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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[2. Quench Not the Spirit]
This is the 2. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."
by Frank L. Preuss
This, "Quench not the Spirit," is a verse from the Bible. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:19. It says there: "Quench not the Spirit" or "Do not stop the work of the Holy Spirit."
We want to have a look at what we find in W. E. Vine's book "An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words." We find there, that the Greek word for "quench" is sbennumi and that it is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 metaphorically of "quenching" the Spirit, "by hindering His operations in oral testimony in the church gatherings of believers."
When we come together and the real church meets, then there is no convener, no person that leads the meeting. There might be elders. The Bible always mentions "elders". But there is always a plurality of elders. Not just one elder. There are several elders. And there is no pastor. A pastor as we know it today is completely unscriptural. So there is no pastor in the meeting and there is no pastor leading the meeting or dominating it. The meeting is led by the Holy Spirit. And it is the believer's duty to not quench the Holy Spirit by hindering His operations in oral testimony in the church gatherings. We believers have to do something about it when someone wants to quench the Holy Spirit. We have to put a stop to someone who wants to dominate others and therefore wants to push aside the Holy Spirit. We have to do something about it when someone wants to behave like a "pastor."
We have to learn to recognize that we are gods, that we are divine. We have to learn to liberate ourselves from the idea that there is always somebody placed above us who either called into question our own authority and divinity or abolished it.
And the elders who are present behave just as all the other members of the body. They have no roll of leadership in the meeting. This is one of the main characteristics of the real church in operation. One of the main characteristics of a meeting of a man-made church is that there is a convener, a man or several men that give the meeting direction and lead it. Here we have a key difference.
The main difference between a Christian belonging to the real church and one belonging to a denomination, a man-made church, is that the first one is a spiritual Christian while the other, the denominationalist, is a carnal Christian.
The one is led by the Spirit and the other is led by man.
The same situation exist when these Christians come together: The spiritual Christians are led by the Spirit and the carnal Christians are led by men.
The real church meeting is led by the Holy Spirit and not by men. And a meeting of carnal Christians is led by men and not by the Spirit.
So when Christians come together, then we can actually see, see with our physical eyes, the difference of being led by the Holy Spirit or being led by men, because in a meeting of spiritual believers there is no man leading the meeting, while in a meeting of a denomination a man is convening the meeting.
When spiritual Christians meet, then the Holy Spirit leads this meeting and not a man. This might sound difficult to comprehend, but it is only difficult to understand for persons who are not led themselves in their daily lives by the Holy Spirit. When several persons, who are as individuals led by the Holy Spirit, come together, then they, as a group of persons, are also led by the Holy Spirit.
We here have again the difference that exists between an organism and an organisation. An organisation needs someone, a person, one out of the others, who is in charge, while an organism does not require this. An organism receives its life from the life giver, the Lord.
So we have this strange meeting taking place, where several people come together, but none of them is in charge, but they still are very well guided, guided by some invisible agent, the spirit of God.
But if we really understand the togetherness of believers and know that it is actually the meeting of the family of God, know that it is the family that meets, then we should have no problems understanding it, because when a naturally family meets, then there is also nobody who stands in front of all the others and tells them to sing and what song they have to sing, and decides when the singing is over and when the speaking starts and who is going to speak and in what sequence and if it is now time for testimonies or preaching or teaching or announcing coming events.
Things don't happen this way in a family. There is no formality in the togetherness of a family. Everyone is free to speak whenever he wants and everyone is trained to do so in the right way. Things happen naturally. Everybody loves the others and behaves accordingly. Anybody trying to dominate the others would immediately feel himself being out of place and would not even have to be told so.
So from this example of the natural family meeting we can see already that a man-made church meeting is completely unnatural.
And this does not just apply to a meeting of a family. Also when people of a sports club or when business partners or when the political representatives of a town meet, then it is so organized that everybody has the right and opportunity to say something. But not even this is often possible in a man-made church meeting. It is the distinction of most denominations to be so organized and set up that no other person than the pastor or another clergy is allowed to speak. There is normally not even a possibility for an ordinary member to speak up or even ask a question. It is amazing that intelligent people let themselves treat like this. And that such a thing, that an intelligent person lets himself find in a meeting where he is not allowed to contribute anything, is possible, is still understandable. But what is strange is that there are people who experience such an arrogant treatment and go back to such a place the next Sunday and let the same thing happen to them again. And not only that, but they continue to do so for the rest of their lives. And they might even study the life of the early church and find out how the Christians worshipped, but still act today in a complete opposite way. They know the truth but still don't follow it. The only word for such behaviour is dishonesty. Such people are liars. And they don't want to change because they know what will happen to liars in a real church. The Holy Spirit will treat them as He treated Ananias and Sapphira.
