When the Spirit touches you… and you fall down.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June

Yeah, God’s involved. No, it’s not from the bible. So?

SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT /sleɪn ɪn ðə 'spɪr.ɪt/ vt. Fall down as a result (primary or secondary) of the Holy Spirit’s activity.
[Slay in the Spirit /sleɪ ɪn ðə 'spɪr.ɪt/ vt.]

A lot of Christians believe if a practice isn’t found in the bible, we shouldn’t do it.

Nope, we’re not at all consistent about this belief. Loads of churches and Christians have outside-the-bible practices. In the bible, churches met daily, not primarily Sunday mornings. In the bible, the worship songs are the psalms; where’d all these new compositions come from? In the bible, Christians prayed in tongues, but you’ll notice a number of churches have banned that practice. In the bible, women prophesied, and you’ll notice a lot of these same churches banned that too. I frequently read my bible on my computer or phone, or listen to it on my iPod—and you do realize electronics aren’t in the bible, right?

Obviously if it’s banned in the bible—if Jesus or the apostles forbade it—we shouldn’t do it. But this isn’t that. This is the insistence only stuff with a biblical precedent oughta be done. And if we’re gonna hew to that guideline closely, time to turn off the electricity in our churches: No more microphones, no more video projectors. Heck, no more books with pages. All our bibles need to be scrolls. Written in the original languages.

Basically the “If it’s not in the bible, we shouldn’t do it” argument, is hypocrisy. It’s an excuse Christians use for getting rid of anything they don’t like, or anything which makes ’em uncomfortable. Whenever they get the heebie-jeebies, they try to enforce this “rule”; whenever they don’t care, they don’t bother. It has nothing to do with following the scriptures, and everything to do with maintaining their calm.

This inconsistent behavior applies to a whole lot of prayer practices, but I use it today ’cause I’m gonna bring up the prayer practice of getting “slain in the Spirit.” Yeah, it’s a prayer practice: It’s the result of God giving us a profound revelation through prayer, and as a result of its intensity, Christians fall over. And sometimes do other stuff, but usually we just fall over.

Those who are bothered by the practice, who don’t like it and don’t wanna see it happening in their churches, are quick to point out it’s not found in the bible. Therefore it’s not the Holy Spirit. It’s probably devilish. Gotta ban it.

Okay, I concede. It’s not in the bible. So what?

As Jesus taught, stop judging by appearances, and judge things properly. Jn 7.24 What’s the fruit? More devoted, more fruitful Christians? Or do these people suddenly turn into a bunch of easily-offended, paranoid, impatient, narrow-minded, name-calling blasphemers?

Oh wait; that’s their critics. Hmm. That’s interesting.

No it’s not biblical. Let’s get that part cleared up.

A lot of folks who defend the practice of getting slain in the Spirit, tend to claim it’s totally biblical. Because every once in a while, in response to an act of God, people in the bible fell over. So they dig out every instance in the scriptures, and claim this is that.

  • Abram fell into a deep sleep and got revelation about the future. Ge 15.12-21
  • Balaam claimed he fell down and had visions. Nu 24.4
  • King Saul ben Kish, and three teams of his messengers, were suddenly overwhelmed by the Spirit and started prophesying. 1Sa 19.20-24
  • Ezekiel fell on his face when he saw a vision of the LORD. Ek 1.28, 3.23,
  • Jesus’s students fell on their faces when they heard God. Mt 17.5-6
  • The guards at Jesus’s tomb fell on their faces when they saw an angel. Mt 28.2-4
  • Those who came to arrest Jesus fell backwards when he said “I’m him.” Jn 18.4-6
  • Saul of Tarsus fell to the ground when he saw God’s light. Ac 9.4, 26.14
  • John the revelator fell at Jesus’s feet “as if dead” when seeing him. Rv 1.17

And whenever people bowed to the ground in respect or homage to God, sometimes these folks will claim they’re also instances of the Spirit knocking people down.

Okay. First of all, they’ve fallen for the illegitimate argument, “If it’s not in the bible, we shouldn’t do it.” It’s not a valid argument, so they don’t need to prove biblical precedent. They need to reject the argument, not try to accommodate it.

