First Thessalonians 027 – Test All Things (Part 1)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 • • May 28, 2023 • First ThessaloniansTranscript
First Thessalonians 027 – Test All Things (Part 1)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-20, May 28, 2023
Good morning, everybody. Let’s open with a word of prayer and we’ll get started. Father, we’re grateful for Your Word. Grateful for the fact that the Word of God is never failing. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our Lord stands forever (Isa 40:8). Heaven and earth will pass away, Jesus said, but My words will never pass away (Matt 24:35). So we’re grateful, Lord, in a changing world, in a compromised world, we have the uncompromised Word of God. I just pray today that as it’s taught, You would take it and apply it to the deepest needs of the listeners. Only You can do this, Lord, through the ministry of illumination. A human teacher cannot do this. You’ve promised that the Spirit of God would guide us into all truth. And so in preparation for that illuminating ministry of the Spirit, we’re just going to take a few moments of personal silence to do personal confession to You, not to restore our position, but to restore broken fellowship if necessary.
We’re thankful, Lord, for the promise of 1 John 9:1 that if we confess our sins, in other words, agree with You that our sins are wrong, You cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We realize, Lord, that our position can’t be altered, but our moment-by-moment enjoyment of You can be altered. And when that happens, there’s an impediment to the teaching of the Word. We can’t really receive all that You have for us. And so we thank the Lord for the promise that You’ve made for us and the provision You’ve made for us in every area. I just pray, Lord, that as today your Word is taught at Sugar Land Bible Church, not just in the main sanctuary, but also in all the different classes, youth group, nursery, children’s classes, that You would cause us to leave here changed people. Either we get a perspective we didn’t have before, a salvation occurs, a relationship perhaps that we didn’t have before, we enjoy, maybe a broken relationship gets healed, whatever the case may be, but we do ask, Lord, that we would leave here today where we would be able to authentically say it was good to be in the house of the Lord. We look to You and You alone to accomplish this great work. We lift all of these things up in Jesus’ name and God’s people said amen.
Well, if you can locate in your Bible 1 Thessalonians 5:15, we’re going to see if we can make it through verse 22 in Sunday School. And I appreciate your guys’ courtesy. Usually everybody starts laughing when I say that. So thank you for restraining yourselves. Because I have a tendency to go sort of slow through the Bible. You’re like, gee, pastor, I never noticed.
But we’re in a section of God’s Word, 1 Thessalonians 5, where Paul is now sort of addressing the issues that he was aware of in the Thessalonian church. The first part of the book, 1 Thessalonians 1-3, he’s defending himself and his ministry and his methods and his apostolic credentials really. Because people had, when he left after planting the church, circulated a bunch of half-truths and complete untruths about him. So it’s hard to correct people that don’t accept your authority. So he’s sort of reestablished his authority in Chapters 1-3, looking backward.
And then beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, he says, “Finally” and that’s the clue that he’s now looking forward. And he’s dealing with practical issues that were reported to him about the Thessalonian church. So it’s in that section he’s dealt with immorality (4:1-8), laziness (4:9-12), and then beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 all the way through 1 Thessalonians 5:11 he gets into the subject of the end times. The rapture, end of chapter 4, and then the day of the Lord which will come upon planet earth subsequent to the rapture. He finishes that discussion in Verse 11.
And then in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15, he talks about some ministry imbalances. He talks about the proper attitude people in a church should have towards their leaders (5:-13) and then he deals with ministering to one another (5:14-15).
PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION (1 Thess 5:16-28)
And now beginning in Verse 16 really through the end of the chapter, he gets into the subject of progressive sanctification. So here he’s not dealing with justification, the past tense of our salvation. He’s not dealing with glorification, the future tense of salvation. He’s talking about what happens to the Christian in between the two.
So I have been saved and I am headed towards glory, but obviously I’m here for a reason, or God would just take us all to heaven immediately upon conversion.
So what do we do in the present tense as Christians? And that deals with the subject of not getting saved again. You already are saved. He doesn’t deal with the subject of oh, no, maybe I lost my salvation because your glorification is certain. But how do we live in the present? How do we live in the nasty now and now?
PRACTICAL SANCTIFICATION (1 THESS 5:16-24)
So what he does here is he gives in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 three positive commands. Here are three things to do. And then after that, Verses 19-22, he gives three negative commands. Here are three things not to do. The words “stay away from these three things.” By the way, these are not suggestions in the original Greek. It’s not like, hey, try this out and see how it works. These are commands. And then you get to the end of Verse 22, and you say, wow, this is a hard teaching. I don’t have the energy to fulfill these commands.
That’s where he reminds us, Verses 23-24, that we have divine enablement. So God has not called us to fulfill these commands on our own. He’s given us the ministry of the Spirit, which is resident within us, to live out these commands.
