Is Fasting for Christians?
IN ANSWER to that question you may have been told: “Yes, for Jesus recommended fasting for his followers.” If you are a practicing Catholic, you would respond in the affirmative, for you recognize certain fast days, and in particular you always fast before taking “Holy Communion.” Did Jesus really recommend or command fasting for his followers? In the instances recorded in the Bible, fasting was done as an expression of sorrow and repentance for sins or when under distressing conditions. (Dan. 10:2, 3; 1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Chron. 20:3, 4) Also, persons might fast when in sore need of divine guidance or at times when unusual concentration on some service to God was necessary.—Judg. 20:26; Esther 4:16. ATONEMENT DAY, WITH ITS FASTING, PICTORIAL
However, neither Jesus Christ nor his apostles commanded Christians to observe fasts. On the other hand, the Scriptures do not forbid them to fast. In the instances where Jesus gave counsel on fasting he was speaking to Jews under the Law covenant. (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14) Under the Law, fasting was to be observed at certain times and on certain occasions, notably on the Day of Atonement. On this day, the tenth day of the seventh lunar month, the Jews were to ‘afflict their souls.’ (Lev. 16:29-31) This included fasting, as indicated by the words of David, who said concerning distressing conditions that he underwent: “With fasting I afflicted my soul.”—Ps. 35:13; compare Isaiah 58:1-5. On Atonement Day the Jewish high priest made offerings for the sins of the entire nation. It was a day reminding the Jews of their inherent sinfulness. It was a time to acknowledge their sinful condition before God and to manifest sorrow and repentance. Therefore they were required to fast. And it was no mere formalism. Why, though, did the Jews have to fast repeatedly, every year, whereas the Christian congregation is not commanded to fast at all? The apostle Paul helps us to understand this by his comments on the...
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