Backwards and Forwards
(John 18:6) As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. In the last generation or two among professing Christians of the charismatic persuasion, the phenomenon of being “slain in the spirit” has become quite popular. Most Americans have probably seen some form of this at the hands of a televangelist, although the practice is not unique to televangelists. It is alleged that when the worshipper or someone needing healing is touched by the “anointed” preacher, the sheer power of God overwhelms the person and bowls him over backward. A survey of the occasions where Scripture speaks of men falling backwards before the Lord indicates that it is not the righteous but the enemies of God who do so, as in our text for today. The disobedient high priest Eli, upon hearing of God's judgment having caught up with his household in fulfillment of prophecy (1SAM 3:11-13), “...fell from off the seat backward...” (1SAM 4:18). Later, it was to a people who would hear stammering lips and another tongue but were confounded by Scripture that it was said, “...they might go, and fall backward, and be broken...” (ISA 28:9-13). This prophecy applies to the N.T. miracle of speaking in a language one had never learned (1CO 14:21-22 c/w ACT 2:4-11). Sensational miracles like speaking in tongues will not perfect people who refuse to be reformed by the doctrine of holy scripture. Those miracles will only highlight and facilitate their confusion and judgment, that they should fall backward and be broken, given over to a strong delusion because they love not the truth (2TH 2:10-12). Conversely, Scripture shows that when humble followers of God were faced with the awesome presence of God or a display of His raw, naked power, they fell on their faces in awestruck adoration (GEN 17:3; GEN 17:17; LEV 9:23-24; NUM 20:6; JOS 5:14; JDG 13:20; 1KI 18:38-39; 1CH 21:16; EZE 1:28; EZE 3:23; EZE 44:4; MAT 17:5-6; REV 7:11; REV 11:16). Believers are not encouraged to go backward (LUK 9:62; LUK 17:32; ACT 7:39; GAL 4:8-11; PHIL 3:13-14; HEB 11:15); we are not to be “...of them who draw back unto perdition...” (HEB 10:38-39). So why would God push the faithful backwards in the spirit? Who is really doing the pushing in those wildly emotional charismatic services? Is it the Holy Spirit or a seducing spirit (1TI 4:1)? Or is it just theater? One remarkable twist of this pattern was when the hireling prophet, Balaam, was rebuked by God's angel for his iniquity and “...fell flat on his face” (NUM 22:31-32). It may also be noted that before the angel revealed himself, Balaam had already been rebuked by his ass, “...the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (2PE 2:15-16 c/w NUM 22:28). Perhaps there is a message in this for disciples of Benny Hinn who hearkened not to the occasional truth that God forced from his mouth but will someday be compelled to bow before the mighty God, Jesus Christ (ISA 45:23 c/w PHIL 2:10). Truth is truth whether it comes from God's angel or a dumb ass. But God's angels at least know they are bound by GAL 1:8. An interesting observation may be made from reviewing 1CO 14:18-25 where Paul was censuring the Corinthian church for its disorderly emphasis on the gift of tongues to the disregard of edifying prophecy or doctrine (superior things). If an unlearned or unbelieving visitor were to attend their service where the whole church was speaking in tongues without good reason or order, he might justifiably conclude that they were crazy (1CO 14:23). One could reasonably project that if they were also flopping over backward that all doubt of their insanity would be removed. On the other hand, if the church were to be defined by edifying prophecy and doctrine which facilitated understanding, Paul said that such a visitor's reaction would be “...falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1CO 14:24-25). Edification through understanding trumps sensationalism in God's program and those who love the truth of Scripture will spot a charlatan spirit at work every time, especially if they know the Bible backwards and forwards.