THREE POSITIVE COMMANDS (1 Thess 5:16-18)
So let’s take a look, first of all, at the three positive commands. Here are the three things to do. I mean how do you know if you’re a growing Christian? Because you’ll begin under God’s power to implement these three commands into your life.
1. Rejoice always (1 Thess 5:16)
The first command is in Verse 16, and it’s to rejoice always. Notice verse 16. Two words, the way it’s translated. “Rejoice always;” It’s not so much the rejoicing that stands out to me. It’s the word always. Because from the human perspective, the moment anything impinges on our convenience or our comfort, we have a tendency to look at such an item as an unwanted intruder.
So I can rejoice if I get promoted on my job and get a raise, but what happens if I get demoted on my job and my pay goes down or I get laid off from my job and I have no pay at all? What am I supposed to do then?
Well, the Bible just gives you two words — rejoice always. Because God has allowed those circumstances, whether they’re viewed favorably or unfavorably from the human perspective, God has allowed those circumstances into our life for our growth. So you’ll recall the book of James 1:2-4, it says, “Consider it…” Anybody know the next two words? “All joy.” Notice that word “all.” “Consider it all joy, my brethren…” so you can’t fulfill this unless you’re part of the brethren. A Christian, you have to have the Spirit inside of you to do this.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when your life is working out great.” Oops. The Bible doesn’t say that. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, …” The last time I studied that word “various” in the Greek, it’s used in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to describe Joseph, who I’m hoping we’re going to get to at some point in the book of Genesis, before the rapture. We have to finish Jacob first. But Joseph, from his father, was given a multi-colored coat. Remember? And so, when that multi-colored coat is described in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of Hebrew Bible, is what I meant to say, that word “various” is used.
And so that’s the word James uses when he’s describing various trials. It’s like they’re multi-colored. All the colors of the rainbow. In other words, God has different trials in our lives to achieve different purposes. You might be struggling with one area of your life and God sends you a trial. And then later on in your Christian life, you might be struggling with another area. God sends you a different trial. And so God is sort of like a surgeon where He takes different tools out of His toolbox, or a talented carpenter we should say. You don’t use the same tool for every single thing. I don’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail. Different tools for different purposes. I mean I might use that if I lose my tool kit, you know, but it’s not going to work well trying to hammer a nail with a screwdriver.
So that’s how God is with our trials. He doesn’t use the same trial over and over again. He uses different trials because He says, oh there’s a deficiency in their character here. Let’s send them this issue. It’s kind of like sandpaper, you know. Once that sort of gets fixed, God says, okay, there’s a different issue in their character over here. Let’s send them a different trial.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, …”. Well, why, God? I don’t like trials. James continues, “… knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect [mature in other words] and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Why, I like the endurance part. Lord, I want to be a person of endurance. And I want to be a person of maturity. Is there any way I can circumvent the process and avoid the various trials part in the middle tense of my salvation as I’m trying to grow? No, doesn’t work that way.
So even in trials themselves, the attitude of the Christian, and I’m not saying you go through life sort of denying reality, denying pain, sort of a plastic smile on your face all the time. I don’t think that’s what it’s dealing with. I think it’s this idea that even in suffering, you can internally rejoice because you have a divine promise that God is going to use this to bring you to the next level of spiritual maturity.
Over in Philippians 4:4, you know this verse. It says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
And there’s an actual song, right? Which I’ll be singing for you right now. No, I won’t do that. I couldn’t carry a note with a handle on it. My wife says you can sing in the shower, but that’s it. No singing around the house. So this is how you know you’re growing as a Christian, because you’re rejoicing in all your circumstances.
I mean, you can ascertain your level of growth by our ability to rejoice when things are favorable when things from the human perspective are unfavorable, because as far as God is concerned, it’s all favorable. Because God uses it all as sandpaper to refine different parts of our character, to achieve God’s ultimate purpose in our lives, which is what? Romans 8.29, right? To conform us into the image of His Son. He wants us to be more Christ-like in our character. That’s what He’s trying to do in our lives.
His ultimate goal is not to make us rich and famous. It’s not to make us poor or miserable. But it is to produce in us Christ-like character. And every single thing you face as a Christian, you can rejoice in because God has sovereignly brought it into your life to produce Christ-like character.
Now, I’m not talking about here the decisions that we make that are just sinful, where we bring consequences on ourselves. Of course, God can use consequences of sin to mature us also.
