Along with tongues, divine healing, divine prosperity, the charismatic phenomenon of being “slain in the Spirit” completes the list of the most divisive concepts to separate the Body of Christ in the postmodern era.
Frankly, there has been some colossally bad biblical scholarship on both side of this debate.
So we’re going to take a shot at exploring this and determining whether or not it is real, scriptural, and godly.
What Does the Word Say?
First, lets look into the Scriptures and see if we find anything there. Indeed, there are passages describing such phenomena. The first instance takes place during the dedication of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles:
And when the priests had come out of the Holy Place — for all the priests present had sanctified themselves, separating themselves from everything that defiles, without regard to their divisions; And all the Levites who were singers — all of those of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, with their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, having cymbals, harps, and lyres — stood at the east end of the altar, and with them 120 priests blowing trumpets; And when the trumpeters and singers were joined in unison, making one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and other instruments for song and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever, then the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. — 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 (AMP)
This passage states that the priests were unable to stand, so it is a pretty safe bet that they fell to the ground. The literal Hebrew phrase in this passage clearly indicates an inability to stand upright, rather than a voluntarily falling on their faces.
The next passage comes from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus delivered a boy from a demon of epilepsy:
Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood and often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. — Mark 9:17-27
When the power of God meets the power of the Satan, the enemy always loses — big-time! That being said, being Ground Zero for such a confrontation can easily cause one to faint during the experience. Back in the mid-1970s, during the only exorcism God has ever used me to perform, the possessed person passed out cold after the demons left, so I also know this from personal experience.
We have another example in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to Jesus’ crucifixion:
Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. — John 18:3-6
Here is verse 6 in the Amplified:
When Jesus said to them, I am He, they went backwards (drew back, lurched backward) and fell to the ground. — John 18:6 (AMP)
Here is is in Young’s Literal Translation:
when, therefore, he said to them — ‘I am he,’ they went away backward, and fell to the ground. — John 18:6 (YLT)
First, I want to point out that Jesus, in the Greek, didn’t say, “I am He.” What He actually said was, “I AM,” invoking His deity as the second member of the Trinity. This puts paid once and for all to the stupid argument that Jesus was crucified against His will. I am firmly convinced that, had He kept saying, “I AM,” they would never have been able to arrest Him, much less kill Him!
So what was the crowd’s reaction to the presence of God-in-Sandals equating Himself with God Almighty? They fell back involuntarily to the ground!
Our next passage comes from the conversion of Saul in the Book of Acts:
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 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.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. — Acts 9:1-8
Even the most skeptical will have to admit that, given the context, Saul’s contact with the earth was involuntary. The last passage I want to include is the Apostle John’s testimony from the Book of Revelation:
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. — Revelation 1:17
The words of John again, in context, indicate that his fall was involuntary and led to a state of unconsciousness. If he had voluntarily prostrated himself before God, he would not have been “as dead.”
All the other passages used by others to support the concept of being slain in the Spirit either clearly indicate those who fell did so voluntarily in reverence to God rather than being struck down by His power or the passage could be interpreted either way.
The bottom line in all of these accounts is this: whenever mere mortals encounter the power of Almighty God, there is a possibility they will be knocked down, possibly even rendered unconscious.
Is It Real?
There are many who have experienced this phenomenon. I, personally, never have, despite the fact that I have been a charismatic believer for over 40 years and have stood in prayer lines for various forms of ministry more times than I could ever count.
My son Joshua, however, is an entirely different story!
Back in 2001, he was a semi-rebellious early teenager “working on his testimony” after having been saved and baptized at an early age and being raised as a Christian his entire childhood. At that age, Joshua was torn between the siren song of the world and his upbringing and his mom and I were believing God for him to stay true to what we had taught him.
To further set the stage, a revivalist was invited to hold meetings at our church. Josh and his next-door-neighbor buddy were present in the congregation and I was at the back of the auditorium running the sound system. Josh’s sinuses were all clogged up on one side of his head — a frequent occurrence — so he was having breathing problems that evening.
The revivalist received a word of knowledge from the Spirit and announced that God wanted to heal someone present with sinus problems. Josh (he related this to his mom and me afterwards) turns to his friend and whispers, “I’m gonna go up there and fake being healed.” He then stood up and joined 1 or 2 others who had responded to the call.
When Josh reached the prayer line, the revivalist gently placed his hand on Josh’s forehead and said, “Be healed in Jesus name!”
Josh fell like a sack of potatoes to the floor, totally unconscious!
After a few minutes, he started coming to and the revivalist ordered the catchers working the prayer line “Stand him up!” He then blew on my son and Josh, once again, went out like a light!
This process repeated itself over and over and over again for at least an hour. Each time Josh would groggily awaken, the revivalist would do something completely different from anything he had done before: he waved at Josh, he threw a modesty cloth at him, even had someone else lay hands on him — anything to prove to Josh and everyone else present that this was a truly supernatural event and that Josh was not being pushed down by a human being. I literally lost count of how many times Josh got knocked down by the power of God because I was at the back in the sound booth the whole time, praying through uncontrollable tears, “God please touch my son!”
