What Does it Mean When Someone is Slain in the Spirit?
By: Rev. Sam Harris
In my devotions recently, I was reading in John 18 when I came across this verse (6): “When therefore He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” I have seen on one of the Christian television stations what has been called “being slain in the Spirit.” What is being slain in the Spirit and is that what happened in John 18:6?
Very interesting question! There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years centered around the spiritual phenomenon known as being “slain in the Spirit.” Though the terms “slain in the Spirit” or “falling under the power” are not found in the Scriptures, it is worthwhile to investigate what the Scripture says in reference to this experience. There are a number of examples of this phenomenon throughout the Scripture; let’s examine some of these.
- The dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 5) is a good example. Solomon brought silver, gold, and musical instruments to the temple as the Ark of the Covenant was set in its place. Trumpeters and singers began to praise and thank the Lord in unison. Then the House of the Lord was filled with the cloud of the glory of God, the Shekinah, so that, as we read in verse 14: “The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
- There is also the passage you referred to in your question—John 18:3-6 dealing with the Garden of Gethsemane. As Judas arrived with a band of soldiers, Jesus asked them whom they sought? They replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” When Jesus said, “I am He,” thus confirming His deity and declaring the presence of God, “they drew back and fell to the ground” (Vs. 6). What really happens when people are genuinely slain by the Spirit is that the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus for whom He really is.
- In Acts 9:1-18, Paul was stopped by a bright light from heaven while on his way to Damascus. When the presence of God confronted him, “he fell to the ground,” and God talked to him.
- Finally, look at Revelation 1:10-17. I will quote just verses 10 & 17: “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of the trumpet. . . and when I saw Him (Jesus), I fell at His feet as a dead man.”
Additional references: Matthew 17:6; 28:4; Acts 22:7; 26:14.
These Scriptural references seem to indicate that those “slain in the Spirit” sensed the presence and glory of God to such a degree that they could not stand on their feet. The phenomenon of “being slain in the Spirit” appears to be Scriptural, but it should not be taken as a sign of spiritual maturity. Some Spirit-filled people may never have this experience.
At the time of falling under the power of the Spirit, people may experience salvation, the in-filling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual, emotional, or physical healing, or deliverance. This phenomenon is a sovereign act of God and only the individual being ministered to understands what God is doing with him through this experience.
There can be counterfeit manifestations as with other spiritual experiences, worked up by mental and emotional manipulation. However, we should not reject the manifestations of falling under the power of God because of a few faked instances. The genuine is best attested by the counterfeit. Paul writes 1 Corinthians 11:19—”For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.” While ministering, one does not need to be God’s helper; there is no need to push, strike a person on the head, or rock him in order to help him fall. God will manifest His presence; He doesn’t need any help.
So, to sum up, when a person is slain by the Spirit (falls under the power, falls to the ground, or falls down as dead), that individual arises knowing that God has touched him and met his need.
Regarding this phenomenon, Charles Finney wrote in his autobiography something that happened during one of his revivals: “I observed a woman— supposing she was in a fainting fit, she could not speak. After lying in a speechless state for sixteen hours, Miss G’s mouth was opened and a new song was given her. She was taken from the pit of miry clay and her feet were set on a rock; and it was true that many saw it and feared.”
This article was written for The John Ankerberg Show By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2000.