I’m talking about things that happen to you sort of like in the book of Job, where Job is just enjoying his life, and one day he loses his family, his property, his health is inflicted as he has sort of a skin issue from head to toe, where he had to break pottery just to scratch himself to alleviate what was going on with his skin. And then his wife comes along, and she’s a real encourager. She says, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” Well, thank you honey for that wonderful word of exhortation. And everybody in Job’s life says, “Well, Job, the reason this happened to you is it’s your fault.” All of his counselors, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar. I mean, I put “counselors” in quotes because they’re pontificating about things that they have no understanding of. Another guy shows up late in the book named Elihu. He piles on. I think there’s one point in the book of Job where Job says, “What miserable counselors you all are” (Job 16:2).
So we have to be very careful when we’re interacting with suffering fellow believers. We don’t have any idea why they’re suffering. There’s a real tendency to say, “Oh, you brought it on yourself.” Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. Job didn’t bring it on himself. We know that because we read the first two chapters of the book of Job where there was a conversation between God and Satan in heaven concerning Job that Job didn’t know anything about. And so the whole point of the book of Job by the time you get to the end is trust God’s sovereignty. He knows what He’s doing. Don’t trust in limited human finitudes where we try to pontificate about why this happened and why that happened.
So when we have that frame of mind, we can fulfill these two words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always.”
2. Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)
The second command is translated into English with three words, “Pray without ceasing.” So right there in Verse 7, you’ll see it, “Pray without ceasing.” Now, this word “without ceasing” is used not in the Scripture, but it’s used in extra-biblical Greek literature of somebody with a hacking cough. Just coughs and coughs and coughs. And it’s a medical problem where they couldn’t stop coughing if they wanted to.
I guess today if someone like that is in the airport, everybody would scream, “Put your mask on!” or something. But it’s just like a consistent cough that won’t go away. So when you think of something like that, that’s to be our approach to prayer. We’re to pray consistently. We’re to pray without ceasing.
In other words, prayer to the Christian should be as natural as breathing. The book of Ephesians 6:18 talks about prayer after mentioning all of our spiritual armor. And it says, ” With all prayer and petition pray at all times …” It’s the “all times” that jumps out at me. “… at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,”
Prayer and petition at all times. It’s kind of like as natural as breathing. I mean, I don’t really think about breathing. Okay, let me concentrate. I’m going to take my next breath now. Okay, let me concentrate again. I’ve got to exhale. I mean, I don’t have to sit and think about that. It’s kind of interesting when you sit and think about it, then you have to think about it. Normally when you’re not thinking about it, you’re just breathing. You don’t have to do it on cue.
That’s sort of the attitude of prayer. It’s just something that we persistently, consistently do. It’s kind of like Nehemiah in the Book of Nehemiah, where Nehemiah wanted to go from Persia back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. And he has to get his boss, Artaxerxes, to sign on to that, because Nehemiah was the cup bearer there in Persia for Artaxerxes, there in Susa. And I think it’s in Nehemiah Chapter 1. He just needs his manager or his supervisor’s heart change. And so he just offers up this quick prayer unto the Lord. I think that kind of thing is what should characterize our lives.
All kinds of circumstances are happening in your life. I mean, traffic. There’s a way that’s going to test your sanctification right there. Houston traffic will test your sanctification to the absolute breaking point. And the only reason I can handle Houston traffic is I came from California, Southern California, where it’s actually worse, if you can believe that.
So, you know, all kinds of circumstances are happening in your life. And it’s not necessarily an audible thing any more than your thoughts are audible. You’re just offering up to the Lord constantly these quick prayers. Pray without ceasing.
Now, does this mean that we have to pray every single second of the day? And I can’t even sleep? Because I don’t really pray when I sleep. Do you guys pray when you sleep? And how would you know that you’re praying when you’re sleeping if you’re unconscious? I heard one person say, “I pray when I sleep.” I’m like, “Well, how do you know that? You’re not even awake to determine if you’re praying.”
These are the weird things I think about. So, I don’t think he’s saying unbroken, 24-hour prayer around the clock because when you look at 1 Thessalonians 2:9, he describes his work ethic as a tentmaker. He says, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
I mean, a lot of people have this view that you’re on your knees 24/7. Obviously, that’s not Paul because he’s supporting himself in his ministry and he’s working. I would think though, as he’s working, he’s in constant communication with the Lord. Over in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, he says the same thing. He says, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;”
Because a lot of people, when they see this expression, pray without ceasing, they think that means that you have to drop out of reality. Drop out of life. Quit your job. Don’t sleep. Don’t have an occupation. And obviously, Paul is not communicating that because Paul was a man with a tremendous work ethic. In fact, it’s that work ethic that he used to defend himself earlier in the book against the false charges that were brought against him by the some in the Thessalonica congregation and those outside of Thessalonica who were basically stirring up false accusations against Paul.
He says, “Don’t you remember when I was with you my work ethic?” “I was never in the ministry for money,” is what he’s saying, “because I worked to support myself so I wouldn’t be a financial burden to anybody.” So obviously, Paul had this tremendous work ethic. And in the process of introducing that work ethic, he also says, “Pray without ceasing.”
