A Theology of Fasting: part three

We are looking at what the Bible teaches about fasting.

Emphasis on Bible.

It’s possible to fast and not accomplish any spiritual good. How we fast must be directed by the Scriptures.

Fortunately, we have material to work with.

In God’s Word we do find many examples of fasting.

Now, note the word examples.

Because we don’t actually find many commands. Actually, I am not sure that we find really any.

The closest is found in Leviticus 16 where Moses is describing the Day of Atonement and he says in verse 31, “It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute for ever” which, isn’t technically a command to fast, but to humble or afflict oneself, and yet, the Israelites over time interpreted that as a command to fast, and so they fasted on this day every year, and yet you know, obviously even if the Day of Atonement was a day where God’s people were commanded to fast, we are now living after the cross, which means this Day of Atonement has been fulfilled in Jesus, and so we are not subject to its rules and regulations in the same way any longer as believers and so we really can’t say that there is any clear section of Scripture, where God says you have to do this, you have to fast and yet, we do find all kinds of examples of fasting throughout the Old and New Testament.    

Now, I don’t think that means we shouldn’t fast. I actually think there are times when we should fast, but I do think it means, that we need to be a little careful how we speak about fasting.  Because, while we are clearly commanded to do things like pray and give thanks and sing songs and while again, I think that fasting is good and helpful, the fact that we are not clearly commanded to fast anywhere in Scripture seems to tell us, that we need to be careful not to say things about it that the Scripture doesn’t, like, fasting is the key to the Christian life or to make people feel like, if they aren’t routinely fasting, they are huge spiritual hypocrites.

Because that’s too strong of language, especially considering, once we get out of the gospels and Acts, we don’t find any discussion of fasting in the letters the apostles were writing to instruct the churches.

The closest we get to an actual command to fast in the New Testament comes from Jesus in one of the two places he talks about fasting, and both interestingly enough are in response to wrong ideas about it, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6 specifically, verse 16 through 18, Jesus says, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others” and we’ll come back to this, but the thing to see for now, is just that Jesus says when you fast, assuming of course, that his followers will fast, which means, it’s possible to overemphasize fasting, but at the same time, we should not speak or act as if it doesn’t have any place in the Christian life, because it clearly does, Jesus assumes we are going to fast and there are many examples of fasting all throughout the Scriptures.

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