So the real church meeting is led by the Holy Spirit and not by a man. This does not mean that somebody, may be the host or the lady of the house or someone who is asked to do this, welcomes the guests individually or as a group. Someone else might introduce some guests or a visiting teacher or a prophet. Or somebody might summarize a discussion into a decision or a prayer. But there is not an appointed person who is in charge of the meeting. There might be spiritual responsible persons present, may be an elder or several elders, but they are behaving the same as anybody else, only that what they have to say might have some greater bearing, but that is because they are spiritually more advanced and therefore the believers present evaluate their words accordingly, but they have no more rights in such a meeting than anybody else.
So it is a good idea to think of a meeting of a natural family when we want to picture a meeting of the real church in our mind.
We want to see what else Vine's book says about "quench": "The peace, order, and edification of the saints were evidence of the ministry of the Spirit among them, 1 Corinthians 14:26, 32, 33, 40, but if, through ignorance of His ways, or through failure to recognize, or refusal to submit to, them, or through impatience with the ignorance or self-will of others, the Spirit were quenched, these happy results would be absent. For there was always the danger that the impulses of the flesh might usurp the place of the energy of the Spirit in the assembly, and the endeavour to restrain this evil by natural means would have the effect of hindering His ministry also. Apparently then, this injunction was intended to warn believers against the substitution of a mechanical order for the restraints of the Spirit."
So the evidence of the ministry of the Spirit among us is the following: Peace, order, and edification of the saints. We get edified when the Spirit ministers among us. It proofs His presence. When there is order and when there is peace, then it is a confirmation that the Spirit is allowed to minister.
But if the Spirit gets quenched, then these positive things will be absent.
All the religions of this world have clergy, religious buildings, liturgy and rituals.
And the "Christian" religion has all these things as well. They have pastors and popes, chapels and cathedrals, sacraments and ceremonies and ordinances and holy orders. But that is all religion and all the religions of this world have them. But life in Christ is not a religion. If we think of Christianity being a religion then we have completely missed the whole thing. Being a follower of Christ has nothing to do with religion and that is why the followers of Christ, the real followers, will clash with religion wherever they come into contact with it. There are no outside signs that allow an observer to recognize a Christian, no badges, no special clothes, no special buildings, no titles, no priests, no ceremonies, no rituals. The only sign we give to this world is when we leave this world system and are being buried under water. It is showing the world the death of our self, and it is followed by a risen new creation. That is why Jesus said, "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." The only outward sign we give to a wicked and adulterous generation is the sign of our baptism. Even the breaking of bread is not a ritual, it is simply a meal taken by the believers. The signs to recognize the followers of the creator of the universe are spiritual signs. They are power and love. Humility and majesty. Healing and joy. It is deliverance. It is life. But religion is death. When Christianity becomes a religion then it becomes like all the other religions of this world: it becomes darkness and bondage and evil. It becomes an instrument of the evil one. It becomes an institution which is abandoned by the Holy Spirit. Worldly.
And the Spirit gets quenched through ignorance of His way. We have to let the Spirit have His way. We must not want to have our way. And God's spirit must be welcomed. We must draw near to God, then God will draw near to us. So there has to be action from our side. We must let the spirit know that he is welcome. We must do something about it. The spirit of God is different from the spirit of darkness. The spirit of darkness wants to control us, without us having invited him. He wants us to do what he wants, without us having agreed to it, even without us knowing that he wants to and is controlling us. This evil spirit also wants to deceive us. He is always busy trying to be active in our life, without us wanting him.
The approach of God's spirit is the opposite. He respects our free will. The best example is Jesus, how he never tried to force himself on anybody, but let the individual decide if he wanted to follow him or not.
And when we want to follow Jesus, then we also want to do what Jesus says we should do. If we are exposed to Jesus' presence, then evil is out of place. There can be no darkness in the presence of God. And this is probably the main reason why people can know the truth about man-made churches, but still prefer to go to them and not to the real church, because they want to continue with darkness. They know they would have to change their deeds if they would be part of a meeting where the Holy Spirit is in control. They know they would have to stop sinning. But they want to carry on with their evil ways and a church meeting in which they are present, but in which they do not participate, in which there is no place for them to say something and in which there is no place for anybody else to say something to them, and in which the Holy Spirit is not allowed to direct and lead, in such a meeting they feel quite save and it satisfies their religiosity. And what matters in their lives is what the people think and say about them and not what God thinks about them. So their needs are fully met in a meeting of a man-made church, because they want the approval of men. And they are afraid of being confronted with the disapproval of God and therefore they will avoid the real church where God is present. Jesus calls them hypocrites.