So when you’re going to develop a philosophy of prayer, make sure you look at the entire book and not just two or three verses. Because a lot of people misconstrue those verses by making it sound like what this means is you basically join the monastery or something like that.
In 2 Thessalonians, people are going to use the second coming as a basis for dropping out of life and life’s responsibilities. Paul is going to correct them there on that. So obviously if he’s going to correct them there on that, he would not tolerate a mindset that says I’m going to use pray without ceasing as some sort of excuse to drop out of life’s responsibilities.
I mean, I struggle with things all of the time. I struggle with computers. I struggle with sermon prep. I struggle with trying to understand the Word of God. I struggle with, you know, in spiritual leadership, you know, you have to have all these meetings with all of these people all the time. Elder meetings and all of these kinds of things. And some of them are enjoyable. Some of them are sort of a struggle.
And so the right mindset as you’re going through these struggles is you’re just constantly in prayer asking for God’s guidance. You don’t have to even say anything audibly. Kind of a quick Nehemiah prayer. I need your guidance here. I need your help here. Lord, I need you to change so-and-so’s heart here. I need your grace, etc., etc.
So this is how you can ascertain if you’re developing as a Christian. Developing out of infancy. You’re rejoicing always. You’re praying always.
3. Give thanks in all things (1 Thess 5:18)
And then the third positive command is you’re giving thanks always. You start to develop an attitude of gratitude. So notice Verse 18. “In 95% of things…” Oops, doesn’t say that. “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
So we’re back to rejoicing in everything, giving thanks in everything, and if I run that through the grid of James 1:2-4, I should be giving thanks even in my trials. Lord, I don’t want to go through another valley, but here I am. And I know that You sovereignly put me into this valley because obviously there’s something that You want to teach me in this valley that You can’t teach me otherwise. Lord, if I had my preference, I’d stay on the mountaintop because God gives us mountaintop experiences, valley experiences. If I had my druthers, I like the mountaintop much better, Lord, but the Lord says, “Yeah, but you can’t mature very much on the mountaintop.” I know you like it and I know it’s comfortable, but there’s not going to be a lot of growth. So fasten your seatbelts. Here we go. Once again, we’re going to encounter some turbulence.
And so I start to go through that, and I just say, “Well, Lord, thank You. Thank you for this because You’re going to make me into a different person. You’re going to broaden and deepen my character through this valley in a way that couldn’t be done if I just stayed on the mountaintop. So we’re giving thanks in all things.
That’s how you know you’re growing as a Christian. Ephesians 5:20 says, and there’s the word “always,” “always giving thanks for all things.” I mean, wow, there’s two “all’s” right there. He’s not just saying “y’all,” He’s saying “all y’all.” “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”
God’s Will for You
Now did you notice there at the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “… for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Oh man, I want to know the will of God. I want to know God’s will for my life. And God says, “Well, here it is. Here’s God’s will for you. You’re giving thanks in all things.”
So when I’m going through a valley and I’m thanking the Lord for it, I’m in God’s will. This is actually the second time he’s spoken of the will of God in this letter. If you go back to 1 Thessalonians 4:3 when he’s talking about sexual immorality, he says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;”
So everybody wants to know God’s will, and there is God’s will in written form. But how do I know I’m in God’s will? Well, because when you have an opportunity to commit adultery and you turn it down, or to start an inappropriate texting relationship with someone, and you say no to it, because it’s out of bounds in terms of God’s priorities, you’re within God’s will. And your channel surfing and something racy comes across the television screen. I know that never happens to your guys’ television screens. It just happens to my television screen, and you see that, you say, ah, you turn the channel. You’re in God’s will.
And then all of a sudden, your life starts to bottom out a little bit because you’re in a valley that you weren’t in a month ago and you’re thanking the Lord for it. You’re in God’s will.
So finding the will of God for your life is not some kind of complex thing that you have to sit and strain and struggle to find. And what the Bible actually says is if you’re faithful with the little thing, God will trust you with the what? The bigger thing. (Luke 16:10)
So there’s so much question marks in our minds about what is God’s will for my life? Should I live in this city or that city? Should I work this job, or should I work that job? Should I enroll in this school, or should I enroll in that school? And we do all these things. We’re looking for some kind of golden fleece or fleece in the book of Judges and all of these sorts of things. Really, what it comes down to is you just obey God in what you know to do.
You rejoice in the midst of trials. You turn down sexual immorality. And God says, oh, they’re faithful in the little things that I’ve given them to do. Now I can trust them with the bigger things. And suddenly you start to discover the bigger picture for your life.
