• Jen Ayling

Does the Holy Spirit Take Over Your Body?

Have you ever seen someone who allegedly ‘under the influence of the Holy Spirit’ was running up and down the aisles, or barking like a dog and making animal noises? Or perhaps you’ve seen someone fall to the floor and shake vigorously, appear drunk, or even heard someone shouting in what seems to be uncontrollable outbursts.

These so-called movements of the Holy Spirit have been circulating in churches worldwide for many years and have gained a lot of attention – both from advocates and critics alike.

But the question I’d like to address in this article is: Does the Holy Spirit overtake and control your body?

The only way we have of knowing the answer to this question is by looking in God’s Word and studying how the Holy Spirit moves.

First and foremost, not once in the Bible will you find a person being controlled by God’s Spirit; not physically, emotionally or otherwise. There is not one Scripture that speaks of a person acting like an animal or shouting out of place due to being moved by the Holy Spirit. And likewise, there is no Scripture where people were ‘slain in the Spirit’. Jesus and Paul did not have people line up and then go along and tap them on the head, causing the person to fall down in the Spirit, one after the other. The model we are seeing on the platforms of televangelists and in many churches worldwide is totally different from anything that’s in Scripture.

It’s also important to remember that while certain ministries of the Holy Spirit may involve a feeling, such as conviction of sin, comfort and joy, Scripture does not instruct us to base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on how or what we feel. Every born-again believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that when the Comforter has come, He will be with us and in us (John 14:16-17).

That’s not to say that people won’t have differing reactions when personally touched by the Holy Spirit, however what’s being queried here is which reactions are genuine, and which are not.

There should be certain characteristics that identify someone who is genuinely moved by the Holy Spirit. We read in Galatians 5:22-24 about the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit’s fruit, and it is exhibited by the born-again believer who is walking according to the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

There is a specific fruit of the Holy Spirit that clearly contradicts these apparent manifestations we’ve been discussing ... did you notice what it is?

Self-control With one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit being self-control, then how is it possible for a person to essentially lose control? The answer is undeniable. It is impossible for a person who is genuinely moved by the Holy Spirit, to convey any actions that show a lack of self-control, whether it be physically or mentally.

We will touch on a few other fruits of the Holy Spirit to clearly identify the difference between a response that would be biblical, and one that would not.

Joy & Peace Two other fruits of the Holy Spirit are joy and peace, so a person walking according to the Spirit will display joy that does not depend on circumstances, but comes from the Lord alone (Nehemiah 8:10), and a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). They will not be sporadically shaking, screaming or running around for no apparent reason.

Gentleness Another fruit of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, which is one who demonstrates tenderness and benevolence. A person whose body is violently jerking and convulsing not only portrays a complete lack of self-control, but also the inability to reveal any form of gentleness. So keeping in mind that these sorts of behaviours are NOT shown anywhere throughout the Bible, we move on to look at what sort of an affect the Holy Spirit does have on people.

Both the Old and New Testaments describe a variety of people who were given power, wisdom and understanding by the Spirit. Jesus said that David spoke by the Holy Spirit in the Psalms (Matthew 22:43). We know that God had given a special Spirit and power to Elijah (Luke 1:17). Many people were filled with the Holy Spirit and He gave them words to speak prophecies; Elizabeth (Luke 1:34), her husband Zechariah (Luke 1:67) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) to name a few. This shows that when filled with the Holy Spirit, these people did not lose their senses. They did not lose their ability to remain in control of their bodies, and they did not outwardly react to the Holy Spirit in either a violent, senseless or unassuming way. In fact, their reactions were quite the opposite. They had joy, peace and self-control, and they often spoke out God’s Words, but at no time does the Bible speak of these people as being physically or mentally domineered or overtaken by the Holy Spirit.

Emotionalism has filled the churches—people are no longer Jesus-centred, they have become flesh-centred.

Due to purely being moved by feelings and the buzz that’s achieved from thinking a Spirit-being is causing them to do things they wouldn’t usually do, without realising it, they are giving themselves over to spirit-beings, however it’s not the spirit they think it is. Whenever a person has manifestations that are in contrast to the holy Bible, then this should raise red flags to any discerning believer as to what spirit is behind it.