So this description of the word "quench" in Vine's book gives us a very good explanation why religious people introduce man-made formalities to obtain order in a meeting of believers. Two expressions are used here: "Natural means" and "mechanical order." Men quench the Holy Spirit by introducing "natural means" and "mechanical order." And by using these two carnal ways they have quenched the Holy Spirit.
And when we think of a man-made church, then we know that these two carnal methods, "natural means" and "mechanical order," are really necessary. They are necessary, because the believers who have come together there, are carnal. They are carnal by scriptural definition. First Corinthians chapter 3 verses 1 to 4 supplies us with this definition. They are carnal and the way their meeting goes will be carnal. And to bring them to a spiritual way of worship, a way to worship the Father in spirit and truth, will not be possible, because of them being in a carnal stage. The only way to help them is to help the individual and get him out of his carnal position and let him become spiritual, let him excommunicate religion and disunity out of his system. Only when he has become spiritual will he be able to participate in a meeting of believers that is led by the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why scripture admonishes us to separate from believers that continue, after two warnings from our side, to be dividers and therefore to be carnal. If we would not separate ourselves from them and allow them to be participants, our meetings would become more and more filled with carnal people, with dividers, and we soon would be forced to introduce "natural means" and "mechanical order." It would be simply necessary, because the majority would not respond to spiritual means and spiritual order.
It is not wrong to invite a carnal person to our meeting or to let a carnal person participate who happened to come to our meeting. It is also not wrong to have unbelievers come to our meeting. But there must be a reaction, a positive reaction. They must turn to the light. If they continue to walk in darkness, then there is no place for them in the presence of God.
So when we are warned not to quench the spirit, then we are warned against the substitution of a mechanical order for the restraints of the spirit. We do not replace the restraint of the spirit for a mechanical order. Real order in the church is caused by the restraint of the spirit, not by mechanical order.
Now the most popular scripture that comes to the mind of a carnal Christian when we talk about the real church is 1 Corinthians 14:40. It says there, "Let all things be done decently and in order." And he will most probably quote it. It is his carnal order that he has in mind. It is not the order of the Holy Spirit, because not only is the Holy Spirit not in charge of the meetings he goes to, He is also not in charge of his daily life. He thinks of a "mechanical order," of "natural means."
So we have to get back to the place where God can move by His Spirit in our midst. And we have to get back to live in the body of believers as we have been shown by example in the reports of the Early Church. Let's go back to the simplicity of the New Testament and we will experience the power of the Holy Spirit and we will carry that Presence with us for months and months and His Kingdom will come and then finally the King himself will come and reign on this earth.
Now let us point out some details, some technical details.
A person, may be an elder, can hand over the meeting to the Holy Spirit. This is not something symbolic. He really does and he and the people let the Holy Spirit have His way. It is something the people do consciously; they must know what it means.
This will work better in a small group than it will in a large one. A small gathering of believers makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to be in control and let everybody participate. This is the main reason why the Early Church met in houses.
There will be times when the people just sit quietly, reverencing and waiting on God. Such a situation must be allowed to develop anytime. It is a typical sign of a man-made church, that one item follows the previous one and when that has come to an end, immediately the next thing starts. It is as if everybody is afraid that the Holy Spirit might also try to do something when there would be a pause and a space of time for Him to minister.
Everybody present should have the greatest possible liberty to express himself. And not just in Words. Beside the voice it could also be the thinking or the body.
Someone might get up and give a message in tongues. This is one of the activities in a meeting. "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Corinthians 14:26). This is the scripture that teaches us what we do when we come together. We all take part in the meeting. It is participation that is the key word here. Someone might have a word of instruction, instructing them how to respond to the Holy Spirit, somebody else will start a hymn, one speaks in tongues, somebody else interprets, and there is perhaps a revelation of how God would try to get the Body of Christ to the place where He can move by His Spirit in our midst. And all these five activities will strengthen the assembly.
God can move in some of the most unusual ways in such believers' meetings. But it is because there will be real worship in such a services - true worship. And the people will be careful to keep their worship in the Spirit and to reverence God and not get in the flesh. They should be careful not to get in the flesh - not to quench the spirit. They consciously retain the leading of the Spirit. They know that "there was always the danger that the impulses of the flesh might usurp the place of the energy of the Spirit in the assembly."
None of our services are alike. This is a description of meetings one hears from people who have taken part in such meetings led by the Holy Spirit. Looking back from such an experience to meetings of man-made churches, one only has a feeling of repetition and boredom.
They might sit in total silence for an hour or even longer and not a baby cries, not a child moves. That is a wonderful experience to sit in such a meeting and realize that the Holy Spirit is also completely in control of all the outside and technical aspects of such a meeting. The Holy Spirit will prevent anybody from coming in and disturbing a certain situation or in another situation he will bring somebody into the meeting to minister to him.
