In modern churches, particularly those associated with the charismatic movement, the practice of being slain in the Spirit occurs. This is an event in which a person falls down or passes out during a worship service, allegedly based on an overwhelming move of God's Spirit during a particular time or through a particular person.
What is being slain in the Spirit? Is it biblical?
But is being slain in the Spirit a biblical practice? Are examples of being slain in the Spirit found in the Bible? A close look reveals that there were times that people encountering God's presence fell down or became "as dead." Examination of these passages, however, shows many differences between these examples and modern claims to be slain in the Spirit.
First, the examples of people falling down as the result of God's presence are rare in Scripture. Only a few occurrences exist (such as Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17-18; 10:7-9; Matthew 17:6; Revelation 1:17). As a result, it is highly unlikely that many people falling down during the same worship service are experiencing the same movement of God noted in such biblical passages.
Second, when a person fell down before God in the Bible it was a reaction to something God had done, such as a vision. In the modern practice of being slain in the Spirit, falling down is usually associated with a particular charismatic leader. There is no example in the Bible of a godly leader placing hands on a person in order for the person to fall down before the Lord.
Third, biblical examples focus on an experience with God such as a vision or the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:6). Falling down before the Lord was not generally associated with music or a sermon as is often the practice in today's churches.
Fourth, those who fell before the Lord fell forward or with their face to the ground. This is the opposite of what is typically experienced when people claim to be slain in the Spirit today in which a person falls backwards as the result of a spiritual movement.
A look at these biblical examples reveals that much of what is called being slain in the Spirit is likely not produced by God but rather by an emotional environment that promotes an action like falling down during a worship service. This claim does not question the sincerity of those involved. However, it does ask those who participate in such services to ask hard questions regarding the biblical evidence sometimes used to support such practices.
God can certainly work in ways that cause people to fall down before Him. The Bible provides examples of this. However, those who regularly experience those "slain in the Spirit" should question whether the activity is truly of God or is rather the result of an emotional worship experience.
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