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Hi Bryan,

Should Christians fast today?
If not, why not?
Why have many great church leaders not fasted?

Answer: Fasting was a Jewish custom which disappeared as the church became more Gentile.

So we would expect to find verses referring to fasting only in early NT books. And we do, Acts 10:30 (KJV) 13.2-3, 14:23 27:33 1 Cor.7:5 2 Cor.6:5, 11:27. Both Luke and Paul write during the transition period from Judaism to Christianity (AD.54) Acts is the account of that transition covering 30 years or so.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians, it's not as though the supernatural endowments given to the early church had ceased, instead there is an over lapping time period. Ten years later however Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and other letters indicate a change. They indicate that in order to establish believers in the faith, believers should know how to posses their vessel (body). And the call to holiness is to 'present your bodies a living sacrifice'. That is, a continual fast from the lusts of the world/flesh for only in Christ can believers receive and obtain a freedom from ritual law. Therefore Christians do not go without food, but strive for a continual fast. The principle is that "food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.' (1 Cor.8:8 LB)

The NT is not silent about this continual fast, one of devotion and discipline expected of Christians (Col.3:5). But ritual laws, feasts, Jewish holidays and ordinances are not expected as Christian duty. Paul warns about those trying to intertwine Jewish customs, laws, feasts and fasts into Christian practice (Col.2.12-23). He warns against false teachers who say that one displaying a strong devotion through feasts or fasts is holy, humble, and close to God. Paul can only see such ordinances as having no effect when it comes to conquering evil thoughts or desires but only foster pride."These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Col.3:23). So neglecting food in respect of a day or week was only a 'shadow of things to come' - past tense and past dispensation. Paul argues the 'body' belongs to Christ, it's not ours to practice even a 'voluntary humility' (2:18) we are not to neglect it (2:23) for we are not subject to ordinances (2:20) 'touch not, taste not' which seem spiritual having a show, yet primarily the doctrines (belief) and instructions of men (2:22).

The only fast acceptable to the Lord was one of total secrecy (without a public show). Christian devotion and discipline never consists of painful self-regulation and self-observation, but in the larger graces of Christian compassion and kindness to others. It never consists in the fulfilling of conditions for a more, fullness, or blessing not received in Christ, but by living by faith in Christ abounding in thanksgiving, walking in the Spirit. Paul warns about any practice or experience made necessary or presented for fullness, closeness, or special blessing before God beyond faith sealed in baptism (Gal.5.2-15). No matter how innocent, harmless even biblical the condition be. Blessings are not found in our strength to earn them (fasts) nor given as rewards, because we are dedicated enough (fast often), but only through God's will (1 Cor.12:11). If one seeks blessing or action from God, or nearness to God, then the command is not to fast "But in everything by prayer... let your requests be made known to God' (Ph.1:6-7).

Vigilant and passionate prayer is to be encouraged (Neh.1:4 Ps.35:13). Devotion without distraction for the sake of prayer is good, but to assume fasting for a period of time will some how force God's hand for a meritorious reward is misguided. In the NT prayer not fasting is the privilege duty as well as the healthful spiritual exercise of Spirit filled Christians "for bodily exercise profits little, but Godliness is profitable in all things" (1 Tim.4:8).

So Calvin wrote fasting"does not belong to the class of actions which God requires and approves" (Commentary on Mt.6:16-19). For passages like Mt.6:16-18 speak of the Jewish practice. The nature of Jewish fasts is seen in OT passages as Ps.109:24, Joel 2:12, Isa. 58:4, 2 Sam.12:21. Those insisting to fast is optional, or imperative, for Christians today should not overlook the 'sack-cloth and ashes', the 'weeping, mourning and torn garments'.

Kind regards,

on your special days when you fast, do you think this is what the Lord wants? (God says) ďI will tell you the kind of special day I want: Free the people you have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to whom you are unfair and stop their hard labor. Share your food with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your own homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours, and donít refuse to help your own relatives. Then your light will shine like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal" (Is 58:5ff).