And so when you’re counseling people and they say, I can’t find God’s will for my life, I mean, the answer is, have you been faithful to God’s revealed will? How in the world is God supposed to trust any of us with the bigger picture when we can’t even obey Him on the smaller things?
But you see these passages:
This is the will of God for your life, thanksgiving in trials, rejoicing in trials;
This is God’s will for your life that you abstain from sexual immorality;
and you start to focus on those things and suddenly your life starts to take on more significance, more meaning, things start to move in a more God-ordained direction. Because he who is faithful with the little thing can be trusted with the greater thing.
So am I really growing as a Christian? Well, here’s three positive commands to follow to determine if you are.
Are you rejoicing always?
Are we praying without ceasing?
Are we giving thanks in all things?
THREE NEGATIVE COMMANDS (1 Thess 5:19-22)
Well, I’m sure glad this lesson is over. No, not quite. Because now as you go down to 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Paul gives three negative commands. He’s told us three things to do, 1 Thessalonians 6:16-18. Now he says, here’s three things not to do. So what are those?
1. Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19)
Number one do not quench the Spirit. There it is, Verse 19. Do not quench the Spirit. Now one of the questions that’s come up a couple times on our Wednesday night studies that we were doing last quarter on the book of Acts is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. When you go over to Matthew 12:31-32, as Pastor Jim and I do the Q&A show on KHCB, the last two Thursdays of the month, or the third and fourth Thursday of the month, I mean this always comes up. Jesus says, ““Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
And everybody says, “Ooh, that’s bad. Blasphemy of the Spirit.” Well, what is blasphemy of the Spirit? I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s really bad. And so people are completely terrorized by this their whole life because they never, for whatever reason, get any explanation on it. But if you simply put it back into context, you’ll see exactly what it is.
It’s something that the nation of Israel did in the first century. And God said, “I’m not using Israel anymore for a season.” First century Israel is done. They’re moving off into divine discipline. It’s not saying an individual Jew can’t get saved. What it’s saying is Israel is exiting the stage and the church is about to enter, and it’s going to be that way for 2,000 years. God’s hand is not on Israel. It will be on a new man called the church.
The reason God did that is because first century Israel committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The leadership did. In other words, this is national. Matthew 12:24 is the hinge of the whole book of Matthew. It says, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.””
Christ had done a great miracle or miracles in their presence that they could not explain away. When you can’t explain away the miracle and can’t say it’s David Copperfield magician work or something, you just say, “Well, the devil did it through you.” That’s the blasphemy of the Spirit. It’s a one-time unique thing that first century Israel did.
So whatever you’re doing with Matthew 12:31-32, rather than going off into gambling or pornography or, “Gosh, I did this as a Christian, I committed adultery,” all these other subjects, forget all these other subjects in terms of interpreting this and just put it back into where it belongs, and you’ll see very clearly what it is.
That becomes the hinge of Matthew’s entire gospel. Matthew’s entire gospel most likely is set up like a chiasm. Chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi (χεῖ) which looks like an “X,” which means the themes in Matthew Chapters 1 and 2 are repeated in Chapter 28. You move inward. The themes in Chapters 3 and 4 are repeated in Chapters 26 and 27. The themes of Chapters 5 through 7 are repeated in Chapters 24 and 25, so you keep moving inward and inward and inward, and the center of it is where everything changes.
Where everything changes in Matthew’s Gospel is Matthew 12: 24. They committed the blasphemy of the Spirit. They were finished as a nation. That’s why Jesus, subsequent to that, says to first century Israel, ““Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, [who I believe is future Israel] producing the fruit of it.” Matthew 21:43.
And how did they get to that point? They committed the blasphemy of the Spirit. The leadership’s heart was so hard that they could not acknowledge who Jesus was even though He performed an obvious miracle in their midst. The problem was the hardness of their hearts. And obviously anything Jesus did for them from that point on would be of no avail. So they’re finished.
Individual Jews can be saved but the nation is not going to be raised up. In fact it’s going to be destroyed by the Romans. God is not going to use the nation as He has done in days past. We’re entering a new interim period of time called the inner advent age which is spelled out in Matthew 13 because Matthew 13 follows Matthew 12. See how easy this is? That’s the blasphemy of the Spirit.
And everybody whether it’s Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Dwight Pentecost, whoever you want, Stanley Toussaint, read any of their commentaries and they’ll tell you that was a one-time thing that is not reproducible today. So when you get into the epistles, which are not the wives of the apostles, amen, the epistles are letters to the church. They are binding on the church. There is no command against blaspheming the Spirit because it’s something you cannot do.
As a Christian, you cannot blaspheme the Spirit. The nation of Israel could. You can’t. And you say, “Phew, I’m off the hook.” No, not exactly.
