1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 – God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People

1 Thessalonians 5v19-22


God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People!




ILLUS.: If this morning you were at Guildford cathedral rather than here you would experience a very different kind of service. The leaders would undoubtedly be clergy dressed in robes. The service would be very structured probably following the prayer book.

If you were to attend the King’s Church in Godalming or the Coin in Woking a very free apparently spontaneous service and those up front would possibly not be clergy at all.

If you move to other counties thing would be even more different – ZCC in Africa all in white robes with blue / green / red sashes dancing in circles under a tree…..

Then there is a whole spectrum of different styles of church life in between.


Those churches on the more Pentecostal / Charismatic end of the spectrum are generally thought to be “more open to the work of the Holy Spirit” because there is usually more practice of the gifts of utterance – viz. tongues and prophecy.


In these very short – almost clipped phrases – Paul urges his readers to be open to the Spirit and to accept prophecy although not uncritically.


This issue of being open to the Holy Spirit is not simply a matter of Charismatic vs. non-charismatic. As if being Pentecostal/Charismatic automatically means that one is open to the Spirit and non-Pentecostal/Charismatic automatically means that one is guilty of quenching the Spirit.


It is possible to be in a Charismatic Church which may not have a prayer book but nevertheless a set way of doing things – and follows its own traditions by rote. Whereas it is possible to be in a very structured liturgical service and only someone completely spiritually insensitive would fail to be overwhelmed by an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Spirit of God.


  1. 1.     ‘Do not quench the Spirit’


Every Christian has the Holy Spirit – Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would be with us and in us.

Paul reminds the Romans – Romans 8:9  … And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (NIV)


The Holy Spirit was Christ’s gift to the church after he ascended to Heaven – that is why we celebrate Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is NOT an impersonal influence but a person to whom we relate. Therefore it is possible to ‘resist’ him, to ‘grieve’ him, to ‘quench’ him.


Some translations, as the NIV have – Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 5:19 (NIV)

– but the word fire is not there. It can refer equally to light and fire. The Holy Spirit is both Light and Fire and far from extinguishing him we must let him both shine and burn within us.


How do we quench the Spirit? Many ways – largely by not listening to him as he communicates with us mainly through the Scriptures but also directly with our spirits and minds. Also quench/grieve him when having heard and knowing what he requires and we refuse to put into practice what we know is right. And a host of others ways – look back at verses 12-18 – by not living at peace with each other // by being idle // by being vengeful // by failing to pray and worship and give thanks // these are al ways to quench the Spirit.


But also we can quench the Spirit by treating prophecy with contempt AND by not Testing everything and by neglecting what is good and doing what is bad.


2. ‘Do not treat prophecies with contempt’


In the Church Age – that is, since Pentecost – all God’s people receive the Spirit and may therefore ‘prophesy’. Acts 2:16-17 16 ….. this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:             17 ” ‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams. (NIV)


This fulfilled the hopes of the OT – Moses – Numbers 11:29  But Moses replied, ” I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (NIV)


It would seem that this ability is open to all God’s people – 1 Corinthians 14:31 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (NIV)

Yet it is also clear that some were esp. gifted in this way – 1 Corinthians 12:29 29… Are all prophets? …..(NIV)   OR    [All are not prophets, are they?]


What is Prophecy?

In the OT it was the means by which God’s direct revelation came.  To Moses -Exodus 4:12 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Jeremiah 1:4-9 4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,…..

7 … the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 ….

9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. (NIV)


They spoke the very words of God.


In the NT those who spoke the Divinely authoritative words of God were not the prophets but apostles – the one Jesus esp. called. [These 12 were sometimes called prophets but their authority was as apostles.


Those who are called prophets in the NT had less authority than the OT prophets and the NT apostles.


THUS Paul subordinates prophets in the NT to his own authority.

1 Corinthians 14:37-38 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. (NIV)

Prophecy is still only partial misty knowledge – 1 Corinthians 13:9 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (NIV)

Prophecy is not to automatically be accepted as true – 1 Corinthians 14:29

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:21 21 Test everything…….


Paul never claims his authority as a prophet but always as an apostle.


SO today there are no Prophets as in the days of the OT or apostles as in the days of the NT. If there were then we would have to accept their words as equal to scripture and carrying the same authority. We do not have prophets and apostles as they did in Biblical times – thus in that primary use of the terms we can say there are no more.

Paul refers to them as the foundation upon which the church was built – Ephesians 2:20 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (NIV)

However, in a secondary and subsidiary sense God undoubtedly gives prophetic gifts and ministries. For some have a remarkably God-given degree of insight either into scripture and its meaning, or its application to a contemporary situation, or into God’s particular will for a particular people and a particular time.

It would be legitimate to say that these people have a prophetic gift.


Prophetic utterances do not have to be prefaced with the words “Thus saith the Lord….” – In fact I would be extremely cautious in such cases – to claim to be speaking on behalf of God is a very serious thing.

