What is slain in the Spirit?

by Matt Slick

Being slain in the Spirit is a phenomenon that occurs in charismatic churches. Supposedly what happens is when a Christian is so overcome by the Holy Spirit he or she falls down on the ground and is incapacitated for a while. Whether or not this is a legitimate phenomenon cannot be determined. There are records of such occurrences in all sorts of churches throughout the past few hundred years, but whether or not this is an act of God or over-emotionalism we cannot say for sure.

Usually, being slain in the spirit occurs in a church service after a period of singing and preaching where the congregation is, apparently, brought to a place of emotional fervor. The people come forward to receive a special blessing, often for the express purpose of being slain in the spirit. The preacher then touches the person who falls backward and is caught by attendees or deacons who are there to prevent injury resulting from the fall.

Undoubtedly there are people who are so emotionally ready for any spiritual experience that they can convince themselves they're being slain in the spirit and they fall down at the first queue given by a preacher. This is especially likely in a church service designed to raise the emotional level of the participants.

Is it real? We cannot say either way. Certainly, there are false occurrences, but it is certainly possible that the Holy Spirit could come upon a person with such force that the person falls down. But, biblically, such occurrences of falling down are forward and are accompanied with humble prostration.

  • Gen. 17:3, “And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying.”
  • Num. 16:20-22, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” 22 But they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will you be angry with the entire congregation?”
  • 1 Kings 18:39, “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.”
  • Rev. 1:17-18, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

We must always use the Bible when trying to ascertain if something occurring in the church is biblical. We see in the Scriptures that whenever the very presence of God comes upon a person, the person is humbled to such degree that he bows his head down low and is often prostrate. This is not the same as attending an emotional church service that whips people into a high level of excitement, then being called forward to receive a "special blessing," and the preacher touches your forehead so you can fall backward.

Sill, we must be very cautious for three reasons. First, we do not want to belittle the actual movement of the Holy Spirit. It is certainly possible that God's presence can knock someone over. Second, we do not want to substitute the presence of God over emotionalism. Third, we must consider the unbelievers. We do not want to stumble them with behaviors that can be nothing more than emotional outbursts.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.