Because there are other commands describing other sins that we can commit against the Spirit. I can’t blaspheme the Spirit the way it’s described in Matthew 12, but I sure can quench the Spirit, Ephesians 5:19. I can resist the Spirit towards the end there of Acts 7. I can do that pretty good. I can grieve the Spirit. Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” in the epistles again, because the Spirit of God is inside of me forever, right?
So when I commit sins, I’m actually dragging the Holy Spirit into that sin. And the Holy Spirit is not, it’s not like the movies, okay, the force and some kind of impersonal source of energy, you know, kind of thing. He’s an actual person who has actual emotions. And so when we sin and the Spirit of God is inside of me, I am actually dragging the Holy Spirit into that sin and causing Him to grieve.
Now there’s a command for us. Do not grieve the Spirit. We can clearly do that. Do not quench the Spirit. We can clearly, we can clearly do that as well. By the way, that’s the point of Paul’s whole exhortation in 1 Corinthians 6 against sexual sin. Because what was happening in 1 Corinthians 6 is the Corinthians were going into pagan temples and there’s a big, there’s a remnants of a big pagan temple right there in Corinth. I’ve been to it a couple of times. And you can go into that pagan temple, and you could, in the name of religion, have sexual experiences with prostitutes and call it religion. It’s called the Greco-Roman mystery religious system, and there were actually people in the church of Corinth that were doing that.
Paul doesn’t say to them, “Well, gee, you all lost your salvation.” What he says is, “Do you not understand?” is what he says there, 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not understand?” In other words, it’s a lack of knowledge. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit …”
In other words, you just took the Holy Spirit into that pagan situation with that prostitute, and in the process, you just grieved the Holy Spirit. So there is a sin that we can do called grieving the Spirit. Here in verse 19, there’s another sin we can do called quenching the Spirit. But there is nothing in the epistles which govern the church that say, “Don’t commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.”
So when people are throwing around this expression, “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” they’re dispensationally, if I can use some big words here, misapplying the Bible. The doctrine of dispensations, which we offer no apology for teaching here. But there’s a difference between Israel and the church. God has a program for Israel nationally, He’s got a program for the church.
People mix the two all of the time because the pastors are trying to raise money. And Malachi 3:8-11 sure looks like a convenient passage to use because I can tell people bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and then God will pour out so much of a blessing unto your life that you won’t have a room to contain it. Great fundraising device has nothing to do with the church age. The promise has nothing to do with the church age.
Dispensationally understanding the Bible helps you understand what promises go with what. All scripture is for us, but not all scripture is about us. And the problem with us is we think everything should be about us. Every command should be about us. I mean there’s even a song that we sing, you know. I can’t remember the words, but every promise in the book is mine, every sentence, every line. Does that sound right? Something like that? That’s not biblical thinking at all. There are certain promises that go for Israel, certain promises that go for the church.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, National Israel, quenching the Spirit, grieving the Spirit, that goes for the church-age believer, and we have to grow to the point in God’s Word where we learn to separate the two. But yeah, pastor, but I like it better when every promise in the Bible is about me. Well, now you’re not doing exegesis anymore, you’re doing narcigesis. Because it’s all about me. And that’s one of the reasons people don’t like the doctrine of dispensations is because it ruins fundraising, it ruins Christian worship, it ruins terrorizing people that maybe they’ve committed the blasphemy of the Spirit. I can’t do that as a pastor if I’m a dispensationalist.
So there are sins we can commit against the Spirit and one of them would be do not quench the Spirit. So if I have the ability to quench the Spirit or grieve the Spirit, I have the ability as a Christian through bad choices to stay an infant in Christ. I have that capacity. First Corinthians 3:1-3 (NKJV), Paul says, “And I, brethren, [speaking to Christians, right] could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” Babes in Christ. There is a category of believers called a babe in Christ. Carnal is flesh, or the sarx (σάρξ) in this case, I would call it the “sin nature.” Which, by the way, you still have as a Christian, you still have a sin nature.
Can I get an “amen” on that one? All right. I’m just sometimes wondering if I’m speaking to the right crowd here. As I’m looking out there, you guys are very quiet, attentive, listening, you’ve got your Bibles open, you’re taking notes, and I’m thinking maybe this crowd out here doesn’t have a sin nature.
But biblically, we all have a sin nature. And just because you got saved doesn’t mean the sin nature says, “See you later!” What you have now is a new nature that you have to feed so that you can say no to the desires of the sin nature. And you’re going to have that sin nature until your dying day or the rapture of the church, whichever comes first. It’s not until you’re shifted into glorification that the sin nature is gone.
So as we grow in Christ, we have to learn to live according to the desires of the new nature and reckon dead the desires of the old nature. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1–3, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, but not with solid food. For until now you are not even able to receive it. And even now you’re still not able ….” You’re still on the milk when I wanted to give you the meat, is what he’s saying. “… for you are still carnal ….” Well, how do you know if you’re carnal?
