What does the Bible say about manifestations of the Holy Spirit?
Are manifestations of the holy Spirit biblical? When you look around on the internet you can find many different opinions on this topic and everyone claims to be ‘biblical’ and telling the ‘truth’. But what is REALLY the truth and what does the Bible say about it?
Manifestations of the holy Spirit are occurring in tens of thousands of churches worldwide. It’s definitely not tied to a certain ministry, church or movement. It’s a phenomenon which has been seen throughout the church history. Many great revivals were marked with manifestations like laughing, crying, shaking, shouting, falling etc. Because of the odd appearances many people ask themselves the question: is this really of the holy Spirit? Is God doing this? Or is this an eveil spirit and is it pure deception by satan? Can you find manifestations of the holy Spirit in the Bible?
Jesus Christ warned us that there would be many false prophets and heretics. The apostle Paul specifically invokes the Christians not to trust any spirit, but to test the spirits.
So it is important to be vigilant and to examine from the source.
Thankfully Jesus Christ as well as the apostles and prophets have left clear advice on how to discern the spirits. The Bible contains various keys to help us intercept deception. Furthermore the Bible shows us that the holy Spirit wants to give us the gift of discernment. (1 Cor 12:10) God wants to protect us against every form of deception and wants to perfect us in spiritual discernment.
The question we ask ourselves is: how do you discern whether a manifestation is from the Spirit of God or from a demon?
What’s important to understand is that nowhere in the Bible it says that a manifestation is from a demon, just because it looks weird. Yes, manifestations can be perceived as weird, like someone suddenly falling backwards, bursting into laughter without visible obvious reason, starting to shake severely or start to cry intensely. But biblically seen we cannot label something as demonic just because it looks unusual. An important message in the Bible is rather that God judges things in a very different way than we do. Man is inclined to judge a verdict purely on the basis of what we superficially hear or see. But God sees much deeper.
God rebukes his own prophet Samuel because he judged on the basis of his human perception.
Samuel saw the sons of Isai and found that they physically met the criteria to become the next king of Israel. But God reproached Samuel and said:
‘You look at the outward appearance, but I LOOK AT THE HEART.’ (See 1 Samuel 16)
This is a distinguishing mark of us people: we are not used to look deeper than the superficial, visible and audible. What we tend to do too quickly is think: ‘It looks like this, so I am convinced that is such and such.’ This is however not a valid way to determine if a manifestation is from God or not. God’s word says:
‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Ephesians 6:12)
We live in a supernatural, invisible world which you cannot always identify with your human senses.
A demon can make a person sit down very pious, rigid, neatly and good, while the Spirit of God can liberate somebody from bonds and allows the person to freely laugh, cry, sheer and dance of joy. The man that is demonically bound can look very pious, fitting and smooth but his heart can be a source of bitter poison, judgement and slander. The person that laughs or cries loudly and starts to tremble with his whole body can be deeply filled with the love, truth and freedom of Jesus Christ. So you cannot know at first sight what is truly happening inside somebody’s heart.
You have to learn to look deeper than the outward. Otherwise you will be deceived by your own wrong judgement.
God says in the Bible that He functions on a very different level than our human way of thinking and making judgement:
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:9)
The danger of misinterpretation is clearly seen with the scribes, the ‘bible experts’ in the days of Jesus. They that taught the people about God and his word. They didn’t recognise Jesus Christ and accused Him to be a servant of the devil. They misjudged and became enemies of what God was doing in their midst. The same thing is happening today. People who have a lot of theoretical knowledge about the bible, name manifestations as demonic, just because it doesn’t fit in their thinking boxes. But that is not a biblical way of checking. This way you can severely misunderstand the Spirit of God like the bible experts did who lived in Jesus’ time.
Manifestations in the Bible
When you read the Bible, you will notice that God doesn’t work as fitting, controlled and safe as we want to make Him in our established, churches and meetings, controlled by people. God will always break through our limitations and astonishes man time after time. After a while you start wondering why He will never adjust to our traditions and habits.
God often does thing that are shocking, different, amazing and confusing. That is God’s hallmark.
He is indifferent to our need of control and ignores totally our human habits and sends his messengers in a way He chooses, free from the traditions of people. Prophets sometimes were feeling sick and perplexed after seeing a vision from God.
‘Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision.’ (Daniel 8:27)
Not only the prophetic visions would upset God’s prophets, the manifestations would be perplexing at times as well.