Especially since some of these “precedents” so obviously aren’t precedents. Most of them can easily be said to be people passing out in fear and panic, like the guards at Jesus’s tomb. Abram was sleeping and having a dream-vision. And in the case of King Saul and his messengers: Really? You wanna use them as your explanation for why Christians fall down? Saul’s life was in rebellion against God, and he sent his servants to find David so he could murder him. Is that why the Spirit knocked us over? Our lives are similarly rebellious? I’d sure hope not.

Fact is, the scriptures don’t describe getting slain in the Spirit as a regular Hebrew nor Christian practice. They don’t offer explanations nor instructions. They don’t even offer corrections, like the apostles had to do with tongues ’cause the Corinthians were overdoing them. Which leads us to only two possible conclusions: Christians didn’t do it; or they did, but the apostles never considered it worth a mention.

So what’re we dealing with, folks?

“Slain in the Spirit” in recent history.

During the mid-1700s revival we call the Great Awakening, when evangelists John Wesley, George Whitefield, or Jonathan Edwards preached in England or the United States, sometimes people would react to the gospel by falling down. They’d lie there and groan. Or get the shakes. Or neither move nor speak for hours. Or laugh, weep, praise God—in English or in tongues.

Yeah, sometimes people thought it was devilish. But the evangelists concluded God was involved in it to some degree. Those who experienced it, gave God credit for it. They described it as euphoric. They followed God more zealously thereafter. The evangelists saw good fruit in these people, so they naturally concluded God was doing something through this experience.

In the 20th century it became known as getting “slain in the Spirit,” or being “overcome by the Spirit,” or “resting in the Spirit,” “falling under the power,” or simply “the blessing.” And we’ve found instances of it throughout Christian history. Various saints and monks described where they went into some euphoric trance which looked like sleep, and spoke with God, had visions, felt joy, and otherwise had God-experiences.

Part of the reason people suspect it’s devilish:

  • They (unknowingly) consider themselves the baseline for what constitutes “normal” Christian practice—and they’ve never been slain in the Spirit.
  • Add to that they don’t wanna be slain in the Spirit. They frankly don’t see the need.
  • Those people look ridiculous falling over, and appearance counts a great deal to these critics. Why would the Holy Spirit humiliate God’s children in such a way?
  • They don’t see good fruit coming out of those people who get slain in the Spirit. They were a mess before, and they’re still a mess. It didn’t make ’em any better.
  • There are certain preachers whom they consider false teachers. (Which, to be fair, a number of ’em are.) And they do a whole lot of slaying in the Spirit. They’ll wave their hands, and rows of Christians will fall over. That can’t be right.
  • Again, it’s not in the bible.

Now, we need to be very careful with the claim this stuff is devilish. If it’s the Spirit but you’re calling it devilish, we call this blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If you commit it and never repent, there’s a good chance you aren’t getting into God’s kingdom, Mk 3.29 ’cause clearly you don’t know God: You can’t tell the difference between God who loves you, and an evil spirit who’s trying to destroy you. So calling it devilish is a big deal. Blasphemy is nothing to play around with.

I point you to the fact actual known Christians have had this slain-in-the-Spirit experience. Maybe you know some of ’em. I do. (And experienced it myself.) Now, is it even possible for the devil to knock down Spirit-indwelt Christians? When these Christians are standing up in church, praying to the Father at that very instant, is the devil even able to knock ’em flat and make ’em babble? And precisely how can the devil make ’em lie flat on the ground, proclaim Jesus is Lord, 1Co 12.3 and weep for joy? The devil doesn’t have any joy; it can’t grant what it doesn’t have.

If this is a devilish trick, it seems a mighty stupid tactic for the devil to practice—giving people fake experiences of great joy which’ll make ’em praise Jesus and proclaim him all the more. Seems the devil’s usual tactic of making apathetic or bitter Christians is far more effective.

The Spirit its secondary cause.

Partly based on my experiences—observing it in other Christians, and experiencing it myself—partly based on other Christians’ testimonies, and partly based on psychologists’ explanations, I conclude getting “slain in the Spirit” does have the Holy Spirit behind it. But not primarily behind it.

