Worship in Christianity has many different expressions. Some forms of praise are comprised of silence and stillness. Others forms involving raised voices, moving and even dancing. In the Pentecostal tradition, occasionally falling down from a standing position is the practice of some during worship and prayer.
In the Pentecostal tradition, following down during worship is a response to the Holy Spirit’s activity and is commonly referred to as “being slain in the Spirit.” The term “slain” refers to when the Spirit suddenly overwhelms a person’s physical capacity to stand, causing them to collapse and fall down.
Why are Pentecostals slain in the Spirit? How does a person get slain in the Spirit and what is the point of it? Are all Pentecostals slain in the Spirit? What is the biblical basis for being slain in the Spirit? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Why are Pentecostals slain in the Spirit?
Who are Pentecostals? Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination but a tradition within Protestant Christianity that subscribes to a certain belief system. Pentecostals believe in the central truths of Christianity, like the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of the unique views of the tradition regard the Holy Spirit, his bestowing of spiritual gifts, and his activity in the lives of people.
Is “Pentecostal” a denomination? Even though some churches have the word “Pentecostal” in their names, the word doesn’t describe a historic Protestant denomination, like Baptist, Methodist, or Lutheran. Rather, it’s more accurate to say that certain denominations have Pentecostal beliefs. The largest denominations that subscribe to Pentecostal theology are the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee).
Are all Pentecostals “slain in the Spirit”? No. With regard to being slain in the Spirit and falling down during worship, practices within Pentecostal churches vary. Some churches and individuals don’t practice or encourage being slain in the Spirit, while others make it a central activity of their ministry and worship. No orthodox Pentecostal tradition teaches that a person needs to be slain in the Spirit in order to be saved.
How does a person get slain in the Spirit? For those who believe in the practice, being slain in the Spirit isn’t something they control. Falling down is a response to feeling spiritually, emotionally, and physically overwhelmed and no longer able to stand.
What is the point of being slain in the Spirit? Being slain in the Spirit is a reaction. It’s a response and doesn’t necessarily have a point besides releasing emotion. As a reaction, being slain in the Spirit is like crying or laughing — it’s the body’s response to hearing, seeing, or feeling something.
What do non-Pentecostals believe about being slain in the Spirit? Christian and non-Christian Pentecostals believe being slain in the Spirit is a manifestation of spiritual or religious ecstasy. They don’t necessarily doubt that the person is having a legitimate experience — they aren’t faking it — but the experience is the result of emotion more so than the Holy Spirit. Some Christian and non-Christian Pentecostals criticize the behavior. Others think it’s generally harmless.
What is the biblical basis for being slain in the Spirit?
The Bible doesn’t directly instruct people to experience being slain in the Spirit. The biblical basis for the practice is similar experiences that are described in the Bible in narrative contexts.
- Ezekiel 1:28, “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” (ESV)
- Daniel 10:8-10, “So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision. No strength remained in me; my face grew deathly pale, and I was powerless. I heard the sound of his words, and as I listened, I fell into a deep sleep, with my face to the ground.” (ESV)
- Matthew 17:6, “When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.” (ESV)
- Revelation 1:10-18, “On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit… When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.” (v. 10a, 17a, ESV)
Did these people voluntarily fall down or not? Advocates of the practice believe that the examples above are of people who involuntarily fell down. Some also cite other passages that may describe people involuntarily following down, though it’s not clear (Gen 15:12; Exo 40:35; Dan 8:27; John 18:6; Acts 9:4, 10:10). Below are three examples.
- Genesis 15:12, “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.” (ESV)
- John 18:6, “When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” (ESV)
- Acts 9:4, “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (ESV)
Is being touched being slain in the Spirit? In some experiences, the touch of a pastor, minister, or holy person can cause a person to collapse. Some advocates also cite passages that demonstrate the power of touch to support this (Acts 19:12, 9:12, 28:8; Mark 5:30; James 5:14-15).
- Acts 19:12, “so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” (ESV)
- Mark 5:30, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” (ESV)
- James 5:14-15, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.” (ESV)
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