This does not mean that we can not be promoted by the Spirit to speak what we feel God is saying to us.

Further, I do not believe that this as new as the modern Charismatic movement would have us believe.


QUOTE: One commentator – [Roy Clements]  – Word and Spirit – page27


There is much more to be said on this subject but we don’t have time – the difference between prophecy and teaching – the fact that in the NT if something never happen exactly as predicted the person was not branded a false prophets as in the OT – e.g. Agabus in Acts. – The fact that the prophets were also those who “searched the scriptures”


  1. 3.     “Test everything”


Because Prophecy in the Church Age is NOT on a par with scripture it needs to be tested/evaluated. HOW?

This does not only apply to prophetic utterances – bearing in mind that sometimes we couch this in different terms – If you are on the charismatic end of the spectrum you may say “I have a word from the Lord……” or “God told me …”  HOWEVER if you are on the more conservative end of the spectrum you may say “I feel God is leading us ….” Or “I strongly believe that God wants us to …”


Whatever words are use we need to evaluate.

There are those who are gifted with the gift of discernment – nevertheless we are given tests to apply.


Test #1.

Apply the plain truth of scripture as did the Christians in Berea – Acts 17:11 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)

There is no substitute for the study of God’s Word. If we do not know the Bible we will have no criteria by which to evaluate, not just prophecy but everything!

ILLUS.: If someone comes in and says, “Well God has told me that Jesus isn’t the only way to God”. We need to know the teaching of scripture to test that claim.






Test #2.

The illustration relates to the second test as well. Jesus is divine-human!

1 John 4:1-3         1 ., 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. 2 ………..: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, ….

Any teaching / word / prophecy that does not agree with the apostle’s teaching is suspect. Since the apostle’s teaching is preserved for us in scripture – that is the test – Does it agree with what the Bible teaches!


Test #3.

That the gospel is God’s free and saving grace through Jesus Christ. Anyone who alters this gospel is to be eternally condemned. Galatians 1:6-9

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV)


Test #4.

The Character of the speaker. Jesus warned us to watch out for false prophets. Matthew 7:15-16 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognise them.

Just as a tree can be identified by its fruit so a person can be identified their character and conduct. We need to be cautious of those who are unknown and unaccountable.


Test #5.

Does what is said edify / build up / benefit the church. Authentic prophetic messages will strengthen, encourage and comfort the hearers, —

1 Corinthians 14:3 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (NIV)

– edify the church, 1 Corinthians 14:4 ….. he who prophesies edifies the church.

–         bring conviction of sin 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 – to the unbelievers present

–       be conducive to peace and order. 1 Corinthians 14:32-40 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)

and above all love 1 Corinthians 13:2 2 If I have the gift of prophecy ……, but have not love, I am nothing. (NIV)


While in many respects the move in the modern Church towards more openness for the spiritual gifts to operate is healthy there are always dangers – the danger is that we allow these prophecies to take the place of / or diminish the place of scripture.

The Bible is God’s inspired word to us – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)


We are on dangerous ground if we allow the completeness and sufficiency of scripture to be called into question by contemporary prophecies.


QUOTE: One commentator – [Roy Clements]  – Word and Spirit – page 18.


The NT affirms that prophetic gifts exist but Scripture has supreme authority in the Church – Its is God’s Word which the church, for its own health and growth, needs to hear read and explained.


It is possible to emphasise the Word to the detriment of the Spirit – it is possible to emphasis the Spirit to the detriment of the Word.  Both positions are unbalanced.


The Word without the Spirit is sterile rationalism. BUT the Spirit without the Word produces incoherent mysticism that is difficult to distinguish from the intuitions of paganism. Indeed one would have to question whether such is the Spirit of God as God’s Spirit ALWAYS works together with His Word.


We need the objective revelation of God in the Bible AND we also need the subjective personal encounter with God through his Spirit.



  1. 4.     “Keep the good. Discard the bad”

If we are truly those who seek to know God through his Word and his Spirit we will be able to evaluate what is of God and what is not.

BUT as always it is never intended to be simply a head knowledge – it must direct our lives and cause us to choose the good – and put it into practice!.


God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People!


1 Thessalonians 5v19-22


1. “Do not quench the Spirit”

t Every Christian has the Holy Spirit

t Holy Spirit is Light & Fire to shine and burn in us


2. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt”

t OT Prophets / NT Apostles spoke divinely   

     authoritative words of God

t NT Prophets did not have the same authority

t Prophesy open to all believers – Acts 2

t Some have the spiritual gift


3. “Test everything”

t Measure against the plain teaching of scripture

t It must affirm Jesus as divine and human

t It must up hold God’s free and saving grace through

    Jesus Christ alone

t The character and conduct of the prophet must be


t It should   – strengthen / encourage / comfort the


edify / build up / benefit the church

bring conviction of sin

be conducive to peace and order

above all be done in love


  1. 4.        “Keep the good. Discard the bad”

t We must know what is good and practise it.


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