Look at this, second part of Verse 3. “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you,” I’m glad that never happens in modern Christianity, ” For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Who are the mere men? The unsaved.
Four Kinds of People from 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
You’ll notice here that Paul introduces four kinds of people. First of all, you’ve got the world of the unsaved, mere men, and then Paul takes the world of the saved and he divides it into thirds, three categories. Most people, their thinking is very, very shallow on this. They don’t think like Paul does. The only difference in their mind is saved and unsaved.
But the problem is the saved person is dual natured. So you have this big scandal, you know, these scandals that erupt in Christianity. The latest one I could think of, and I’m not trying to call attention, you know, to anyone just because I’m trying to out them. It’s a well-known scandal. It’s the Ravi Zacharias scandal, you know, where he was involved, you know, he was doing all these things for the Lord in terms of Christian philosophy, but there was also all of this prostitution and all of these terrible things, and people are like shocked. How could that happen? How could a man be used of God and yet act that way when no one is looking?
It’s very simple. Most of the Christian world would say, “Ah, he was never saved.” I’m not sure Paul would say that, because Paul has a category of saved people that still have a sin nature. He did not, in the walk of discipleship, appropriate the resources of God by faith and say no to the sin nature. He cultivated a habit of feeding the sin nature when nobody was looking, and the problem is, when you feed the sin nature, eventually whatever you’re doing is going to come out in public.
You cannot negotiate with sin, you can’t debate with sin, you can’t dialogue with sin. Sin is far more powerful than we recognize. I mean, if sin wasn’t powerful, why did Jesus have to go to the cross to deal with it? It’s obviously a force much larger than ourselves.
And so, in his case and in other people’s cases, whatever scandal you want to think of, it’s someone that’s feeding the sin nature behind the scenes when they shouldn’t have been doing that. They should have been developing in the middle tense of their salvation as we describe it.
One of the most damaging doctrines that confuses everybody on this is this idea that after you get saved you only have one nature. And then they say, “Well, what about sin in the life of the believer?” And they have all these fancy words they use, “Oh, that’s just residuals from the past,” whatever that means. No, it’s not residuals from the past. It’s an active nature, the sin nature that wants to draw you back constantly.
It’s just this time around, as you’re a new creature in Christ, you have the resources in you to say no to it and to say yes to the new nature.
So Paul never preaches this one-natured view of the Christian. What he says is, within the Christian realm, there are three categories. The spiritual man, and these are people that are growing Christians in the middle tense of their salvation. Then there are the infant Christians that don’t know any better. They haven’t been saved for very long. They haven’t been discipled. They don’t have much of a knowledge of God’s word, and so they’re still returning to the flesh. And it is sort of cute in a certain sense, I guess, because they’re acting age appropriately. They don’t know any better. But then there’s this third category, a very sad category, called carnal Christians of people that frankly should have grown up a long time ago. And it isn’t cute anymore when a 16‑year-old is still sucking their thumb and lying in a crib. It loses its cuteness. See that?
So notice that Paul develops this because he uses different words to describe each category. Which means I have the ability as a New Testament Christian to quench the spirit and stay in a state of carnality. Yeah, but will you arrive in heaven? Yes. Because you’re saved by grace.
1 Corinthians 3:15 talks about a man at the bema seat whose life is going to be put through the fire. His works, I should say, not his life. They’re going to be found wanting because they’re made of wood, hay, and stubble. But it says as clearly as it can be said in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
So there is a real category for such people. I just don’t want to be one of them at the end of the day. That’s why Paul is warning the Corinthians, who are saved people, and still having sexual relationships with prostitutes. Do not understand your position in Christ. Do not understand what is going to happen to your works at the bema seat judgment of Christ, although the Holy Spirit is inside of you and although you will be saved through fire. It is a very severe warning, and it is not a warning about hell because those folks are not going to hell. They are believers. They are called saints, but they are in that terrible category of carnality.
How do you know they are carnal? Envy, strife, jealousy. They are even suing each other, 1 Corinthians 6. Bringing their disputes before pagan judges that don’t know Christ at all. And what is the pagan judge supposed to think? These Christians, they talk about love for one another for Jesus. I don’t really see much of that. They talk about all men will know you are My disciples by your love for each other. Well, I don’t see a lot of love here in this courtroom. And Paul says you are discrediting the gospel. You are defeated already. You are destroying your rewards at the bema seat. You are destroying the witness of the church in Corinth because you are in this state of carnality.
And what they were doing is they were actively grieving the Spirit. They were actively quenching the Spirit. Boy, this is just too convicting. I need to move on here.
How were they quenching the Spirit? How do you quench the Spirit? Oh, I’m so glad you asked because that leads to the second negative command.
