There are a few passages in the Bible that speak of one of the more unusual manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It talks about people being so overcome by the Holy Spirit, that they appear drunk to outsiders.
And I was reminded of this in a recent story on CBN by Vernell Windsor, a regular columnist, who along with a friend had decided to attend a church service in North Carolina.
During the service, Vernell writes that she was so overcome by the presence of God, that she became drunk in the Holy Spirit:
“The presence of the Lord was in that place. During worship, I forgot all about my friend and realized I could no longer stand. I was weeping and got all snotty-nosed,” Vernell said.
“Strangely, I was also laughing because the joy of the Lord was flowing all through me. My friend was trying to protect me from getting trampled upon as people were headed to and from the altar and dancing around, but I was oblivious to any danger,” Vernell added.
“It was Jesus and me,” Vernell said. “I remember hearing the preacher did some sort of altar call and I decided I wanted that too. The only problem was that I couldn’t get up off that floor. So, I tried crawling, a sight for sore eyes indeed! That night was so good! And that, my friends, is what drunkenness looks like!”
Though I personally never experienced this myself, I witnessed a similar thing happening during the Toronto Blessing, a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place during the 1990s in Toronto, Canada, and spread to the church I was attending.
During one meeting, the Holy Spirit fell upon one of the elders of our church, who, similar to Vernell, was crawling on the floor on his hands and knees, and completely incapable of standing. His speech was slurred. Even his eyes were bloodshot. Anyone looking at him would say he was completely drunk.
But he wasn’t. Dwayne was drunk in the Holy Spirit.
And while the naysayers may criticize and mock this, the early church faced similar accusations.
After the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost, they poured out onto the streets of Jerusalem speaking in tongues.
The streets were filled with Jews from neighboring nations, who had gathered for the feast, and they were now hearing the gospel proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah in their own languages.
But there was more going on than just that.
Because some began to mock and accuse them of drinking:
13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13 ESV)
Would you accuse a person of being drunk simply because they were able to speak in your language?
Of course, not, so there must have been other things taking place for that accusation to surface.
The accusation was so widespread by this point, that when Peter finally spoke to the gathered crowd, the first thing he addressed was this accusation of drunkenness, stating:
“For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:15 ESV)
It was 9 am, Peter said, and too early for people to be drunk.
And then the Apostle Paul similarly makes an unusual statement when talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)
Why would Paul compare drunkenness with being filled with the Holy Spirit?
Now, you could argue he was comparing polar opposites or was he comparing the two because they were similar, as was witnessed on the Day of Pentecost.
And even in the Old Testament, we see evidence of a similar thing happening to King Saul in 1 Samuel 19.
After King Saul had tried to kill David with a spear, he fled the palace.
But then Saul sent a team of assassins to David’s house with orders to kill him.
Fortunately, David was able to escape and fled to the company of Prophets operated by the Prophet Samuel for protection. It was Samuel who had anointed David as the next king of Israel.
When King Saul heard that David was with the Company of Prophets, he sent men to arrest David.
However, the Bible says that they were not able to do this, because they all began prophesying.
After hearing of their failure, King Saul sent two more teams, who were similarly incapacitated.
But this begs the question: How could all three groups be incapable of arresting David, simply because they were prophesying?
Similar to what happened on the Day of Pentecost, there was obviously more going on than just speaking in tongues or in this case prophesying.
And the Bible provides a hint on what that was.
At this point, King Saul was so annoyed, that he decided to go to the company of prophets and arrest David himself.
But when he arrived, something strange happened:
Then Saul stripped off his robes and also prophesied before Samuel. And he collapsed and lay naked all that day and night. That is why it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24 Berean Study Bible)
We are told that King Saul was so overcome with the spirit of prophesy, that he collapsed to the ground, stripped off his clothes, and prophesied.
Most commentators don’t believe he stripped completely naked, but probably still had on a shirt after taking off his royal garments and armor.
But some versions read that King Saul lay on the ground, and this leaves the impression that he did this of his own volition, suggesting that Saul was somehow still in control.
However, if Saul was still in control, why didn’t he arrest David?
The Hebrew word ‘naphal’ in 1 Samuel 19:24, can be translated to lie down, but can also mean to be thrown down, to collapse, or to fall down.
King Saul was so under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that he fell to the ground and was unable to stand. Like the previous three teams, he was simply incapable of arresting David.
Was Saul experiencing the drunkenness, that took place on the Day of Pentecost, or that we have seen more recently associated with the Toronto Blessing?
And though it seems, strange, this experience of being drunk in the Spirit, was also reported in other revivals.
This same manifestation showed up at the Azusa Street revival that took place in 1906 in Los Angeles, where there was a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that paved the way for the Pentecostal and charismatic movements we have today.
After the revival started, the Azusa Street Mission began publishing a newspaper called The Apostolic Faith, which contained testimonies, and teachings from the revival.
In its January 1907 edition, Myrtle Shideler shared how she was so overcome by the Holy Spirit, that she was drunk:
“By the time the chorus ended, the power of God was so heavy upon me. I could scarcely open my mouth, and every fibre of my being was trembling. Yet my feet felt glued to the floor and my knees stiff, so I could not sit down. I only got out a few broken sentences that I remember. (I never fainted in my life and was never unconscious, but God certainly took me out of myself.) He showed me things which there are not words enough in the English language to express. . . . I was under the power the remainder of the meeting, and for three days was as one drunken. . . . Since then, such waves of power roll over me from time to time. I can scarcely keep my feet, and I am sure if my old friends in California could see me, they would think I was indeed insane.“
During the 1990s Toronto Blessing, I witnessed many unusual Holy Spirit manifestations, including one person becoming drunk in the Spirit.
I would argue, probably more than ever, that we need another outpouring of the Holy Spirit today.
READ: Holy Spirit Outpouring