Emotions can and will deceive us, and we can work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy that is purely from the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:16, 25 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Having said that, we cannot deny that there are times when we can be overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the Spirit, and this is often an emotional experience. When that happens, it is a joy like no other. King David “danced with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) when they brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Jesus also had an emotional response from the Holy Spirit, but what was His response?

Luke 10:21 

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brought Jesus joy, which we know is a correct emotional response not only because it happened to Jesus, but because it is a fruit of the Spirit. God will never contradict His Word.

So what does the Holy Spirit do in the believer’s life?

John 3:5 

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 6:63 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Thank God for sending the Holy Spirit—because it is the Spirit who gives life!

And what will the Holy Spirit bring to our minds?

John 14:26 

But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. So in knowing that the Holy Spirit has come to comfort, teach and remind us of Jesus, can any of that be interpreted to mean that He will control your mind to make you do things you wouldn’t usually do? Not at all. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a complete gentleman who does not force Himself, in any way, on anyone. And when He does move on a person, He never takes control over them.

God has given us a free will, and each day we have the choice as to how we live that day—whether it’s walking according to the Spirit, or the flesh (Matthew 16:24).

So it stands to reason that with the Godhead being three in one (1 John 5:7), if the Father gave us a free will, that His Son, Jesus, and His Holy Spirit will all be in 100% agreement and will not, cannot, go against each other.

What is the focus of the Holy Spirit’s work?

John 16:13-14 

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

This is a very serious and highly important mission the Holy Spirit is on. It is not a game and His position is not to be taken lightly. The Holy Spirit is not here to indulge your feelings. He did not come so you could play games with Him and get reactions from Him whenever you desire. The Holy Spirit is here to guide us into all truth—and to know if it is indeed truth, it needs to be lined up with God’s Word.

If it’s not found in the Bible – it should be aired on the side of caution. In other words, if we can’t find it in God’s Word, then we should be very weary of it, realise it’s unscriptural and not take it as truth.

The Bible tells us that Satan imitates God by copying godly manifestations with the intention of deceiving people into believing they came from God.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.

Although we don’t see any indication in the Bible of the Holy Spirit causing a person to act out of character, we do see people that were controlled by evil spirits—some to the point of self-harming.

Mark 5:2-5 

And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

This Scripture alone reveals alot to us. Firstly, it tells us that this man had an ‘unclean spirit’, so we know it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but an evil spirit.

What did this man’s actions uncover? In one short paragraph, we see evidence of this man being overtaken by the spirit, resulting in him living isolated, having supernatural strength, being miserable, taunted, crying out and cutting himself with stones. Do any of these manifestations trigger your memory from what was said earlier? Particularly, ‘crying out’ resembles shouting in random outbursts—a response that some would think is a move of the Holy Spirit, however the Bible speaks of it as a negative reaction from being oppressed by an evil spirit. And it goes without saying that the evil spirit had so much control over this man that he was at the point of cutting his own flesh. Satan’s goal is for you to self-destruct.

John 10:10 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

There is also another instance in which we find not the Holy Spirit, but an evil spirit controlling a person, this time causing him to shake vigorously and convulse without the ability to stop.

Mark 9:17-20 

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid...“Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

We see here that the evil spirit caused this boy to be mute, threw him down to the ground and had him thrashing around, foaming at the mouth and grinding his teeth. Again there are some similar characteristics from this instance to that of what has occurred with some people when they were said to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Falling to the ground and vigorously shaking is not seen in the Bible, except to be shown as a result of being demonised.

What about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

The Bible is very clear on what gifts the Holy Spirit gives to the body of Christ, and how they work. All of them are orderly, wise and given for knowledge and edification, not for mere pleasure or entertainment.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

This verse defines what the gifts of the Spirit entail. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit overtaking a person, especially to the point where they are no longer in control of their own body. On the contrary, it says in:

1 Corinthians 14:32-33 

The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

And the Bible tells us that we need to have the church running in an orderly fashion, not with people acting out of order and causing chaos.

1 Corinthians 14:40 

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

God's Word even goes on to say how church should be conducted.

1 Corinthians 14:26-31 

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

In conclusion, God is a God of order and He has set specific instructions as to how He wants His church to be conducted, and that is in a fitting and orderly fashion—not out of control and under the influence of fleshly desires or evil spirits.

I pray this article brings out the truth from God’s Word and is used as an instrument in teaching and equipping the saints for walking in the ways of the Lord.

-- By Jenny Ayling