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                               "FASTING"

                      Fasting In The New Testament

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson, we examined the subject of "Fasting In The
   Old Testament".

2. Here is what we found:
   a. Only one fast was specifically commanded in the 0. T. (on the
      Day of Atonement)
   b. But people often fasted when they wanted God to hear their
      prayers:
      1) In times of war or at the threat of it
      2) When loved ones were sick
      3) When seeking God's forgiveness
      4) When faced with impending danger
      5) When seeking God's will
   c. The purpose of such fasting:
      1) To humble themselves by "afflicting their souls"
      2) Believing that such humiliation would be pleasing in God's
         sight (and it often was)
   d. However, fasting was fruitless when:
      1) It was gone ceremonially
      2) It was done without true repentance
   e. There were also no set principles governing the length or nature
      of fasting

3. We shall now examine "Fasting In The New Testament", as taught and
   exemplified by:
   a. Jesus
   b. His church
   c. The apostle Paul
   ...in an effort to determine whether Christians can or should fast
      today!

[We begin by considering...]

I. FASTING IN THE LIFE OF JESUS

   A. JESUS FASTED FORTY DAYS IN THE WILDERNESS - Mt 4:1-9; Lk 4:1-2
      1. He was led into the wilderness "to be tempted" (Mt)
      2. He was "tempted for forty days by the devil" (Lk)
      3. "in those days He ate nothing" (Lk)
      -- Throughout this forty day period of temptation, Jesus felt it
         appropriate to fast

   B. JESUS TAUGHT ON FASTING IN HIS "SERMON ON THE MOUNT" - Mt 6:16-18
      1. Jesus said "when", not "if"; assuming his disciples WOULD fast
      2. When done properly a person would be rewarded by the Father...
         a. Suggesting that fasting was like prayer and giving alms
         b. I.e., an act of righteousness done to please the Father
      -- Fasting appears to have a place in the righteousness expected
         of those who would be citizens of the kingdom of heaven

   C. WHEN QUESTIONED BY JOHN'S DISCIPLES - Mt 9:14-17 (Mk 2:18-20;
      Lk 5:33-39)
      1. Jesus described a time when his disciples would fast
      2. But it is inappropriate to fast when the occasion does not
         call for it
      -- Fasting would have a place in the disciples' lives, but only
         on appropriate occasions (not as a ceremonial rite)

   D. THE COMBINED POWER OF PRAYER AND FASTING - Mt 17:14-21 (Mk 9:
      14-29)
      1. There are times when faith alone is not enough
      2. At these times prayer joined with fasting is necessary
      -- Fasting joined with prayer may accomplish things which normal
         faith may not

[Now let's take a look at...]

II. FASTING IN THE LORD'S CHURCH

   A. THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH - Ac 13:1-3
      1. They were fasting as a group while ministering to the Lord
      2. They fasted and prayed in preparation to sending out Barnabas
         and Saul
      -- Fasting, when accompanied with prayer, can done as a group
         when involved in serving the Lord

   B. THE CHURCHES IN GALATIA - Ac 14:21-23
      1. Again, an example of fasting and prayer as a group; this time,
         in conjunction with the serious task of appointing elders
      2. Notice that this was done "in every church"
         a. Not just in one or two churches
         b. Not just in what might be consider "Jewish" churches where
            fasting might be considered "just a Jewish custom"
      -- Again, fasting can be a group activity in the work of a local
         church

[Now let's examine...]

III. FASTING IN THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

   A. FASTING WAS A MARK OF HIS MINISTRY...
      1. We have already noticed where he fasted with several churches
      2. But notice also:
         a. 2Co 6:4-10 (cf. verse 5)
         b. 2Co 11:23-28 (cf. verse 27 where fasting is mentioned
            separately from normal hunger and thirst)
      -- In both of these passages, Paul mentioned fasting as a mark of
         his ministry and of his good standing as a minister of Christ!

   B. HE ALSO TAUGHT THAT FASTING MIGHT HAVE A PLACE IN THE LIVES OF
      OTHERS...
      1. Cf. 1Co 7:5
      2. The only time husbands and wives may deprive one another is
         when by consent they devote themselves to fasting and prayer
         for a specific period of time

CONCLUSION

1. Though not actually Christians at the time, we also have other
   examples of those who fasted and were blessed by God...
   a. Anna - Lk 2:36-38
   b. Saul - Ac 9:9
   c. Cornelius - Ac 10:30-31

2. As a summary, then, here is what we have seen in this study:
   a. That our Lord fasted in time of temptation
   b. That He taught His disciples about fasting on several occasions
   c. That He foretold of a time in which His disciples would fast
   d. That there are times when the combination of fasting and prayer
      might be more efficacious than prayer alone
   e. That the early church fasted in their service to the Lord
   f. That Paul regarded fasting as a mark of his ministry
   g. That prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, utilized whenever
      there was a strong desire for God's blessing and guidance
   -- In view of such things, I can only conclude that fast does indeed
      have a place in the lives of Christians today

In our third and final lesson on this subject, we will consider some
thoughts concerning the WHY, WHEN, and HOW of fasting, as found in the
New Testament.
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