A Biblical example: King Saul was furious at David because the Spirit of God chose him to lead the people instead of himself. David had hidden himself in the house of the prophets. Three times Saul sent a group of soldiers to take David captive, but what happened? Every time the soldiers would approach the house of the prophets, the Spirit of God would come over them (against their will) and brought them into spiritual ecstasy. (Spiritual ecstasy is originally translated to prophecy)
‘Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied.’ (1 Samuel 19:20)
After sending a group of soldiers three times, who were brought into ecstasy every time (against their will) causing them to start to prophesize, Saul decided to go there himself. What happened there?
‘He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:23-24)
Some claim this manifestation was caused by the evil spirit of Saul but it states clearly in this bible passage that the spirit of God overpowered Saul, just like his soldiers.
Moreover Saul’s weird behaviour caused people to say: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” That is extremely bizarre and goes against everything we think about God who according to us would never let somebody prophecy for a whole night against his own will. That is not possible, is it? The Bible shows that God is not bothered by what we think is acceptable or not. God is God, we are not.
Another example from the Bible is that the Spirit of God forced Ezekiel to lie on the street for 390 days and had to eat food that was baked on faeces:
‘You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung.’ (Ezekiel 4:12)
The Bible is clear: God sometimes does extremely weird things.
Think about Jesus Christ who made mud of his saliva and rubbed it into the eyes of a blind man. ‘Gross! That can’t be from God? No, that is impossible. God isn’t that filthy! And yet it was Jesus Christ who did that. And the blind man was healed.
You can’t judge something solely on the basis on what it looks like.
God is infinitely much bigger and different than us humans and it speaks for itself that He can do things that break through our boundaries. Still people always want to limit God and create a safe zone where they are in control and not God. The truth is: if you really want to serve God, He will be your safety, and not your doctrines, not your tradition, not your controle, not your habits. God is your safety, even if He does inexplicable things.
That is why it is only truly possible to test manifestations if you live in deep surrender in the arms of God and if you are willing to let Him be who He is. If you want to put God in boxes from every angle, you will miss out on God. You will do exactly the same as the scribes did with Jesus: accusing God to be the devil.
Biblical guidelines to test manifestations
God wants to let us grow in wisdom and insight so we will become strong sons and daughters of Him. That is why the Bible gives us principles to test:
1. Look at the fruits of the tree
‘Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.’ (Matthew 12:33)
That is of the utmost importance. How do you know whether a manifestation is from God or from an evil spirit? Look at the fruit in the life of a person. What fruit does he bear? This also counts for a preacher: how is his life? What fruit does the preacher have in his life? That is the touchstone Jesus Christ gave to us and is therefore of great importance. Not the shape, the length, the colour or the scent of the tree is important, but it’s fruit. Are they bitter or are they healing?
2. Listen to the proclamation: is Jesus Christ proclaimed as Lord?
‘Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
3. Listen to the teaching: are they recognising that Jesus has come as a human?
‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:1-3)
4. Look at the lifestyle: is there holiness or perversion?
‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.’ (Jude 1:18-19)
5. Do they preach salvation through grace or being burdened by religious laws?
Paul warns for false teachers that preach the law instead of grace (Galatians and 1 Timothy) and reproaches them that place more importance to traditions than to the freedom that Christ brought.
‘See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ… Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. Things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.’ (Colossians 2:8, 16, 17)
Is everything that God does written in the Bible?
A widely heard misconception is: ‘If you can’t find it in the Bible it is not from God’. That is a claim you cannot uphold from the view of the Bible and is even contrary to the Bible. Because the Bible says that only a minimal fraction of what God has done has been recorded in the Bible. Speaking about Jesus’ ministry alone John writes in his gospel:
‘And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
Please ponder a little while about what is written here! If everything about the short ministry of Jesus alone would be recorded, the earth would not be able to contain all the books… It has been written down for a reason. The apostle John has written down this sentence by inspiration of the Spirit of God for a reason. It is to show us:
Jesus has done and said INFINITELY MORE than what is recorded on those few pages of a gospel.
And that is just talking about a three year ministry of one single person. How many planets in the universe could be filled with the numerous actions and words of God that have come to pass in the lives of the thousands of apostles and prophets throughout the thousands of years of mankind? Think about that for a moment…
In the Bible you see that there were groups of prophets with dozens and sometimes hundreds of prophets. (1 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 2:7) Those groups would sometimes walk around in public in ecstasy. (1 Samuel 10:5) In those groups of prophets you would also find women, like Isaiah’s wife. There is hardly any knowledge about those groups, other than that when Saul and his soldiers would even approach the house they would already get into a trance!