What’s that mean? Well, that the Holy Spirit is definitely there. Big time. Talking with us, frequently filling us with power. Specifically, the power to minister to others: If you’ve been slain in the Spirit but don’t minister to others afterwards, you’re squandering the Spirit’s gifts. Don’t do that.

But do you need to fall down as a result? Nah. ’Cause I’ve been in plenty of situations where the Spirit was handing out power, and nobody fell down. Didn’t need to. Didn’t think to—they’d never had this experience before, and didn’t realize falling down was an option. Maybe they really felt like going down, but fought that impulse and stayed up. (I’ve done that.) Or they figured falling down would be impractical or inconvenient: No room for them to lie down, or the floor’s too hard or dirty, or if they fell backwards they’d crush the poor people standing behind them, or they’re wearing the sort of dress where if they fall over a boob will pop out. Hey, I’m just keeping it real.

Yeah, some of ’em are gonna totally claim, “But I couldn’t help it.” The Spirit touched ’em, so they gotta drop as if God’s playing a game of heavenly Whack-a-Mole. Thing is, that’s the very same excuse Christians use for speaking in tongues too loud, or otherwise being demonstrative at the wrong time. The Spirit doesn’t work people like a marionette: He’s sovereign and does his thing, but humans remain totally responsible for their own behavior, what comes out of their mouths—and whether they’ll obey the Spirit or not. If they fall down, that’s them choosing to fall down. They may blame their lack of self-control on the Spirit, but that doesn’t work: Self-control’s his fruit. Ga 5.23 He’s a God of order, remember? 1Co 14.32-33 It’s not his idea for 400-pound Christians to crush the poor souls standing behind them.

“But what about King Saul and his messengers?” Different situation altogether. They were disobedient. God also made the disobedient King Nebuchadnezzar eat grass like an ox. Da 4.31-32 Are we claiming God had to commandeer our behavior because we’re likewise disobedient? I’d sure hope not.

I’ve known Christians who wanna have the slain-in-the-Spirit experience, and they’re really frustrated because they step forward to receive it, and nothing’s happening. Thing is, stuff actually is happening. The problem is they think falling over is involuntary—and because they can stay upright, they figure there’s gotta be something more. Something bigger. Some overwhelming force that’ll make them fall to the ground, have Holy Ghost seizures, wet their pants. Um… the fact nobody’s wetting their pants kinda proves it’s not involuntary.

So no, the Holy Spirit isn’t the primary cause of Christians falling over. He’s the secondary cause. He’s giving us an intense spiritual experience. People have lots of experiences where we react, “Whoa, that’s a lot to take in. I need to lie down for a bit. I need time to process.” This is that. But instead of excusing ourselves and going to another room to sit and meditate for a bit, sometimes Christians just fall down right there, in the middle of our church services. And if churches give ’em space and permission to do that, they should feel free to go right ahead.

Where there’s the real thing, there’s fakery.

Yeah, some preachers are faking it. More than one preacher has tried to push me over. And I will not go down when preachers are pushing. In fact I tend to lose all respect for those preachers. Anything valuable they might’ve told me in their sermon: They just nullified it through their godless behavior. Only God, and what he’s doing, gets to knock me on my butt. Not them.

And some Christians are faking it. Sometimes the Spirit only gives us something small. But Christians wanted it to be larger—they wanted to fall down!—so they just do, ’cause they can. Other times they’ve psyched themselves into feeling great euphoria, so they’re falling down because of themselves, not God. And other times they figure getting “slain in the Spirit” helps ’em fit in, look holier, and other such hypocrisies—so down they go.

There are a number of Christians who really enjoy the intensity of God-experiences, and try to have ’em whenever they can. I don’t blame them. It’s a rush. But God doesn’t give us these experiences for no good reason. He wants us to minister to others. And here’s what happens over time: These people aren’t acting on what God’s doing, so God’s giving them fewer and fewer of these experiences. Gradually, they’re replacing the authentic God-experiences with stuff they’ve psyched themselves into feeling. It’s becoming fake. As we can detect because their fruit’s becoming fake too.

So let’s never go there. Don’t chase the warm fuzzy feelings. They’ll come on their own. Just puruse God. When the Spirit gives you power—whether it knocks you on your back or not—use it to grow his kingdom. That’s what it’s for.