The Holy Spirit and human responses and responsibility

Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 3; part 8:

About 20 years ago, a so-called ‘new wave’ of the Spirit swept over large parts of the church. It started in a Vineyard church in Toronto, and people soon labelled it the ‘Toronto Blessing’. People flew in from all over the world to receive the ‘blessing’. Many would fall to the ground, ‘slain in the Spirit’, and some of them would manifest in a number of extraordinary ways. Some would lie on the ground jerking, others would remain standing, but would bend forward spasmodically and grunt, others would laugh uproariously, while yet others would make a variety of animal noises. Because of the cacophony of loud quacking, barking, braying, and grunting, critics sarcastically referred to the Toronto Vineyard as the barnyard.

A few years later, another wave swept over the charismatic churches – this time some called it the laughing revival, because the characteristics of this ‘move’ were falling on the ground and laughing. This phenomenon became so common, that sceptics facetiously labelled it ‘carpet ministry’.

What are we to make of all this? It is surely true that much of what happened, particularly as the move got a little tired, was manipulated showmanship; but not all of it was. Many people experienced a real and lasting ‘touch’ of God, some were healed, and others were saved. Yet they fell, shook, cried, and laughed.

My understanding is that when a human being comes into contact with a powerful release of spiritual energy, then the body often reacts uncontrollably. If I stuck my fingers into an electric socket and switched it on, my body would definitely react; I would fall to the ground and shake uncontrollably. If I touched the poles of a car battery, I would receive a lesser shock, which might well make me feel euphoric; I might even burst into laughter. Falling, shaking, laughing, and crying are, in my view, normal reactions to contact with a strong anointing. We should not mistake them for the actual manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and we should not focus on them as signs of blessing. However, we should not censure and criticise them either.

John 18:3-6 records this interesting account; “So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” Why did they fall to the ground? I have read commentaries which state that they fell down on their knees to worship Jesus – what nonsense! They were a bunch of armed soldiers and rabble-rousers who had accompanied the officials with one purpose – to arrest Jesus. The only reasonable explanation is that they fell to the ground because they could not stand on their feet. Why? Was there an earthquake? No, there was no record of this. Why then? Because they were standing in the presence of the Son of God, and the anointing upon him was so strong that their bodies reacted, and they fell down as if struck by lightning.

Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord and fell to the ground, pale, shaken and without strength (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:23). Daniel had a similar experience (Daniel 8:17), as did Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:4).

Acts 2:15 records Peter’s response to the derision of a section of the crowd on the day of Pentecost: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning!” Why would some think that the disciples were drunk, and why would Peter feel it was necessary to correct this perception?  The usual understanding of the initial Pentecostal experience is that the disciples were speaking in recognisable languages. If you consider the logistics of this then this explanations does not appear to be feasible. There was a huge crowd present; if they baptised three thousand, then there must have been many more present, say at least five thousand. There were one hundred and twenty present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came with power. If all of these were speaking known languages, then it would have been chaotic. Only those who happened to understand the particular language spoken, and were within hearing of any particular disciple, would have comprehended what was said. The scripture however declares that each person present heard the disciples speaking in his own language (Acts 2:6). This was surely the first instance of what Paul later described as the gift of interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10). In other words, the disciples were all speaking in indistinguishable tongues, and the Holy Spirit was giving the people in the crowd the ability to interpret what they heard. The text describes those who did not receive this interpretative gift as those who ‘made fun of them.’ To these people the disciples would seem to be babbling unintelligibly, as drunks sometimes do. Some people today take it a step further and claim that the disciples must have been staggering and laughing – drunk in the spirit. This is reading into the text what is not there. Even if they were, then this should not be the focus of attention, neither should it be the biblical reason for holding ‘spirit drinking parties’ and raising awkward and sometimes bizarre human responses to the level of ‘proofs’ of anointing.


All of the models I have presented imply a responsibility; this is particularly evident in the ‘battery’ (internal) model. Three of the many obligations are as follows:

Responsibility to minister responsibly.

If God has entrusted us with a deposit of spiritual energy, then we have a responsibility to minister that to others. If we fail to do this, then it will dissipate and will bring no glory to God.

We also have a obligation to minister responsibly. By that, I mean ministering in a way which honours God and is according to his kingdom values. It also means that we should be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and minister as and when he directs. It implies also that we should not seek our own benefit, neither should we seek anything in return.

The need for holiness

Sin limits our capacity to receive anointing. Holy living and thinking expands our capacity. If we want to minister powerfully to the glory of God, then we need to take seriously the call to holiness.

Corporate anointing

If all disciples of Jesus are capable of receiving an anointing, then we should not only ask for this, and minister this to others, but we should also seek, where possible, to minister together with other anointed believers. Believers who minister together, in faith, and with one mind, have a greater potential for good than one believer acting in isolation.

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Christopher Peppler

Christopher Peppler



1 thought on “The Holy Spirit and human responses and responsibility”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I am particularly interested in your last two posts on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

    I agree with the movings of the Spirit, but can’t find anything in the Bible that supported ‘laughing in the Spirit’ (and for that matter various other ‘manifestations’ of the Spirit). Would this perhaps fall into the category of fleshly manipulations of an albeit genuine move of the Spirit?

    Gregory Rogers

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.