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Slain in the Spirit—Is it Biblical?

Being “slain in the Spirit” is not a teaching in the sense of a biblical doctrine—like, say, the nature of eternal life—but rather a phenomenon that occurs when the natural meets the supernatural. As such, there are hints of this phenomenon in the Scriptures, but no detailed exposition.

Three passages in the Old Testament come to mind:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35

As you can see, Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the glory of God had settled on it. The natural (Moses) met the supernatural (God) and so Moses was, in effect, “slain in the Spirit.”

Similarly, the following two passages show that the priests could not perform their service because the glory of God filled the Temple:

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

1 Kings 8:10-11

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

“He is good; his love endures forever.”

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14

As far as the New Testament goes, the guards at Jesus’ tomb seemed to have been ‘slain in the Spirit’ after encountering the angel of the Lord:

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

Matthew 28:2-4

In the Garden of Gethsemane some of the soldiers & officials who came to apprehend Christ “fell to the ground” when he simply said “I AM he,” which bespeaks of the slain in the Spirit phenomenon:

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

John 18:4-6

Another applicable occasion is when John fell at the Lord’s feet “as though dead”:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.

Revelation 1:17

In these three cases it’s not clear whether the people in question fell backwards or forwards, although the first two imply falling backwards. Does it really matter?

I’ve experienced the slain in the Spirit phenomenon a handful of times, maybe more; my wife too. Again, it’s just something that occurs when the natural meets the supernatural. It’s a phenomenon rather than an essential doctrine. As such, we shouldn’t dis-fellowship over the issue. To do so would be very immature. Remember the saying:

In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things, charity

I’ve encountered some fellowships where this slain in the Spirit phenomenon is overemphasized to the point that people are encouraged and expected to fall over when a minister lays hands on them. When this occurs people tend to fall over because they’re expected toand want to—and hence it’s just a psychosomatic reaction. This, of course, isn’t being slain in the Spirit, which is different than saying that the Lord couldn’t minister to someone experiencing this.

One popular minister would go so far as to call people “dummy” if they failed to fall over when he laid hands on them, which is absurd and thoroughly unbiblical, not to mention arrogant and carnally offensive. Moreover, I’ve actually witnessed a pastor literally push someone over after praying. This is wrong. If people fall, they fall, but don’t push ’em over! Why would ministers behave this way? Because they’ve been taught that (1.) someone hasn’t actually received unless he or she falls over and (2.) they believe their ministry isn’t authentic unless the person falls over. Needless to say, you won’t find any biblical support for either.

Unless the assembly in question is overemphasizing this phenomenon to the point that its bugging you so much that you can’t stand being there due to obvious error, as noted above, I wouldn’t let it bother you. As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says: “Test all things; hold on to the good.” Or, as I like to say, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.”

Lastly, Christ said “the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). This article offers some scriptural substantiation for the ‘slain in the Spirit’ phenomenon (which is different than saying that all cases are authentic). Every move of God has its lunatic fringe, which includes phonies who latch on to it; but don’t let this prevent you from being blessed by a minister or ministry due to fear or unbelief. It’s better to hang with those who eagerly desire spiritual gifts and function in them to some degree — flaws and all — than to hang with those who eagerly deny them with the corresponding sterile religious atmosphere (1 Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1).

Related Topics:

The Six Basic Doctrines of Christianity (the “Laying on of Hands” section)

Pool of Béthesda—What Was It All About?

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