There’s much contention regarding this phenomenon of being “slain in the Spirit.” Is this a Biblical response to God’s presence?
Some write it off as a sensationalistic response while others categorize it as a demonic or manipulative practice. In Charismatic/ Pentecostal circles it is believed that when someone is overwhelmed by the power of God, they subsequently may fall down. At times deliverance from demonic power can occur through this encounter. Other times it’s believed that people are overwhelmed by the raw power of God and cannot physically stand.
Are there scriptural references to validate this kind of occurrence? Yes. Here are a few passages that record people falling under the power of God. See 2 Chronicles 5:14, John 18:6, Revelations. 1:17, Matthew 17:6, Acts 9:3-4, Ezekiel 3:23, Numbers 22:31
Do believers fall under the power of God?
This is an honest question and begs a legitimate answer. I’d have to ask if you believe an individual can fully control how he or she will respond in the literal presence of God? If you think you can control the dynamics of how your body will respond, there’s a good chance you haven’t fully encountered God. I’m not saying this to be critical, but practically, how your body responds is the least of concerns when God appears. Moses’ face glowed with the light of God’s glory. John records that he fell as a dead man. Abraham fell into a trance when God came near to make covenant with him. To think that there is an approved response to God’s presence seems to minimize His power to something we can control. What happens to us physically when we encounter God is not truly a consequence we can fully influence. Should we fall down? Well, I’d have to conclude that you can attempt to stand momentarily, but when His power comes in a moderate force, you’ll find yourself in the company of those who fall prostrate before Him.
Is falling under God’s power always authentic?
No, it is not always legitimate. There is always the concern of sensationalism. Unfortunately, the abuse tends to increase disbelief. Even in the early church we see examples of those who wanted to use the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence for personal gain. (See Acts 8:9-25) Around every genuine work of the Holy Spirit, there will always be counterfeits. People will abuse and exaggerate God’s work for various reasons. I’ve had people try to push me over while praying for me. I’ve also felt the power of God shoot through my body like electricity, throwing me to the ground. I’ve also had the experience of seeing people being rocked by God’s power as I have prayed for them.
Regardless of ones physical response during a time of prayer, the genuineness of God’s power should extend beyond the moment of an encounter. It’s foolish to look for definite “rule of thumb,” to validate if God is moving or not. We are directed to look at the “fruit” or the character of someone’s life to evaluate if the Spirit is working through them. (Matthew 7:15-20) Drawing a momentary conclusion on a minister because Holy Spirit manifests in an unexpected way will only lead to unnecessary offense.
Consider the passage in Acts 19:11-17. It states that God did “unusual miracles” by the hand of Paul. Now a miracle in itself is unusual. So what is an unusual miracle? The passage gives us an example of handkerchiefs or aprons being taken from Paul’s body and being distributed to bring deliverance to those who were possessed with demonic power. This wasn’t a onetime occurrence. The text implies that these kinds of things happened for about two years in the place where Paul resided. In reading this I think it may be presumptuous to believe that encountering the presence of God will somehow be a normal, manageable occurrence.
Because of passages like this in the New Testament, I believe that we should live with an expectation that some manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not even moderately normal by our standards. The beauty of God’s infinite power is that it cannot be contained in the confines of our approved responses. His ways are so much higher than our own. (Isaiah 55:8-9)