July 30, 2006 Q & A

"Slain in the Spirit"


A few years ago I went on a missions trip to Jamaica and attended a worship service at a Christian church where during the service people were called up front and some became what was called "slain in the spirit." During this time people laid on the ground and looked as though they were asleep and when they got up again, they told of something God had revealed or spoken to them during that time and obviously were very much at peace. I was wondering if you could explain what Biblical references there may be to being "slain in the spirit" and what a Reformed view may be on this?


This is a practice which emerged from the Pentecostal movement; it maintains that the manner in which some of the Biblical prophets such as Daniel received visions (by falling into a dream-like state) continues into our day and may be expected to occur in the lives of ordinary believers, especially during worship services.

A Reformed response to this practice includes two main points. First, we believe that "the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1; this is the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's confession of what it believes the Bible teaches and can be found, along with supporting proof texts, here). This principle is perhaps most plainly taught in Deuteronomy 12:32 ("Whatever thing I command you, that shall you observe to do: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it"), but is also derived from the 2nd Commandment and a number of other Scripture texts.

This first point is important because, while something like being "slain in the Spirit" appears in the Bible, we have no indication it is to be a regular part of the Church's worship, nor an experience which might reasonably be expected to come upon any or all Christians. Thus it should not be happening in worship services.

The second point is that "it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which make the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased" (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.1). In other words, God no longer gives people direct revelations but instead speaks to and directs them through the Bible.

"From infancy, you have known the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17). If people need direct revelations from God through being slain in the spirit, then the Scriptures do not equip the Christian for the whole of the Christian life, as Paul teaches. If, on the other hand, Paul is correct, then we ought not seek after direct revelations from God by any means.

I hope this information is helpful to you, especially as you learn through the Scriptures the full truths of the salvation which God has worked through the Cross of Jesus Christ.



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