Serving an international readership with the Old Jerusalem Gospel via the Internet.
Home | Current Issue | Archives | Lauds | Links | churches of Christ
Plan of Salvation | Correspondence Course | Daily Bible Reading | Contact Us

 Vol. 6, No. 3 

March 2004

~ Page 9 ~

What About Fasting

By Wayne Jackson

What is fasting and what does the Bible teach about this practice? Is it in any way for Christians today?

Fasting, in biblical sense, is abstaining from food and/or drink for a spiritual reason. In the Old Testament era the Jews fasted frequently, though there was only one fast commanded by the Law. Once each year on the Day of Atonement, the Hebrews were to "afflict" their souls (Leviticus 16: 31), which meant fasting (Isaiah 58:3). There are no compulsory fasts required on Christians today, yet the New Testament takes for granted the fact that children of God would occasionally see the need to fast.

When the Lord's disciples were criticized for not fasting, Jesus responded by suggesting that it was hardly appropriate for them to fast while he was yet with them. The time would come, however, when he would be taken away, and then they would fast (Luke 5:35). In cautioning against improper motivation in worship Christ warned: "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites..." (Matthew 6:16). It is significant that the Lord did not say "if," but rather, "When ye fast," reflecting the expectation that they would fast. Fasting for the Christian is strictly a voluntary matter. It should arise, as R.C. Foster observes, "out of the heart and should not be imposed on the body my mere external custom." A careful study of the biblical data concerning this practice can be of considerable profit.

Occasions for Fasting

Fasting may be of value in times of personal sorrow. David and his men mourned and fasted upon hearing of the death of Saul (2 Samuel 1:12), and Nehemiah did similarly when he was informed of Jerusalem's ravaged condition (Nehemiah 1:4). Fasting and prayer would certainly seem to be fitting when a loved one is sorely ill (2 Samuel 12:16).

Fasting frequently accompanied repentance as an outward and genuine indication of sorrow for apostasy (2 Samuel 7:6). The people of Nineveh proclaimed a fast when brought to recognition of their sins (Jonah 3:5).

 Fasting was practiced in connection with great and important spiritual events. Moses fasted during the period he was receiving the Law (Exodus 34:28). Our Savior felt the need to fast prior to his great encounter with Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2). The church at Antioch fasted just before they sent forth Barnabas and Saul on that perilous first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3). Fasting was observed in connection with the solemn task of appointing elders to oversee the flock of God (Acts 14:23). And fasting was obviously a vital ingredient in the dynamic ministry of the tireless Paul (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27).

Abuse of Fasting

The practice of fasting can certainly be abused and the Bible warns against such. First, fasting can never serve as a substitute for personal godliness. Isaiah delivers a blistering rebuke to those who would fast and then go about their own pleasure (Isaiah 58.) Second, fasting must not be used as an occasion for putting on religious airs. Christ prohibits such on the part of his followers (Matthew 6:16-18). Third, one must be on guard lest his fasting cause him to develop a sense of smugness and self-righteousness (Luke 18.9-14).

Benefits of Fasting

There seems to be several benefits derived from proper fasting. (1) General indication in Scripture suggests that God recognizes fasting as a token of deep sincerity, and thus he honors such. (2) Physicians contend that moderate fasting is a boon to the health, having the effect of allowing our systems to occasionally cleanse themselves. (3) The mind is able to plumb greater depths of concentration during fasting. (4) Fasting helps us hone a keener edge on the self-discipline we all so desperately need. (5) Finally, by way of the contrast it imposes, fasting reinforces our appreciation for the abundance of good things with which we have been so graciously blessed. Most members of the body of Christ have doubtless deprived themselves of a storehouse of strength by neglecting to occasionally fast.

"The drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty" (Proverbs23:21)Image

Go to Page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

Conditions of Use