Summary: Is fasting Biblical for the Church Age believer, especially the way so many Christians practice it?
FASTING - IS IT BIBLICAL FOR TODAY?
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SCRIPTURAL REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING FASTING:
In Matthew 6:16-17, Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they fasted in a way that showed everyone that they were doing it. Those Pharisees in Jesus’ time would "disfigure their faces" to accomplish this. For that reason, Jesus said that "they have received their reward in full", their reward being the attention of other people.
Today’s Pharisees do not "disfigure their faces", but have more clever ways that accomplish the same goal. They gain people’s attention by giving public fasting testimonies ("bragimonies" is a much better word), writing articles and books about their fasting experiences (this gets them not only attention, but money!!!), and holding organized fasting events (e.g. conferences, a church or national "day of fasting").
What does the Bible, particularly the New Testament passages to the Church, say about fasting?
1. Jesus stated that fasting is be a private matter between a believer and God. No one else should be aware that the believer is fasting.
Matt 6:16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (NIV)
Matt 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, (NIV)
Matt 6:18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)
2. In the gospels, Jesus Christ clearly states that He did not expect His disciples to fast. Jesus states that the "guests of the bridegroom" should not fast while the bridegroom (Christ) is with them, but that when the bridegroom is taken away from them, they will fast in those days.
Matt 9:14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" (NIV)
Matt 9:15 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. (NIV)
Mark 2:18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"
Mark 2:19 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. (NIV)
Mark 2:20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. (NIV)
Luke 5:33 They said to him, "John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." (NIV)
Luke 5:34 Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?
Luke 5:35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." (NIV)