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THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS

 

Fasting

Matthew 6:16-18

Victor M. Eskew

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A.      There are some Biblical subjects about which we are well-informed.  There are others that we know little about.

 

B.      Fasting is a subject that does not get very much attention.

 

C.      The first time the word is used in the KJV is in II Samuel 12:16.

 

David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.

 

D.     Jesus spoke on the subject of fasting on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:16-18).

 

Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance:  for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  But, thou when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret:  and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

 

1.       Fasting was a common practice among the Jews.

a.       They had four annual fasts that commemorated four different events.

1)      The attack on Jerusalem (Zech. 8:19)

2)      The capture of Jerusalem (Jer. 52:7)

3)      The burning of the temple (Zech. 7:3)

4)      The death of Gedaliah (Jer. 41:4)

b.       They had occasional fasts.

c.        They had weekly fasts (Luke 18:12)

2.       The religious leaders of Jesus’ day took every opportunity to display their “practice of religion” before others.

a.       Alms (Matt. 6:1-4)

b.       Prayer (Matt. 6:5-8)

c.        Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)

3.       Jesus confronts their hypocrisy and gives instructions about “how” to do one’s fasting (Matt. 6:17-18a).

 

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast…

 

I.                   A PRETEND RELIGION

 

A.      The word “pretense” means:

1.       Pretending or feigning

2.       A false show of something

3.       Insincere or false profession

 

B.      Many of the leaders of Jesus’ day were pretenders, hypocrites.  When fasting, they would:

1.       Be of a sad countenance:  displayed their sorrow that caused their fast

2.       Disfigure their faces – mix their tears with ashes and wiped their faces

 

C.      Jesus’ contrast

1.       Hypocrite                           1.         Sincere practitioner

2.       Pretend actions                  2.         Approved actions

3.       Audience – men                  3.         Audience – God

4.       Applause of man                4.         Applause of God

D.     Lessons

1.       Mere outward display in religion is not all that matters to God.

2.       God knows why we are doing what we are doing.

3.       We are either genuine or a pretender.

4.       A good question to always ask is:  “Whose approval am I seeking?”

5.       What impresses man may not impress God.

 

II.                NEW TESTAMENT TEACHINGS ON FASTING

 

A.      Fast (Matt. 6:16, 18; 9:14, 15, Mark 2:18, 19, 20; Luke 5:33, 34, 35; 18:12; Acts 27:9)

 

B.      Fasted (Matt. 4:2; Acts 13:2-3)

 

C.      Fastest (Matt. 6:17)

 

D.     Fasting (Matt. 15:32; 17:21; Mark 8:3; 9:29; Acts 10:30; 14:23; 17:33; I Cor. 7:5)

 

III.             DEFINITION OF FASTING

 

A.      Old Testament

1.       Strong (6684):  to cover over (the mouth), that is, fast

2.       BDB:  to abstain from food

 

B.      New Testament

1.       Literally:  not eating

2.       Strong (3522):  to abstain from food

3.       Thayer:  to abstain from food as a religious exercise from food and drink:  either entirely, if the fast lasted but a single day, or from customary and choice nourishment, if it continued several days

 

IV.              TYPES OF FASTING

 

A.      Circumstantial fasting

1.       There are times when the circumstances of life cause us to fast either intentionally or unintentionally.

2.       Bible examples:

a.       Multitudes who heard Jesus teach (Matt. 15:32)

b.       Men on the ship with Paul in the storm (Acts 27:33)

3.       Common examples:

a.       Times of grief

b.       Times of sickness

c.        Times of busy-ness

 

B.      Regular fast

1.       Refrain from food, but may drink juice or water

2.       Examples:

a.       Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2)

b.       Elijah in his flight from Jezebel (I King 19:8)

 

C.      Partial fast

1.       This is when one abstains from certain types of food or drink

2.       Some have referred to this as a “Daniel fast” (Dan. 1:8, 12; 10:2-3).

 

D.     Full fast

1.       This is when one does not eat or drink for a period of time.

2.       The period of fasting is usually short

a.    Esther (Esth. 4:16)

b.   Saul (Acts 9:9)

3.       Moses went forty days with food or water on Mount Sinai (Deut. 9:9).

 

V.                 TWELVE EXAMPLES FASTING

 

A.      Moses while receiving the Ten Commandments (Deut. 9:9-18)

 

B.      David while his son was ill (II Sam. 12:1-23)

 

C.      Elijah while escaping from Jezebel (I Kings 19:4-8)

 

D.     Ezra while mourning over sin (Ezra 10:6-17)

 

E.      Esther for the safety of herself before the king (Esth. 4:15-17)

 

F.      Darius for the safety of Daniel (Dan. 6:18-23)

 

G.     Daniel fasted for answered prayer (Dan. 10:1-3)

 

H.     The Ninevites fasted while repenting of sin (Jonah 3:5)

 

I.        Jesus fasted before His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2)

 

J.        Saul fasted in a penitent state (Acts 9:1-9)

 

K.      The church fasted before sending Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3).

 

L.      Many times leaders would call for fasts by the people (See I Kings 21:9).

 

VI.              THE PURPOSES OF FASTING

 

A.      Develop the discipline of self-control

 

B.      To feel one’s dependence upon God

 

C.      To express sorrow and grief

 

D.     To strengthen prayer

 

E.      To seek God’s guidance

 

F.      To humble one’s self before God

 

G.     To seek deliverance or protection

 

H.     To overcome temptation

 

I.        To make one more useable in God’s service

 

J.        To express repentance for sin

 

VII.           SHOULD A CHRISTIAN FAST?

 

A.      Jesus said His disciples would fast after He departed (Matt. 9:14-15).

 

Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?  And Jesus said, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then they shall fast.

B.      We may need to give ourselves to fasting and prayer at times in our marriage relationships (I Cor. 7:5).

 

Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for incontinency.

 

C.      If we practice fasting, others will not know we are doing it (Matt. 16:16-18).

 

D.     There may be timse when the church as a whole fasts when about to engage in important endeavors (Acts 13:2-3).

 

 

And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

 

CONCLUSION

 

A.      Fasting is a natural expression of grief.

1.       In times of sorrow, there is no appetite.

2.       This is the foundation of fasting as a religious practice.  “It is because of the soul, when oppressed and burdened with a sense of sin, is so filled with grief that the body refuses food.”

 

B.      Perhaps all of us need to engage in the habit of fasting more often in our personal lives.

1.       Start with certain types of food

2.       Start with small periods of time