by Randy White Ministries Sunday, May 15, 2022

Should Christians Fast

Fasting in the Old Testament

  • In the Old Testament, fasting is sometimes done, but never commanded.

    • The only command to fast comes from Esther the queen, who asks her people to fast for three days and night -- Esther 4:16.

  • Examples of Old Testament Fasting:

    • Judges 20:26 gives the first example of fasting in the Bible. It took place in the midst of“civil war" among the tribes, who were seeking wisdom from God.

    • 1 Samuel 7:6 -- the people of Israel repent and fast before the Lord for their disobedience, begging the Lord for the return of the ark of the covenant.

    • 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:12 -- Israel fasts at the death of King Saul.

    • 2 Samuel 12:16-23 -- David fasts for the life of his son by Bathsheba.

    • 1 Kings 21:27 -- Wicked King Ahab fasts when judgment is pronounced.

    • Ezra 8:21-23 -- Ezra proclaims a fast for the rebuilding of the Temple.

    • Nehemiah 1:4 -- Nehemiah fasts over the fallen state of Jerusalem.

    • Isaiah 58:1-8 -- The fasting of Israel is condemned by the Lord for a different kind of fasting.

    • Jeremiah 14:12 -- The Lord refuses to respond to sinful Israel's fasting.

  • One particularly insightful example:

    • Zechariah 7:5 --

      • The people were fasting in the fifth and seventh months.

      • The fifth month was likely the fasting in the month of Ab to remember the destruction of the Temple.

      • The seventh month was likely the Day of Atonement.

      • The Lord condemned their selfish fasting. Note the words when ye fasted for a New Testament connection.

  • Does the Torah prescribe any fasts?

    • Leviticus 16:29 interpreted by Ezra 8:21 and Isaiah 58:5 is the closest there is to a prescribed fast, on the Day of Atonement.

      Fasting in the Gospels

  • Matthew 4:3 -- Jesus fasted 40 days and night at the beginning of His ministry.

  • Matthew 6:16-18 -- Jesus taught that the Israelites should fast secretly.

    • The words when ye fast (v. 16) are likely the beginning of an allusion to Zechariah 7:5, and thus the traditional fasting of the fifth and seventh months.

  • Matthew 9:14-15 -- the disciples of Jesus were accused of not fasting. Jesus confirmed the accusation but said there would come a day when they would.

  • Matthew 17:21 -- The disciples were told that a particular kind of demon does not leave but by prayer and fasting.

  • Luke 2:37 -- Anna, the widow in the Temple, served God with fastings.

  • Luke 18:12 -- Jesus told a parable of a self-righteous Pharisee who fasted twice a week. It is difficult to know if there was intentional exaggeration or if the Pharisees had literally exaggerated fasting to twice weekly.

    Fasting in the Book of Acts

  • Acts 10:30 -- Cornelius was fasting when he received his vision concerning Peter.

  • Acts 13:2 -- The church at Antioch was fasting when the Lord separated Paul and Barnabas for ministry. See also Acts 14:23 for a similar event.

  • Acts 27:9 -- The fast is used as a term for the Day of Atonement.

    Fasting In the Epistles

  • 1 Corinthians 7:5 -- The only time Paul mentions fasting (save 2 Cor. 11:27, out of our context). In this singular mention it is not prohibited, not promoted, and not described in detail.

    Fasting In Contemporary Christian Discussion

  • Fasting is seen as a normative Christian discipline for many Christians today. It is presented as something that brings spiritual power, insight, and growth.

  • Fasting is often worked into a formula that is artificial.

    • Sometimes event based -- days of fasting before an event.

    • Sometimes calendar based -- days of fasting during lent.

    • Sometimes behaviorally based -- fasting for repentance over certain sins.

      Should christians Fast?

  • A Christian should never fast because they feel that the Bible requires it. There is no such requirement.

  • A Christian should not fast because their pastor or church demands it. Such a demand (whether direct or by implication) is not within their authority.

  • If a Christian fasts, it should be a highly personal time of enhanced spiritual journey. Few, if any, should know about it.

  • If a Christian fasts, it should be for:

    • The joy of spending time with God.

    • The joy of learning from His Word.

    • The heartfelt search for Biblical counsel.

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