When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. - John 18: 6 (ESV)
The Pentecostal experience over the past century has been a steady progression away from sound biblical doctrine and careening more and more towards an experiential based belief system that is so subjective that to question it is to personally offend the believers. One of the obvious results of Charismania infiltrating the church is a very self-centered, narcissistic showy spirit pervading our faith. Attend any random Pentecostal church and you will see what I mean. Dancers and flaggers with fluorescent clothing distracting people away from God during corporate worship. An exhibition in unbiblical tongues designed to draw attention to the speaker instead of the Lord. False healings provided with a swipe of the preacher's jacket or some absurd parlor trick usage of the "Holy Spirit." Creation of false theologies out of whole cloth like the "anointing" or "impartation." It has become so pervasively bad that entire schools now exist that claim they can teach the gifts of the Spirit even though the Bible says that the Spirit decides how they are meted out.
We remember the Bible don't we? The final revealed will of God? It contains everything we need to know. It tells us everything we are to do. Nothing needs to be added to it. It is all-encompassing. It is infallible. It is inerrant. The problem is that many either ignore it or abuse it to fit their experiences into their doctrine. Let's be honest. Faith is a lot easier for our carnal hearts when it based upon our feelings instead of what God says. So when we see a manifestation in the church the first thing we must ask is if it is biblical. If it is not, it must be discarded. No matter how much we might like it. No matter if we were raised with it. One of the chief arguments against Catholicism is the dependency of ritual over biblical truth yet we fall for the exact same thing. We were raised with certain experiences and we are troubled to let them go. To leave them on the altar and sacrifice them for the sake of the Gospel. To think it is not a big deal is to not understand spiritual warfare. Beloved, if something is not of the Holy Spirit then we can be assured where it originates from. So we come to another Pentecostal sacred cow, being slain in the Spirit.
Anyone who has spent any time in Pentecostal circles knows that this phenomena is. During service the preacher or elder lays hands upon you and you fall backwards, supposedly under the power of the Spirit. Then a nice altar worker will cover your legs with a cloth for modesty as you bask in the presence of God for anywhere from five seconds to five hours. You will then return to your seat feeling more spiritual then those around you and return next week to do it all again. Here is the problem, being slain in the Spirit is nowhere in the Bible. That's right, nowhere. It is extra-biblical and as such must be discarded. If we want a deeper revelation of God we ought to read our Bible more. He is His Word. One of the verses often cited by people trying to stretch the Bible to fit their experiences is our key verse which comes from the arrest of Jesus. There are three glaring problems with abusing this verse in this manner. First of all they drew back and fell to the ground. They did not fall back on the ground as is what happens when we are "slain." Secondly, who was it that drew back and fell to the ground? Were these devout believers seeking a deeper level of Jesus? No; they were unbelievers. Lastly, as Christ had not gone to the cross yet, the Holy Spirit had not yet come. This example is ludicrously inappropriate to explain the common day phenomena of being slain in the Spirit. Once this verse is correctly handled the defenders of experiential doctrine will scour the Scriptures for any referent to people falling down due to the manifest presence of God. For example:
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. - Matthew 17: 5-8 (ESV)
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, "Gabriel, make this man understand the vision." So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, "Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end." - Daniel 8: 15-17 (ESV)
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" - Revelation 19: 4 (ESV)
Really? There ought to be laws against abusing Scripture this badly. We will stop at nothing to justify our own carnality. The first example is from the transfiguration! The second is when the angel Gabriel visited Daniel and the last is yet to come! It speaks to the rejoicing in heaven before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Walk with me through the mess of this convoluted logic. The Bible covers over 6000 years of human history (not including the prophetic which is yet to come). In that 6000 plus years there is not a single example of someone falling backwards due to the presence of God. There is not one example of anyone laying hands on someone and then watching the person fall out, fall down, writhe on the ground; nothing. The "best" example from the key verse was not even dealing with believers. So to justify this carnal practice we now look for the small handful of times in this 6000 years where anyone fell down to try and support being slain in the Spirit. So now we think that when Betty Jones falls out at the route 23 Holiday Inn Friday night prayer service that it is just like when Jesus Christ was transfigured. That when Bob Johnson collapses in a heap at the local AG church in Wappingers Falls during a Sunday altar call that this is just like when the Archangel Gabriel visited the Prophet Daniel. That these instances are just like when we will be rejoicing in heaven as we prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Wow - we need to get over ourselves quickly.