Jesus sent out hundreds of followers to resurrect the dead, cast out demons and heal the sick everywhere they would go. What do you think they have experienced? There is not mention of it.
Reality is that there is very little documentation of what God did.
Only a couple of important miracles or words are written down but the majority is not recorded. It would be great foolishness to state that everything that God would be allowed to do in all eternity would have to be mentioned in the Bible. That would be an absurd limitation of Him that is eternal and almighty.
The depths of Gods wisdom are too rich to be contained by the universe, let alone that all of his insights, all his actions, all his emotions and all his plans would be contained in one single book. Yes it is true that the core of everything that God does will be in agreement with what is already written down in the Bible. God will not contradict Himself. If He does or say something that is not yet in the Bible, it will definitely be in agreement with what is already written down.
God can draw new light to how we interpret his words and can reveal a more accurate insight through the holy Spirit who leads us in complete truth.
But that will just be a clarification and definitely not a contradiction or invalidation of what God has said previously. The Bible is the basis to test but not a checklist. The difference is very big. Something doesn’t necessarily have to be in the Bible but the spirit of it needs to be in agreement with the Bible.
Are you serving God or your tradition?
Many Christians compare their INTERPRETATION to the words of God in the Bible and that is a grave mistake. People will often say ‘I verify this with the Bible’ but what they are doing in reality is testing it to their interpretation of the Bible. That is a world of difference. Because the view we have when reading the Bible can really cloud our vision of God.
That is why our intimate relationship with God is of the utmost importance. An important key to learn wisdom is to have deep awe for God and always be willing to be corrected and taught by Him.
The problem with Christians nowadays is that we lean more on human traditions and doctrines than on Jesus Christ himself.
We are looking at Him from a certain point of view and test God himself through our human traditions instead of allowing us to be changed by God. Deep surrender to God, letting go of everything we think to know and truly wanting to know Him aside from all human doctrines and interpretation, is the key to get to know Him in a much deeper and richer way.
That why Jesus Christ didn’t say ‘Go and read a lot in the holy scriptures, through which you will reach perfection’. No, He said to his disciples:
‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.’ (John 16:13)
But to the scribes Jesus said:
‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:39, 40)
That shows that the only fruitful way to read the Bible is in deep surrender to the Spirit of God.
Studying the scriptures without Him will cause us to interpret everything humanly and wrong and will not recognise Jesus when He comes in our midst in a powerful way.
Discernment of spirits
God has given us a supernatural gift to discern the evil spirits from the Spirit of God. This gift is something else than many think it is. Discernment has nothing to do with fear of the supernatural or aversion to anything that is unfamiliar to us. Discernment is a gift of the Spirit of God which enables that person to see, to taste, to feel whether a spirit is pure or from the darkness. This gift exceeds your mind and your human perception.
It is a weapon of the Spirit and has nothing to do with your personal human opinion.
True discernment is completely different from being negative about anything that is different and you do not understand. I know very few people that have true spiritual discernment. Most people who claim to have it, judge in a human, earthly and basically satanic way because the Bible says that eartly truth is satanic!
‘This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. (James 3:15)
Test yourself first
It is extremely grave to accuse a person, who lays down his life to proclaim Jesus Christ, of being a false prophet or false teacher. It is very sad to see how easy people broadcast an accusation like that.
It is striking that many people who criticize preachers never or rarely bring people to Jesus Christ.
If you state that someone is used by satan, relect first and foremost: Do I bear more fruit than that preacher? Do I bring more people to Jesus Christ? Do I see more people being freed from demons? How many orphanages have I founded? What impact do I have on a city or country with the gospel? If you honestly think about those questions it will help you to be more careful with throwing stones at ministries.
Heidi and Rolland Baker have founded thousands of new churches in Mozambique and bring hundreds of thousands of people to Jesus.
Their works are marked by numerous miracles of healing. They often see that all the deaf people in a village are healed! Blind regain vision, cripples are healed etc. But when Heidi and Rolland pray for people there are sometimes manifestations of laughing, shaking, falling, shouting etc. Is that a demon? Test it in a biblical way: look at the fruits. Heidi and Rolland have one of the most fruitful ministries on earth. They live among the poorest and have seen more than hundred deceased resurrected. Food has been multiplied several times in moments of need. Hundreds of thousands of people have dedicated their life to Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is truly abundantly at work in their midst.
