The Biblical Doctrine Of Fasting
1. Probably very few of us seldom if ever fast.
2. Fasting has become a very emotional issue for a lot of people and often carried to extremes.
a. Some demand that we should fast.
b. Others don’t want anyone telling them how to eat.
c. And others don’t want to be worried with more non-essentials.
3. The list of people who have fasted is a virtual “Who’s Who” of Scripture.
a. Moses e. Daniel
b. David f. Anna
c. Elijah g. Jesus
d. Esther h. Paul
4. There was not a single book published on the subject of fasting among our brethren from 1861 to 1954…yet we proclaim we want to restore N.T. Christianity.
5. Let’s take a cursory look at fasting throughout the Bible and draw some conclusions.
I. Fasting In The Old Testament
A. The “Day of Atonement” was the only fast that was commanded by the Law (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7).
1. Though not called “fasting,” the phrase “afflicting one’s soul” was used.
2. Thus, fasting was more than a physical exercise, but had a spiritual purpose.
B. Other times when fasting occurred in the Old Testament.
1. Fasted in times of war or threat of war (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6).
2. Fasted when loved ones were sick (2 Samuel 12:16-23).
3. Fasted for their enemies (Psalm 35:11-13).
4. Fasted when loved ones died (1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12).
5. Fasted when seeking God’s pardon (Deut. 9:15-18; 1 Kings 21:17-29; Jonah 9:4-10).
6. Fasted when facing danger (Ezra 8:21; Esther 4:3, 4:16).
7. Fasted to commemorate certain calamities (Jeremiah 52:12-13; 2 Kings 25:2325; Jeremiah 41; 2 Kings 25:1, 3-4).
II. Fasting In The New Testament
A. Fasting and Jesus.
1. Jesus fasted forty days (Matthew 4:1-9; Luke 4:1-2).
2. Jesus taught about fasting in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:16-18).
3. Jesus was questioned about it by John’s disciples (Matthew 9:14-17).
4. Jesus taught of a combined power of prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:14-21).
B. Fasting and the Church.
1. The church at Antioch fasted (Acts 13:1-3).
2. The churches of Galatia fasted (Acts 14:21-23).
3. The apostles fasted (1 Corinthians 6:1-10).
4. Paul often fasted (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
5. Married couples may find need for fasting (1 Corinthians 7:5).
III. The Purpose Of Fasting
A. Some fasting was the natural reaction to grief.
B. But more often, fasting was done to purposely “afflict the soul.”
C. The purpose of this affliction was to “humble” the soul (Psalm 35:13).
D. Evidently, they felt that by so humbling themselves, the would more likely secure God’s favor and blesssings (Ezra 8:21-23; Isaiah 57:15; 66:1-2).
IV. The Nature Of Fasting
A. The usual form of fasting was to abstain from all food, but not water.
B. Sometimes a fast was partial, restricting the diet, but not total abstention (Daniel 10:23).
C. Sometimes a fast was absolute, included water (Jonah 3:5-10; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9).
V. The Length Of Fasting
A. One day [Sunrise to sunset] (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12; 3:35).
B. Three days (Esther 4:16).
C. Seven days (1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12).
D. Forty days (Exodus. 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8; Matthew 4:2).
VI. Warnings Concerning Fasting
A. It can turn into an empty ritual (Isaiah 58:3-9).
B. It can be turned into a show (Matthew 6:16-18).
VII. Summary Of Thoughts On Fasting
A. Should Christians fast today?
1. Yes, but not the difference in “should” and “must.”
2. Jesus assumed that his disciples would fast (Matthew 9:14-15).
3. We should fast because Jesus expected us to and the N.T. church practiced it.
B. Why Should Christians fast?
1. There are times when we need divine help (temptation, illness, beginning anew work, appointing elders, in times of war, seeking forgiveness).
C. How Should Christians fast?
1. Not to be seen of men (Matthew 6:16-18).
2. Not as some regular ritual (Matthew 9:14-17).
3. Not without true repentance (Isaiah 58:3-9).
1. Fasting is not a church ordinance, but rather it is a private matter.
2. The church can be called to fast; but the choice is yours.
3. Jesus expects you to fast; but the choice is yours.
4. Fasting…the choice is yours.