"THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT"
Fasting (Mt 6:16-18)
1. In this section, Jesus continues to expound upon the "righteousness
of the kingdom" WITH RESPECT TO MAN'S RELATION TO GOD, especially in
the practice of certain ACTS of righteousness
2. Remember that verse one provides an introductory statement concerning
all acts of righteousness...
a. We have seen this principle applied to charitable deeds and to
b. Now we shall consider how Jesus applies it to the practice of
[Again, we find a clear contrast; this time, it is...]
I. FASTING TO BE SEEN OF MEN vs. FASTING TO BE SEEN OF GOD Mt 6:16-18
A. FASTING "TO BE SEEN OF MEN" v16
1. As practiced by the hypocrites of Jesus' day, it involved:
a. Doing so with a "sad countenance"
b. Doing so with "disfigured faces" (perhaps by applying
2. The only good such fasting might do them is win the praise of
men, but certainly not of God.
B. FASTING TO BE "SEEN OF GOD" Vs 17-18
1. To be done without any outward appearance of fasting
a. Therefore, it should include "anointing your head"
b. Also, "washing your face"
2. By doing this, only God will see your fasting and He will
reward you openly (perhaps by answering those prayers that
were offered while fasting)
[The teaching of Jesus concerning fasting is easy to understand, but a
question often raised today is this: SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST TODAY? IF
SO, WHY, WHEN AND HOW?
Let's examine these questions a little further...]
II. FASTING BY CHRISTIANS TODAY
A. SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST TODAY?
1. CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS...
a. He fasted during his forty day period of temptation in the
wilderness - Lk 4:1-2
b. In His teaching on the subject of fasting:
1) He assumed His disciples would fast -- He said "when,"
not "if" - Mt 6:16-17
2) He said they would fast when He was gone - Mt 9:14-15
3) He taught:
a) How to fast so as to incur God's good pleasure - Mt 6:16-18
b) When done properly, fasting WOULD incur God's good
pleasure Mt 6:18b
c) Fasting should be done only when the occasion right-
fully calls for it - Mt 9:16-17
d) There would be occasions when prayer joined with
fasting would be called for - Mt 17:20-21
2. CONSIDER THE EXAMPLES OF THE CHURCH FASTING...
a. The brethren at Antioch - Ac 13:1-3
1) Fasting in their service to the Lord
2) Fasting and praying as they send out Paul and Barnabas
b. The churches in Galatia - Ac 14:21-23
1) Done in EVERY church
2) When appointing elders
3. CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE OF PAUL FASTING AS A MINISTER OF CHRIST...
a. He listed fasting among those things which proved him as a
minister of Jesus Christ - cf. 2 Co 11:23-28
b. Are we not commanded to imitate him, even as he imitated
Christ? - 1 Co 11:1 (and both fasted in their service to
[At the very least, we can say that it is not inappropriate for
Christians to fast today. Unless we have medical reasons not to
fast, we have very good examples to motivate us TO fast.
But to be sure that we fast for the right reason, we raise another
B. WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?
1. PEOPLE OFTEN FAST TODAY FOR VARIOUS REASONS...
a. Some do it solely for health reasons
b. Others do it only in times of grief and sorrow
c. Still others do it as a way to gain self-control
But these are not reasons Christians should fast in their
service to God cf. Co 2:20-23
2. CHRISTIANS SHOULD FAST WHEN FACED WITH SITUATIONS REQUIRING
a. This is consistent with the majority of fasting in the Old
Testament; people of God fasted...
1) In times of war, or at the threat of it (Israel)
2) When loved ones were sick (David)
3) When seeking God's forgiveness (Ahab, Daniel)
4) When seeking God's protection (Ezra)
b. This is consistent with the examples of fasting in the New
Testament; fasting occurred...
1) When dealing with temptations (Jesus)
2) When serving the Lord (the church at Antioch)
3) When beginning a work for the Lord (again at Antioch)
4) When selecting and appointing elders (in Galatia)
c. Such fasting should be done in conjunction with prayer
1) For fasting, when done properly...
a) Humbles the soul - Ps 35:13
b) Chastens the soul - Ps 69:10
2) And the prayers of a humble person are more likely to be
heard. - Ezra 8:21-23
[This being true, then let's look more specifically at...]
C. WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?
1. WHENEVER OCCASIONS ARISE REQUIRING DIVINE HELP...
a. These may be occasions on an individual level
1) When faced with difficult temptations
2) When faced with the serious illness of a loved one
b. These occasions might be on a congregational level
1) As when appointing elders
2) As when sending out missionaries
2. WHATEVER OCCASIONS MIGHT CALL FOR PERSISTENT PRAYING WOULD CALL
FOR FASTING JOINED WITH PRAYER...
a. Are we not taught that God is more likely to answer our
prayers if we are persistent? - cf. Lk 18:1-8
b. Also if we fast in the proper way? - Mt 6:17-18
[So whenever there is a matter requiring much prayer, fasting in
conjunction with such prayer would be appropriate.
Finally, let's take a look at...]
D. HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?
1. NOT TO BE SEEN OF MEN...
a. As our text pointed out - Mt 6:16-18
b. Whether fasting as individuals or with others, it is
important that we not do it to impress others
2. NOT AS SOME REGULAR RITUAL...
a. This point Jesus made in Mt 9:14-17
b. It should be done only when the occasion calls for it (such
as situations where you would already be spending much time
3. NOT WITHOUT TRUE REPENTANCE...
a. Cf. Is 58:3-9
b. No matter how much praying and fasting one does, it is of
no avail if not accompanied by penitent obedience
4. SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS...
a. Don't fast just because it sounds like "a neat thing to do"
1) Take the subject seriously and prayerfully
2) Fast only when the occasion is a serious one
3) One in which you desperately desire God's help
b. If you have never fasted before...
1) Start slow, fast only for brief periods of time
2) End slow, gradually breaking your fast with fresh fruits
and vegetables in small amounts
c. Fast when you have time to spend in prayerful meditation
1) Remember the purpose for fasting
2) To humble oneself in God's sight; to seek a favorable
answer to prayer for some important plea
1. There is much more that could be said on this subject but we
hope that this is enough to stimulate your thinking on a subject
which has often been neglected in both study and practice
2. Implied in Jesus' teachings in "The Sermon On The Mount" is that
His disciples WOULD fast; and so it is important that we do it in a
way to be seen of God, and not by men
Our next study will examine how Jesus deals with the problem of
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