The sum total of the entire event was that the Holy Spirit was demonstrating His power, His love for Josh, and His merciful willingness, by His grace, to touch and heal my son despite his disrespectful attitude towards the things of God. I cannot help but believe He was also thoroughly enjoying Himself, indulging His sense of humor, with the unspoken question of, “Trying to fake it, are you? Well, how’s that working out for you right now, son?”
It is an evening I will never, ever forget! And, yes, Josh’s sinuses were indeed healed.
There is an old maxim I’ve quoted elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings and will quote again here:
A man with an argument is no match for a man with an experience.
You can make all the claims you want about whatever you want on this topic, but you will never convince either Josh or me that God didn’t show up that night and use “being slain in the Spirit” as a supernatural tool to reach my son.
Is It Godly?
As we have just covered, yes, it can be. But, like any manifestation of the Spirit, there are those who, through selfish ambition or spiritual immaturity, can and do misuse it.
I’ve seen ministers go down prayer lines and, when someone doesn’t fall under the power, they try to shove that person down. Why? Because such ministers feel if someone they pray for doesn’t fall under the power of God, it somehow reflects badly upon their ministry. If you see someone having their head pushed back until they are looking at the ceiling and/or being pushed backwards into the arms of catchers, you are seeing this kind of thing in action and, sadly, I have seen and/or experienced it more times than I can count. Personally, whenever I pray for people in a prayer line, I emulate a former pastor of mine by placing my hands gently upon either side of their heads, so if someone falls under the power, it is obvious I am not pushing them down.
On the other side of that equation, there are those immature believers who are either seeking the sensational or trusting in the phenomenon rather than in the power of God. It’s actually ridiculously easy to spot a faker in a prayer line. People who are truly slain in the Spirit either crumple in a heap or fall straight-legged like a tree — similar to a trust fall. Either way, if they are not caught by ushers or altar workers, they hit the floor like a ton of bricks, yet are somehow miraculously undamaged by the experience. Fakers are unsure whether the ushers are either present or will be able catch them, so they bend their legs to break their fall in case the catchers miss.
Being slain in the Spirit is at God’s discretion, never ours and faking being slain is just as bogus and detrimental to the Church as someone who fakes a prophesy or word of knowledge/wisdom or manufactures any other manifestation of the Spirit out of his or her own flesh.
So the bottom line here is this: what is the fruit of the ministry?
If people are being saved, healed, delivered from demonic oppression, and the minister is living a life consistent with his calling, good fruit = good ministry. If not so much, then steer clear with your reception of his/her teachings, attendance at his/her meetings, and your financial support of his/her ministry.
It never ceases to amaze me how those with theological axes to grind take pot-shots at things they neither understand nor have researched scripturally, especially on social media. This article was prompted by a well-known Christian humor website — which has an obvious anti-charismatic bias to their satirical humor — who were mocking an internationally known televangelist who has been used of God to heal tens of thousands of people. He was their target simply because many of those attending his meetings fall under the Spirit when he prays for them, though admittedly he can be pretty flamboyant.
I am neither an apologist for that minister, nor for any other minister I do not know personally, but I know real spiritual manifestations when I see them and I know fakes when I see them, as well. There are folks in attendance at such meetings who are sincerely there to receive whatever God has for them on His terms and those who are there to witness and experience the sensational aka “miracle junkies.” At such meetings, there is always a mix of both because ministers have no control over what spiritual maturity levels are going to be present, even if it’s a local church. This is hard, cold truth and all my minister friends would enthusiastically endorse that statement in a heartbeat!
Another of my favorite maxims is this:
For a counterfeit to exist, there must be a true original somewhere being copied.
We are called to to “study to show ourselves approved” and “test all spirits” and to “abhor that which is evil and bind ourselves to that which is good.” That process is neither fulfilled by our parroting public opinion nor touting the preaching of someone else on the matter, no matter how godly they may otherwise appear.
As I was researching this article, I ran across all the typical rants against, but one stood out as a voice of balance and reason in midst of a heated and reactionary debate. To my astonishment, it was found on non-charismatic Billy Graham’s website and I will quote it below:
Some who have experienced being “slain in the Spirit” say that God used it to minister to them by His Spirit in personal ways. In other instances, it has been associated with the new birth, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, spiritual, emotional, or physical healing, or deliverance.
However, whatever one may think about the experience of being “slain in the Spirit,” it should not be made an expectation for all believers or be considered a sign of spiritual maturity. In addition, discernment needs to be exercised by mature church leadership since the power of suggestion and mere emotionalism can so easily mimic legitimate spiritual experience.
It is never God’s will that we seek spiritual experience for the sake of experience. God’s will is that we seek Jesus Himself by faith and in accordance with the Word of God. He is our only source of genuine spiritual experience, satisfaction and fulfillment (Psalm 16:11, Philippians 3:10-14).
To which I say: Hear, hear!
Thanks for reading!