There is a move of the Spirit of God that should be taught and people should be led into it. This is a task we all have to be part of. We have to point out all these little details and give a person who is in the religious system an opportunity to renew his mind and give him the opportunity to attain a fully new picture of the assembly and of the work of the Holy Spirit in it.
When we consider and talk about worship, there should be a spirit of reverence that goes along with it. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If we don't have this spirit of reverence, if we don't fear the Lord, then we have not even started to become wise. We have to have this spirit of reference and when a believer wants to dominate a meeting then we have the clearest sign that this spirit of reference is missing and the result will be the quenching of the spirit.
But we should always be very careful to reverence the Holy Spirit in a service. Consequently, the miraculous will be an everyday occurrence. The Lord will work with us and confirm his word by the signs that accompany his word that we bring to others, when we do not quench His spirit.
So we must not be ignorant of His ways, we must not fail to recognize Him, we must not refuse to submit to him and we must not be impatient with the ignorance of others and we must not be impatient with the self-will of others.
If things don't go the way we feel they should we must not introduce mechanical means to stop it. If for example somebody loses his balance and can't stop talking then someone else can stop such a person. We don't have to forbid this person to speak. Somebody has simply to speak up and say: "Just hang on a moment, I also have to say something." We should not interrupt others, but this should be kept within reasonable limits; spontaneity must be preserved.
We must allow for the fact that others, as well as we ourselves, are not perfect yet. We must not be afraid of mistakes. There must be liberty for a believer who is young in the Lord, to start and to participate in the meeting right from the beginning. If we are well grounded in the Lord, then even some false or crooked teaching will not upset us. The truth will not be altered by somebody's imperfection of the understanding of this truth. All the members of the church were not perfect at the time of the New Testament and will not be today.
But let us get back to the basics and to the simplicity of the New Testament church and let us hand the meeting back to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the miraculous will again be an everyday occurrence. And this it is that will bring the increase. It will bring back the Lord to this world and his rule and his peace.
So if believers are present who behave in an ignorant way or who display self-will, then we must remain full of patience. We have to carry each other's burdens. We have to act in love and understanding. Such behaviour is no reason for us to become impatient. Or even to try to introduce natural means or mechanical order. Such measures would just achieve the opposite, they would quench the spirit. Such measures would be impulses of the flesh. We want that all things are done decently and in order. And it is the order of God's Holy Spirit and not the order of carnal men, not a man-made church order.
"Encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thessalonians 5:14-19).
During times when the Presence of God comes into a meeting, no one might move and an awesome Presence will fill the room. We have to wait for the Holy Spirit. "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised" (Acts 1:4). There must be this peace present that transcends all understanding; it must guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:7). We must not start a hymn or give a tongue or have a word of instruction before this peace is there. This is an important detail. It is one of these details that has to be taught and which we have to be led into.
And here we come back to the fact that we must be led by the spirit in a meeting, but that it will only work when we are also led by the spirit when we are not in the meeting: in our daily walk. And in our daily walk we have to do the same thing: we have to wait for the spirit. We have to be calm and this peace that transcends all understanding must always be there. Before we do and before we speak we have to always give the Holy Spirit a chance first. There should be always this short hesitation, this freedom from any kind of compulsion or pressure. We have to act and talk as a king would do.
There is a reverence, an awesome sense of the holiness of God which can come upon a group of people. As the Body of Christ, we've got to get to that place of reverence. Only this reference will bring back the power the church had in the book of Acts. One of the most outstanding features of the man-made church is its powerlessness, its irrelevance.
It is His Presence which will meet the deepest longings of our hearts and set the captives free. This is such a positive discovery when we come to this place of the real church meeting, and when we finally find that what we have longed for so long. For this, the real meeting of spiritual beings, we have longed for. Our heart longed for this reality. And in it the most outstanding feature and characteristic of our Lord is expressed and found: His delivery. He is the deliverer, the saviour, he sets the captives free. To be present in a service where this deliverance takes place, where people are set free from all kinds of problems. That is what lets our faith grow and let us become stronger and lets our love grow.
If you have got a genuine desire to be set free from a sinful life, or set free from anything you don't like, search for such a community of believers or even start one yourself. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." If you only find one other believer, come together and give the Holy Spirit supremacy and life will start for you.
So let us not quench the spirit, but let us realize and become aware of all the things that quench the spirit and learn to stay away from them.
There is again a move of the Spirit of God. People get taught and led into it. This message "Quench Not the Spirit" is part of this move. Let us start teaching and let us get into it.
This is the end of "Quench Not the Spirit."
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