When the Holy Spirit fell upon the Toronto Airport Vineyard church in 1994, people at the church my wife and I were attending went to Toronto to see first hand what was going on.
They returned with a deposit of the Holy Spirit and God began to move in a profound way in our church similar to what was happening in Toronto.
It was an usual time.
Under the power of the Holy Spirit, people manifested all sorts of strange behavior. There were fits of uncontrollable laughter and crying. People were being slain in the spirit and falling to the ground. Others were experiencing travailing in the spirit and literally groaning when they felt birth pangs as the Holy Spirit prayed through them (Romans 8:26).
I experienced that myself and physically felt contractions inside me. Sometimes they came so rapidly and intensely that I couldn’t stand. During this time one of the strangest things that happened is that every time I watched the Sound of Music, the true story of the Von Trapp’s family escape from the Nazis, the travailing would start. My kids could even see it happening.
I have no idea what the Holy Spirit was praying through me about, but I suspect it involved either Austria or the Von Trapp family.
Of course these strange manifestations were the source of some of the biggest criticisms of the Toronto Blessing.
But perhaps one of the strangest things that took place was seeing people get drunk in the Holy Spirit. Now it never happened to me, but I remembers watching one of the elders of the church stumbling around during a service and finally collapsing in a heap on the floor.
I went up to him and his eyes were blood-shot, his voice was slurred. There was even drool running down his chin and he was incapable of standing. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought he was completely drunk, yet he hadn’t been drinking.
He was quite literally drunk in the Spirit.
Certainly a person wonders if this was real and you can see why some criticized the Toronto Blessing.
But a similar thing happened in the New Testament. When the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 believers in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, they poured out into the streets of Jerusalem speaking in other tongues that allowed people from other countries to hear the message in their own language.
But tucked in the midst of this chaos, we read an interesting verse:
12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” (Acts 2:12-13 NASV)
While some were amazed by this display of power, others were accusing the 120 of being drunk with wine.
So if you ran into someone speaking fluently in another language would you immediately conclude he must be drunk?
So this suggests that there were other things going on that were causing people to think that the 120 had been drinking.
It was so obvious that even the Apostle Peter was forced to address this bizarre behavior in the sermon he spoke to the gathering crowd:
15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; (1 Peter 2: 15 NASV)
Peter went on to say that what they were seeing was the result of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit prophesied by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29).
Yet despite or maybe because of what was happening 3,000 people got saved. When the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost not only were people ministered too, it also had its critics.
Then in his letter to the Ephesians Paul makes an interesting statement when he writes:
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 NASV)
He compares being physically drunk with being filled with the Holy Spirit which by implication is better.
It is a strange comparison until you remember the accusation of drunkenness made on the Day of Pentecost. Was the Apostle Paul witnessing a similar thing during services in the early church as we experienced with the Toronto Blessing?
So why was the Holy Spirit causing people to be drunk?
The answer may lie in a little diddy the elder was singing as he grovelled on the floor. He sang, “New Wine, Old Wine” and then broke out in laughter and repeated the song. It was not a masterpiece by any stretch.
In the lead up to the promise of the Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28-29 that Peter quoted on the Day of Pentecost, the prophet spoke twice of God sending new wine in verses 19 and then again in verse 24:
“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
enough to satisfy you fully;
never again will I make you
an object of scorn to the nations.” (Joel 2:19 NIV)
Is becoming drunk in the Spirit symbolic of the new wine promised by God nearly a thousand years earlier?
But these strange manifestations weren’t happening just in the Book of Acts and during the Toronto Blessing, they regularly showed up when the Holy Spirit fell on people during some of the great revivals through history.
The Great Awakening caused by a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America during the early 1700s had similar manifestations. This included the “jerks” caused by muscle contractions that seem similar to the travailing we experienced during the Toronto Blessing. They also had shaking and hundreds of people falling to the ground.
While these manifestations were taking place, thousands of people were coming to Christ. Yet, even this revival had its critics who hounded the preachers condemning the meetings.
When the Holy Spirit falls on people, strange things happen. We even see it in the Old Testament. While pursing David, King Saul came in contact with a group of prophets. He was powerfully impacted by the Holy Spirit and ended up on the ground completely naked prophesying all night (1 Samuel 19:24).
Some believe the Holy Spirit is preparing to move again.