Being Slain In The Spirit
Even though I was young, I can remember the first time I saw someone slain in the spirit. It was a Sunday evening service in Loyalton California. I don’t remember the sermon or anything else about the service, but I do remember seeing a woman fall over backwards during the alter call. She had come forward for prayer, I have no idea for what, but the moment the pastor reached out his hand to pray for her, she fell over backwards, stiff as a board.
Our pastor’s face barely registered his surprise. While this experience was new to me, he had clearly seen it before. Even so, for an instant, one of his eyebrows rose suddenly, escaping his practiced, calm and reverent look, showing he was not expecting her to suddenly topple over backwards like a falling tree. To his credit he remained in control of the remainder of his facial features and the service.
Fortunately, there was a man standing behind her who caught her, saving her from hitting her head on the pew and a hard landing on the floor. He caught her discreetly under her arms then set her down gently on the ground. All the while she appeared to be in a blissful trance oblivious to the world around her and the reality that she could have been seriously injured had her hero not been so spry.
Surprisingly, no one seemed alarmed. The pastor simply stepped around her, moving on to the next person in line. I asked my mom why the woman had fallen. She whispered that she had been slain in the spirit. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like a God thing so I didn’t give it a second thought.
Over the years I have witnessed this event a number of times. Being raised in a Pentecostal home and church, I have seen many things that would seem unusual to the majority of Christendom. However, to the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches across America, things like this are acceptable and understood behavior. In the churches I attended, being slain in the spirit was not a common occurrence. In fact, it was extremely rare and had a stigma attached to it. I was taught that it was God’s way of getting your attention. Like Paul in Acts 9. It was reserved for the stubborn, those who resisted God. If you were slain in the spirit the Holy Spirit did this to humble you, or to prove to you the power of God. It revealed a hard heart and a rebellious spirit. The Holy Spirit might use it to save the sinner or humble the Saint. Either way, it revealed something about the condition of your character and wasn’t the sort of thing you wanted to be associated with.
Sometime in the early 90’s Benny Hinn showed up and used this phenomena as a parlor trick. Almost overnight being slain in the spirit became a fad of sorts, a badge of holiness, something to be desired. It was sickening to watch him pretend to be some kind of Spirit powered super hero, toppling over whole rows of people simply by pointing, waving his hand, or blowing on them. It was appalling. Nowhere in scripture could such behavior be found, but people didn’t seem to care. When I moved to Florida it was difficult to find a Pentecostal church that hadn’t accepted this behavior as some kind of move of God. Instead of being seen as God’s hand of rebuke, it became a blissful bath in the well spring of the Spirit. I heard one person say “ It was like God gave me a hug”.
Keep It Between The Pages
Early in my Christian walk, one of my pastors saw that I tended to accept spiritual ideas to easily. Once, while I was communicating to him some spiritual principle that I was excited about, he stopped me mid sentence, grabbed his Bible and began shaking it in front of my face. With a big grin he said, “Hold on Aaron, lets keep these things between the pages” You see I had accepted a thing without taking the time to confirm it with scripture. He was right, we took a moment and looked up the scriptures that I thought supported my ideas and found that I had either taken them out of context or misunderstood them. It was a valuable lesson, ever since, I make sure what I believe is in the bible somewhere between Gen 1:1 and Rev 22:21. Also I have learned to follow the 20/20 rule, reading 20 verses before and 20 verses after my proof text. This simple practice has saved me embarrassment and has allowed me to catch bad doctrine over and over again.
Having said that, I have not been able to find scriptural support for what people today call being slain in the spirit. While I feel what I was raised with was closer to the truth, I am unable to find scripture that supports the "God's hand of rebuke" theory or the "God's big hug" theory. Folks often refer me to Paul’s conversion as a scriptural proof. It is true that Paul fell to the ground in Acts 9 1-9. However, this appears to have been completely voluntary, a fearful response to the overwhelming presence of the Lord. Indeed he had an encounter that some have described as a vision, however scripture makes it clear that it was altogether frightening to Paul and that it was an encounter with Jesus not the Holy Spirit. In addition, at least part of this encounter happened in real time, for those around him heard the voice of the Lord.
Acts 9:7- And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
From what I can tell, no part of this encounter resembles what has become known to Christianity as being slain in the spirit. Paul didn’t fall over backwards like a lumberjack’s freshly cut tree, he didn’t go into some kind of blissful trance, and he didn’t have a pastor lay hands on him prior to the encounter. This was a singular event, catered specifically to grab Paul’s attention. Jesus used it to save Paul’s soul, to teach him the sovereignty of God, and to give him direction for ministry.
For the record, I am not saying what God did for Paul will never happen again. I am saying it is simply not an example of being slain in the spirit. This event was designed by our Lord to be a personal encounter with Paul. There is no reason to teach or believe that this event will happen every time God wants to save a soul, humble, or convert a person from their false religion.
The problem I see with being slain in the spirit is, it assumes the loss of mental and bodily control, that you have been taken over by the Holy Spirit. That you have checked out temporarily, or that God has put you into some kind of Spiritual Coma. That might be fine if the person awakes with some kind of revelation that saves all mankind or brings a lasting repentance to themselves and those around them. Sadly, most people get up unchanged.
The other problem is many people do not go into a Spiritual Coma, They go through all the motions; fall over backwards, then lie there as if they are in the trance. But in reality they are alert and are simply praying. This is very deceptive and can undermine the faith of those watching and the one on the floor. The things of the Spirit are real not contrived. Being slain in the spirit is far to often contrived. I have seen preacher push people to the floor or give a little nudge to get things started. In my opinion this is a grievous sin and those pastors and preachers guilty of such shenanigans need to be removed from the pulpit.
The phenomenon has all sorts of crazy stories attached to it. I was told once that the sinner falls face down, while the righteous will fall face up. I have heard stories of people who really did fall and hit their head on the pew but didn’t feel a thing because they were so in the Spirit. Sometimes people will act drunk, or bark like dogs. Some fall into fits of hysterical laughter. Brother and sister, how does that Glorify God, how does that benefit the Church, and where is it found in Scripture?
Decently and in Order
I want to take a moment to encourage those who may have experienced something like this. I completely understand the desire/need to fall to your knees or even lay down prostrate before God. I appreciate your desire to receive everything God has to offer and your willingness to believe the things you have been taught. I see your faith and I applaud it. My desire is to encourage you to once again examine the experience. Did it line up with scripture? Remember the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet
1 Corinthians 14:32- And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
This means that at no time are you going to be swept away out of control. God will not force himself on you. In addition, we are instructed to do everything in decency and in order
1 Corinthians 14:40- Let all things be done decently and in order.
Barking like a dog, acting drunk, or laughing hysterically is neither decent or orderly.
It is a good thing to prostrate ourselves before God. Brother and sisters if at anytime you feel lead to fall on your face before God, be obedient, but do so in a manner that will not draw attention to yourself. Find a place that will not disrupt the service. Step off to the side or better yet, find an empty room and see what happens. You may be given revelation, or perhaps burdens will be lifted. Many things could happen. But be diligent by making sure whatever happens is rooted in scripture. It is a reality that spiritual things happen all the time that are outside the confines of The Word of God. Let the reader beware, if it’s not found between the pages, it’s not from God.
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