Some of the questions that arise when contemplating the question of fasting.
Is fasting commanded in the Bible?
Is fasting something that all Christians should or should not do?
If fasting is recommended, when or why should we fast?
What is the object of fasting?
The first thing to realise, as Christians is, that we are not under law. When someone is born again of the Spirit of God, they are set free from the law.
We have been set free from sin by the Son of God who said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)
The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Galatians, spoke of true freedom in Christ.
Galatians 5: 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.
In this particular case, Paul was addressing circumcision but it applies to other things also, concerning the laws of Judaism.
Gal 2 Take notice: I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
3 Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.…
Also speaking to the Colossians.
Colossians 2:16-23 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21 Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will, worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Christian fasting isn't some kind of a "work" that's commanded by Christ or required by Scripture.
If any one says to us as Christians, “you must do this or you should do that”,
You must be circumcised, you must not eat this food or that food, you must not drink this or that, even things like you must go to church or you must attend Bible study or prayer meetings, you must read your Bible every day or you must give ten per cent of your earnings or as we are considering, you must fast and pray.
Christians can be put under pressure to keep certain days or keep certain traditions. It is no different than putting someone under the law.
All these things in themselves may be good things for a Christian to do but they should never be imposed on people. If they are imposed, they can become a law and when that law is broken, it brings with it guilt and condemnation.
It is then that Christians can feel like failures or even like second class Christians.
All these things should be of the heart and not of law.
Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
In Bible times, fasting was acceptable to God when it was done with the right motive. But when it was done for the wrong reasons, it brought God’s disfavour. However, the Bible neither commands nor forbids fasting for people today.
So, the question is, is fasting for all Christians?
Each one must answer that question for themselves.
Fasting is certainly not condemned in scripture, but neither is it commanded.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
He also said in Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.
Furthermore Jesus words are recorded in 1 Cor 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Nowhere in these verses does it imply that Christians are obligated to do these things but when you do them, do it for the correct reasons.
When ever you do these things, do them for the right reasons.
When we become Christians, we become part of the Body of Christ and we are individual members of His body.
Each with our own function.
Ephesians 4:11,12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Rom 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
Rom 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Rom 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Rom 12:7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Rom 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
There are multiple ministries in the Body of Christ, just like there are multiple members of the physical body.
Administration, apostle, discernment, prayer, evangelism, exhortation, benevolence/caring, counselling, shepherding, speaking, teaching, worship, faith, giving, healing, helps, hospitality, knowledge, leadership, mercy.
We are all different and God gives grace to each one to exercise their particular ministry.
There are those that devote themselves to prayer and fasting, there are those that devote themselves to teaching or preaching, hospitality or helping.
If God gives grace to someone to be generous with their finances or talents, each should do it with a willing spirit and do it quietly.
We are not to boast about what we do in the name of Christ.
Matthew 6:3 “When you give … do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”
Jesus here, is talking about works before men.
Matt 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
In the same way that a body has many different members and each one has its own use.
So it is with the body of Christ.
There are members that can be seen. There are also members that are unseen.
So it is with ministry and function. Whatever God calls us to do, we should do it with a glad heart, it is not for mans praise or our own glory but it is done for the glory of God.
1 Cor 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Col 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
So, if you are a Christian that is persuaded that fasting is for you. Then do it with a glad heart and do it unto God and not unto men.
What are some reasons to fast?
The Book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions.
Acts 14:23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Fasting and prayer are often linked together
Luke 2:37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Luke 5:33 Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”
However, the purpose of fasting is to take our eyes off the things of this world and instead focus on God.
Anything you can temporarily give up in order to better focus on God can be considered a fast.
The Apostle Paul referred to refraining from marital intimacy to be considered fasting.
1Co 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
Fasting is not intended to punish our flesh, but to focus on God.
Christian fasting is not a "dieting method". We shouldn't fast to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Yes, anyone can fast.
However, some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example), but everyone can temporarily give up something in order to focus on God.
Neither is fasting a means of twisting God’s arm to get what we want.
Fasting is not required in Scripture, but could be seen as profitable.
I remember years ago, I decided that I would go to pray every morning at 6 am and read a Psalm. I went to the vestry of the church where I was serving as a deacon. I went every day for a year.
This could be considered a fast, for normally I would have slept in until 7am. I gave up that hour to concentrate on the scriptures and to pray.
Daniel did a partial fast, based on Daniel 10:2-3 in the Bible, in which Daniel says he fasted for three weeks. During the fasting period, only certain foods are eaten. ... The purpose of the Daniel Fast is to deprive the body from eating certain foods as a way to get closer to God.
To concentrate ones mind on the things of God.
Dan 10:3 I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
So fasting in different ways could it be profitable. When seeking help and guidance from God.
Ezra 8:21-23 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Paul and Barnabas at times chose to fast when appointing congregation elders.
Act 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
When focusing on God’s purpose. After his baptism, Jesus fasted for 40 days to prepare himself to do God’s will during his coming ministry.
Luk 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Luk 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
When demonstrating repentance over past sins.
Through the prophet Joel, God told unfaithful Israelites: “Return to me with all your hearts, with fasting and weeping and wailing.”
Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Wrong motives for fasting?
If it is done impress others. Jesus taught that religious fasting should be a personal and private matter between an individual and God.
Mat 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Mat 6:17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
Mat 6:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
If it is done to prove oneself righteous.
Fasting does not make a person morally or spiritually superior.
Luk 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Luk 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
Luk 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Luk 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
If it is to try to compensate for a deliberate practice of sin.
God accepted only fasts that were accompanied by obedience and by heartfelt repentance for any sins committed.
Isaiah 58: 3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?' "In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.
If it is out of religious formality. In this respect, God is like a parent who is displeased when his children express love for him merely out of obligation, not from the heart.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bullrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Is fasting required for all Christians?
The answer is No.
God required the Israelites to fast on Atonement Day, but he eliminated that observance after Jesus permanently atoned for the sins of repentant people.
Heb 9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
1Pe 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, of which Atonement Day was a part.
Rom 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Therefore, each Christian should decide for themselves whether to fast.
There is no condemnation if you don't.
Christians should never judge each other on what they do, whether it is to eat or drink certain things, whether they go here or there.
Whatever we do should be done unto the Lord.
Rom 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Rom 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Rom 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Rom 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Rom 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Rom 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
Rom 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
Rom 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
Rom 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
Rom 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Rom 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
Rom 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.