Is ‘slain in the Spirit’ Biblical?
Posted by Anand Peter
This is a much-debated topic in Christian circles and no one agrees with anyone. I did a quick research on the subject. I watched a clip of a TV-evangelism event, in my church group, which showed all and sundry falling down (interestingly the camera men did not get affected) when the evangelist made gestures at them, pushed them etc. My reaction was spontaneous (should I claim Holy Spirit driven?). Few pre-warned me and reminded me that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will attract judgement (forgetting all of us will be judged). Our Pastor brought about a closure to the matter by stating that we should believe only matters which are Biblical. I am, however, aware of the fact that many might have read the exchanges, but I have no clue as to what they thought about the matter. May be some of them were scared that they may offend the Holy Spirit if they speak out against such practices, and some others may just want to be fence sitters.
The expression, "slain in the Spirit" is used in certain Christian circles to designate a supposed movement of the Holy Spirit upon a person. The claim is that the Holy Spirit moves with such power on a person, that the person is "slain;" not that the person would die, but the person is so overcome by the ‘presence’ of the Spirit would fall down to the ground being completely overcome.
Interestingly, we hardly ever hear about reports of any person experiencing such overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit when in isolation. It happens in some church gatherings and evangelical meetings or healing events. There are many such events now regularly televised where a large number of believers gather. Another noteworthy fact is that in most of such meetings a special time of healing or ‘receiving the Spirit’ is set aside, after much frenzied high decibel prayers, preaching, singing and dancing peaks. The preacher, or the pastor or the evangelist, who enjoys the reputation as people close to God or anointed by God, goes around putting his or her hand on peoples' foreheads causing them to fall down, or to be slain in the Spirit, as they are overcome by the ‘presence and power’ of the Holy Spirit. This display is unfortunate since it is unverifiable, ostentatious, and could very well be nothing more than the overcoming power of emotions of a person, peer pressure, or even mesmerism. Many accounts of those who were present at such events bring out the fact that those who were not willing to be subjected to such actions were not affected.
Though the terms ‘slain in the Spirit’ or “falling under the power” are not found in the Bible, it is worthwhile to investigate what the Scripture says in reference to experiences similar to it, which are put forth to support the argument that ‘slain in the Spirit’ is Biblical by some:
1. In 2 Chronicles 5, we read about the completion of the Temple built by Solomon and the events during its dedication. Verses 2 to 13 describe the large gathering, the sacrifices, the singing, the sounds of trumpets, the shouts of praises to God and we read in verse 14 “so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” I accept the narration fully.
2. On the night of His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane John reports in Chapter 18:4-6 thus: “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, "Whom are you seeking?" 5 They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am He." And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. 6 Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.” When the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus for who He really is, they were overcome by His Divine presence and fell to the ground. I accept that this had happened.
3. The conversion of Paul on his way to Damascus is often quoted by those who support the view that ‘slain in the Spirit’ is Biblical. In Acts 9:3-5, we read “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." I accept it as correct facts.
4. John writes in the Books of Revelation Chapter 1 thus “10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,” … “17a “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” I accept this too.
These passages from the Bible tell us that in the presence of God people fall to the ground. This is natural and proper, given the majestic holiness of God and the unworthiness of sinful humanity. What bothers me is if and when God wishes to reveal Himself to His people would He want them to become as dead, completely unaware of His presence? Transfiguration of Jesus happened, as reported in Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the presence of Peter, John and James. They were blessed with a vision of the Divinity of Jesus Christ. They were dumbfounded but Peter did make some proposal, impulsive as he was, perhaps to prolong the epiphany. Mary Magdalene first and all the 11 disciples subsequently encountered Jesus in His risen form, in His Divine and Glorified form, several times but were not overwhelmed to the degree of falling down as dead people. I want to argue that people who perform the ‘Slaying in the Spirit’ cannot possess such divine powers and use God to throw down believing Christians. Our God is a God of compassion and love He brings to us peace that defies all understanding, not fear and terror. He manifests to those who He wishes and allow us to take Him in and bask in the tranquillity of His magnificence.
Jesus promised us His Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1-4 we read, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” That must have been the most powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. None of them was ‘slain in the Spirit’ on that day. On the contrary, Jesus empowered them with spiritual powers. Why would the same Holy Spirit throw people down when He moves among His faithful now?
The most important thing that Christians must keep in mind when studying spiritual matters is that the Word of God is always our only rule of faith and practice. For too many Christians, ‘spiritual experiences’ are given priority over the written Word of God as the criteria to determine doctrinal truth and practice. Furthermore, all too often Christians use their experiences to validate the Word of God, rather than allowing the written Word to be the ultimate “discerner.” This leaves them open to counterfeit spiritual experiences. Devil is a spirit being who is adept at creating spiritual experiences for worshipers of all faiths. The Bible calls these “…counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). It is vital for Christians to learn to be discerning in worship lest they displease God they seek to honour and not deceive or allowed to be deceived by unscrupulous persons.
Holy Spirit is God the Spirit in the Triune God Head. He is the same substance and element as God the Father and God the Son. He indwells in all the believers who had accepted Jesus as their Saviour and God. It is not possible that you have more of the Holy Spirit than next person in the pew. He is given to us by Jesus Christ and no one can apportion him and re-distribute Him in any form or portion. The Bible tells us very clearly what to expect when the Holy Spirit manifests. His general purpose is to teach, lead, guide, glorify Christ and bring God’s word to our remembrance. Later Jesus promised that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes (Acts 1:8). And in congregational settings, He also manifests gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). The purpose of these gifts is clearly stated – to profit all. God is a God of purpose and there must be a purpose in what He does. If He gives a prophecy, that will benefit people. If He manifests healing, again people will be blessed. But who is blessed when someone falls down, or ‘slain in Spirit’? Most people who fall down, get back up exactly the same with no change physically or Spiritually.
Certainly, genuine spiritual phenomena are to be expected in the life of a Christian, but we must diligently examine these occurrences. The Bible gives many examples of false prophets who deceived people by demonstrations of so called spiritual powers. The magicians of Egypt turned sticks into snakes, but their power was not from God. Thank God that He gave us His Word so that we have a standard by which to discern His will. It is only by carefully examining one’s experiences in light of the principles stated in the Word of God that the power or force behind the experience can be determined.
Christian believers need great patience, perseverance and powers of discernment. The Biblically ignorant and rebellious churches of today are not disciples of Jesus Christ, but are, instead, grooming a new generation of spirit-mediums whose religious experiences differ little from those of countless pagan cults, both ancient and modern.
Those who profess Christianity should refrain from indulging in practices which undermine the essential message of its Founder, Jesus, God the Son. Instead of inducing mass collapse and hysterical laughter, churches should be cultivating widespread repentance and reverential worship. AMEN
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