This week in the news — convent of 10 Episcopal nuns in Catonsville – upset by the church embracing ordained leaders who are openly homosexual … have decided to switch allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church …. Drawn to their liturgy and the emphasis on the sacraments …What about the truth of the Word of God??
Once again Paul has packed a ton of meaning and application into a very few short commands as he concludes his exhortations to these believers at Thessalonica.
We need to promote the Liberty and the full ministry of the Holy Spirit – especially that all-important ministry of the Word of God … but we must exercise careful discernment and act on the judgments that we make – embracing the good and rejecting that which is evil.
Run the race in such a way that you pursue the balance between being free (and promoting the ministry of the Holy Spirit) and being careful to exercise proper discernment so that you don’t wreck in the end.