The fact is that the instances of anyone falling anywhere in the Bible are extremely rare. They do not occur every Friday night, in every single church, to the same people over and over again. When we do see these rare occurrences, we do not see a surrogate pushing them to the ground or waving their coat over a crowd and watching them collapse in unison. In the Matthew verses they were terrified! Daniel was frightened. The context reveals the complete incongruence to the modern experience of being slain. It is not as much a matter of apples and oranges as it is apples and orangutans. That is how far apart being slain is from anything remotely close to the Bible. It is usually at this point that the defense is offered up that God can do anything. To which I respond yes He can but that does not mean He will or He does. It is a logical fallacy to pull this card. Could God slay you in the Spirit? Sure, He is God. The question is why would He? Why would He step outside His own Word? The answer to that one is He would not. Where is the fruit from this experience? Does it draw attention and thus glory, to God or to the slayer and the slain? If we are going to be honest we will have to admit that in many instances the same people are slain every week in many churches. Are they not listening each week when God has them slain? Is it not working for them? Here is one of the real dangers of this - we start to chase the experience instead of the God we are supposed to follow.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. - Acts 8: 18-22 (ESV)
This is the tail end of the story of Simon the Sorcerer who seemingly had come to faith in Christ only to be revealed as not having his heart right with God. This is not to compare the relative salvation of folks but to show that we often times can be chasing the experience or in Simon's case the power, instead of God. We ramble incoherently in "tongues" not to edify but to be heard. We prophe-lie what sayeth our lying hearts instead of what sayeth the Lord. The preacher waves his hanky at us and we dramatically swoon to the ground, deftly avoiding injury and then quickly making sure our dress has not hiked up too much before "encountering God." If you are wondering what the secondary gain is you forget that much of modern Christianity has devolved into a competition over who is more spiritual. You speak in tongues? Well I am a prophet! Oh yeah, I'm a Super Apostle! That's nothing; I have an Elijah impartation and an Elisha mantle upon my life, have I shown you my new prayer shawl? It is made from reeds plucked from the Sea of Galilee and sown together by actual descendants of the Levite tribe on the Mount of Olives! Seriously beloved. We know this to be true. The other great danger is that there are other spirits in this world besides the Holy Spirit:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. - 2Corinthians 11: 13-15 (ESV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6: 12 (ESV)
The first set of verses here reminds us that just because something has the veneer of piety that does not mean it is holy. Just because someone says the name of Jesus that does not mean he is representing Jesus. Satan himself disguises as an angel of light and so do his demonic forces which are arrayed against us. Take a close look at the verse from Ephesians and realize the war we are in. It is not just the false teacher that waves his jacket at the multitude but the demonic spirits that cause them to fall down. Do a you tube search for the Toronto Holy Laughter movement or the Brownsville Revival and then do a search for the Kundalini Yoga spirit. You will see they are eerily similar. The Holy Spirit would not have us rolling around on the ground and barking like a dog, as we saw in Toronto. He would not have us twitching spasmodically as we saw in Brownsville. Likewise, He would not have us slain in an orderly church service bringing glory only to ourselves. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so. Beloved there is a present darkness over this world and over the church. It is presided over by evil rulers and authorities. Spiritual forces aligned against the will of God and thus against us. Now, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world but we must be found in Him. In His Word. We must avoid the very things that war against our flesh. Our desire to be seen. Our desire to appear more spiritual than we really are. The first will be last and the last first.
With all biblical arguments lost, it is usually at this time that the proponents of charismania will try and turn it personal. They will say that I need a deeper revelation of the Holy Spirit. That if I were just slain once then my eyes would be opened. The problem with that argument is twofold. One, I need a deeper revelation of the Word, not the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth, not all experience. It is the Word the Spirit illuminates for us as believers. So this way we can rest in the objective Word of God instead of the subjectivity of our wicked hearts. Secondly however, I have been slain in the spirit. It was several years ago and I was at a prayer and healing service at a local church. I was still heavily into the experiential side of Pentecostalism, but I had never gone down. Most pastors would blame me, saying that I was fighting it. Not this night though. As the pastor prayed eventually I went down. I felt God minister to me as well when I was down. The whole night was powerful in the Spirit. It was thick, as we like to say in Pentecostal circles. I left that service exhausted and felt like I had "done some business with God."