There was a moment where God took Heidi Baker to several villages and everywhere there would be a blind woman for whom they had to pray for healing. To her surprise al those blind women were called HEIDI just like her. Heidi was astonished and prayed: ‘Lord, what do You want to tell me?’ Then Jesus told her ‘You are blind, Heidi! You are blind for the needs of the rich Western world!’ Subsequently Jesus sent her as preacher to the Western world where she has been speaking at many conferences. God is touching millions of people with a deeper hunger and dedication to Jesus, to bring his love to the world.
Impressive story. But when Heidi prays for people, many times there will be manifestations. Is that a reason to say she is a servant of satan? Especially if you know she bears thousand times more fruit than you in God’s kingdom?
Testing begins with ourselves
If you want to test others, can you examine yourself as well: how deep is your cry for MORE of God? How great is your freedom to express yourself towards God? Can you dance freely before God, just like David did when the arc (symbol of God’s presence) was returned to Jerusalem? How scared are you of the power of God? How much experience do you have with it? How many demons do you cast out? How many miracles do you see happening by the hand of God? How many people have you raised from the dead? Have you ever prayed for a deceased person? Or is your faith not big enough for that?
Those are all honest questions you should be able to ask yourself before accusing someone who DOES have all these godly fruits.
What does your own life REALLY look like?
We are invoked to be vigilant and to test the spirits. But firstly we have to dare ask the question: ‘What spirits are urging me to always speak and write negatively about people that bear much more fruit for Jesus than me?’ It is important to get rid of the beam out of our own eye before we claim to want to remove a splinter from our neighbour’s eye.
Fear is not the basis for verification
Characterising for many people is to be suspicious of anything that is different and unknown. That is not the working of Gods Spirit in us, that is just our human weakness: we are afraid of that what we do not understand. A lot or criticism of manifestations and falling in the Spirit is nothing more than fear of the unknown, incomprehensible and uncontrollable of God.
Criticism as a result of fear is not a biblical test
If we want to go deeper with God it is important that we give our fear in his hands and trust in Him that died for us and leads and protects us. Many Christians have more faith in the ability of satan to deceive them than they have faith in the ability of God to lead them. The key to go deeper is to let go of your control. Do you dare to let go of everything and trust solely your heavenly Father.
Many times criticism is jealousy in disguise
Many who criticize others do that out of jealousy. People can’t stand it that someone else is on stage, appears on TV, is richly blessed and brought by God to places they themselves cannot reach. They are jealous and can’t be happy for the other person so they attack them. In these matters it is also very important to examine our hearts thoroughly.
Immaturity is not demonic
Every servant of God is on his way to perfection. That means that that person, just like you, has got a lot to learn and makes mistakes. Only in his case, those mistakes will be magnified by the critics, who sometimes secretly live in much more sin.
We all make mistakes and the Father forgives manifold. Many times someone who makes a mistake is being slandered, but his or her heart is good. A few years later you notice this person has grown and has received more wisdom and maturity by then. The question is: have those who have slandered them also grown towards spiritual maturity? Or are they stuck in childishly and ungodly smudging of other?
God is always critized by religion
Learn how to test in a way the Bible shows us and not from earthly, human or even demonic motives. Be very, very careful with statements like ‘that is a false prophet’ or ‘that is from the devil!’ Because the Bible shows that many have claimed that something or somebody was of the devil, while it was in fact God!
It’s a historic fact that every movement of the Spirit of God has always been persecuted by religious leaders. Even Jesus was murdered by the religious leaders!
To have discernment you have to know for yourself if you are living pure for and with Jesus, if you really hear his voice, you have to be willing to examine what the hidden reason for your criticism is.
Is it fear for the unknown? Fear of letting go of your control? Fear of the power of God? Are you jealous because the other is being used by God is such a way and you are not? Whatever it is, you have to be willing to go through a deep journey of purity and honesty in your own heart. So we have to dive into our own bosom first, stand in the full light of Jesus and go through the refining fire. And that is when you can start seeing.
Trust in your Father
Jesus comforted us 2,000 years ago that if someone asks for the holy Spirit, they will never receive a demon:
‘Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13)
This statement of Jesus Christ can help us to trust in God’s protection and help. Jesus also said:
‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.’ (John 16:13)
God is with us and will never deceive those who are looking for the truth.
Conclusion: how do you test manifestations?
Testing is important but not on the basis of the outer characteristics. Is a manifestation of a demon or from the Spirit of God? It will be pointed out when you listen to the confession, when you look at the fruits, when you look at the lifestyle, if somebody is lying or speaking the truth etc. And above all: by living with the Holy Spirit in deep and intimate surrender. Because the better you learn how to hear the voice of Jesus the better you will be able to discern the false one.