2. Do not despise prophetic utterances (1 Thess 5:20-21)
These are in Verses 20 and 21. First, Verse 19, “Do not quench the Spirit;” a command, negative command. How do I do that? Negative command number two, “do not despise prophetic utterances.” Verse 21, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;”
How do you quench the Spirit? You despise prophetic utterances. Now this verse was written during a time when the canon of Scripture had not yet been completed. The New Testament was just developing. The church had no completed canon of Scripture. And what was happening is 1 Corinthians 14 was happening where God was guiding the church without a completed canon through revelations coming directly from Him to a prophet to the church.
Now that the canon of Scripture has been completed, and John has finished writing the book of Revelation, we believe that such a ministry of these sporadic revelations coming to a prophet from God have ceased. They’re not needed anymore because we have the completed canon of Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, of this coming completed canon of Scripture says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for [what’s the next word?] every good work.”
Everything you need to develop the way God wants you to develop is right here. The canon is shut. Meaning that the sporadic prophecies are no longer needed. Jude 3 of this completed canon says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
The revelation of God is finished. Once for all handed down. That’s why the book of Revelation, the last book in the canon, closes the way it does. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, …”. Pastor, let me give you my personal vision. Okay, let me add a page to my Bible here. We’ll call this Revelation 23. That’s what you’re doing when someone claims some kind of direct revelation from God. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19) That sounds pretty serious when people add or subtract from the 66 books that we have.
So since this passage was given during a time when there were prophetic utterances and the canon was opened, and we’re living in a time where the canon is shut and the prophetic utterances have ceased, I guess 1 Thessalonians 5:20 doesn’t apply to us, right? When it says, “Do not despise prophetic utterances,” I guess I can’t do that, can I? There aren’t any prophetic utterances, Pastor, as you’ve described it, so I guess I can’t violate Verse 20.
The truth of the matter is Christians violate Verse 20 all of the time because they despise the revelation that God has given in these 66 books. Any time a church takes human wisdom in its teaching, whether it’s psychology, origins, marketing, and mixes it with the Bible, you just despise the prophetic utterance. Any time, boy, do I say this, community softball is more important than church, you just despise the prophetic utterance.
Any time when the Word is being taught with authority and clarity and you’re spending your whole time looking at your watch wondering when he’s going to stop, who I’m going to eat out to go out to lunch with afterwards and your mind is elsewhere, you’re despising a prophetic utterance. Any time that this book, the Bible, sits on your coffee table as an ornament, a placeholder or something, and you’re not actively spending time in it with yourself and your family, you’re despising a prophetic utterance.
Any time a father is not leading his family through the teaching of God’s Word at home, through family altar or whatever you want to call it, you’re despising a prophetic utterance. See that?
So my point is, yes, I completely understand that the canon is shut and there aren’t active prophecies today, but we violate this all of the time because we ignore the prophetic utterance that God has given in these 66 books. Anytime my life is so crowded with peripheral things that I really don’t have time for the Word of God, we’re despising a prophetic utterance. Every time the alarm clock goes off and I say to myself, “You know what? I’m just going to go to Bedside Baptist Church this morning and sleep it through. What’s the big deal?” We’re despising a prophetic utterance because God has given us, I think, multiple opportunities to hear from Him in His Word.
And if I say no to those opportunities, then it’s just like in the original church, before the canon was shut, a prophet gives a message, and you just despise it even though it was from God. And I just want us to understand that even though the canon is shut, we can despise prophetic utterances constantly. In fact, boy, I’ve already gone out on enough of the limb. I might as well just keep walking.
Most churches within evangelicalism despise prophetic utterances because the church is not set up to teach. It’s set up to do anything and everything other than teach. Teaching the Word of God is not a priority. Any time a pastor stands up and gives three points in a poem and is not actively leading the people through a deep study of God’s Word, he is despising a prophetic utterance. I mean, have I given enough emphasis on this?
So what do we do? Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things.
What should we not do to demonstrate that we are growing Christians? We should not. I’m having a very difficult time here finding my slides. We should not quench the Spirit. And one of the ways we quench the Spirit is we despise prophetic utterances.
Yeah, but pastor, does that mean I have to believe everything that comes across every pulpit? Nope. Because part of this command is to test all things. Which is a bummer because I entitled this message “Test All Things” and we’re not even getting to test all things. So we’ll get to test all things next week.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your truth, grateful for Your Word, grateful for how it steps on our toes when needed. But we’re here to develop and grow as a Christian. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said amen.
 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, unless otherwise noted.
 See Three Tenses of Salvation chart at minute mark 0:6:29.
 See chart showing the chiasm: Matthew Outline at minute mark 0:37:23.
 The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 See chart at minute mark 0:49:09