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)
3. The believer during the Church Age is indwelt by Jesus Christ Himself, is positionally in permanent union with Christ, and is part of the body of Christ, His Church. Believers are not "guests of the bridegroom", but are the Bride of Christ, His Church. Therefore, the prophecy that "when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast" can not apply to believers in the Church, since the bridegroom is not taken from us. It can only apply to believers during the Age of Israel, which is before Pentecost and after the Rapture.
Col 1:27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NIV)
Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
1 Cor 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (NIV)
4. After a few occurrences in the Book Of Acts, there is no mention of fasting by any New Testament writer. It is not required nor even recommended. The King James Bible translation of (2 Cor. 6:5 and 11:27) inaccurately uses the English word "fastings" to refer to the Apostle Paul’s description in the Greek of "hunger". Another inaccurate translation in the King James includes the word "fasting" in (1 Cor. 7:5), when this word is not found in earlier more reliable manuscripts.
5. Even if fasting were a valid function for a believer in the Church today, which the Bible clearly shows it is not, many believers would still be in violation of clear Scriptural mandates by: