May 9, 1999 (David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, 1701 Harns Rd., Oak Harbor, WA 98277) - The following study on biblical fasting is from the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, copyright 1994, Way of Life Literature:
WARNINGS ABOUT FASTING
Fasting is not for salvation
"And he speak this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not life up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Lk. 18:9-14).
In this parable the Lord Jesus Christ teaches that salvation cannot be attained through religious works and good deeds. The self-righteous Pharisee left the temple in an unsaved condition before God. The repentant publican was saved by humbling himself and seeking God's mercy. Christ is not making light of the importance of fasting here any more than He is making light of the importance of tithing. But neither fasting, nor tithing, nor any other religious duty can justify a man before a holy God.
Fasting must not be for show
"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" (Matt. 6:16-18).
God hates hypocritical religion, which is man's attempt to appear holy before other men without possessing true holiness before God. In this passage Christ rebukes the kind of fasting which is done for the sake of appearing spiritual before men. Yet again, He is not making light of the practice of fasting itself when done properly. In fact, He takes for granted the fact that His followers will fast. He did not say "IF thou fastest," but rather, "WHEN thou fastest." And He made a wonderful and definite promise that those who practice biblical fasting will be rewarded openly by God the Father.
Fasting is not to be a religious ritual
"I fast twice in the week..." (Lk. 18:12).
This is that statement of a Pharisee who was practicing religion in an attempt to justify himself before God. He observed a regular period of fasting. Nowhere, though, does the Bible require such a practice. Fasting is not to be simply a ritual observed once a week, or once a month, or prior to the Lord's Supper, etc. Fasting, rather, is something which is practiced when a special need arises and when the Holy Spirit leads.
Fasting is unacceptable and ineffectual without a right relationship with God
"Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
"Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" (Isa. 58:3-9).
"But unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?" (Zech. 7:5-6).
God rebukes the hypocritical fasts of the apostate children of Israel. They were going through the motions of true religion, but their hearts were far from God and they were living in direct disobedience to His law. No religious duty is acceptable before God which does not proceed from a regenerate life and which is not guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Biblical fasting is not for physical health.
Though various sorts of fastings may or may not promote better health, this is never the purpose given in the Bible for fasting. Many popular Christian books emphasize the importance of fasting for physical benefit, but such fasting is not biblical fasting. We cannot say that fasting is or is not good for the health, and we cannot say it either is wrong or right to fast for health. We are saying, simply, that the Bible does not speak of fasting in light of health.
Fasting is not an ascetic practice
"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col. 2:20-23).
There were false teachers in Colosse who were promoting the idea that spirituality is achieved through various ascetic practices, through following a manmade list of does and don'ts. This included special dietary rules and fasting as a means of denying the body. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monks of certain orders practice this type of thing. They cloister themselves apart from normal interaction with people; they follow rigid schedules of work, diet, and meditation; they observe regular times of fasting, solitude, and quietness; they punish their bodies in various ways, some even beating themselves with whips. This ascetic life is thought to be a means whereby the individual monks can work out their salvation and draw nearer to God. Hindu and Buddhist priests also practice asceticism in an attempt to attain higher levels of spirituality in their false religious systems.
The Apostle Paul warned against this type of thing. Neither salvation nor spirituality are achieved through asceticism. One is forgiven of sin and given eternal life through a saving relationship with Christ, through repentance and faith in Christ's death upon the cross. And one grows in practical holiness through walking in fellowship with the resurrected Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul reminded the Christians at Colosse who were in danger of being deceived by the false ascetics:
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross ... Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:8-16).
Fasting is an important part of the Christian life and ministry, but we must be careful that we do not think that spirituality comes through punishing the body and observing various rituals and dietary laws. Spirituality is being in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Fasting does not necessarily guarantee that one's prayers will be answered.
In 2 Samuel 12 we have the record of how David fasted and prayed in an attempt to get God to preserve the life of the child which had been conceived through the adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. God did not answer that prayer nor honor David's fast in that particular case. This reminds us that fasting, while an important practice in spiritual warfare, is not a guarantee that we will get what we are desiring from God. Earnest prayer with fasting does often result in the answer one is seeking from God. The Bible gives many examples of this. But it is no absolute guarantee.
Fasting is a personal matter.
Fasting is important and useful in Christian life and service, but it is not something which can be commanded and it is not something by which we are to judge the spiritual condition of others. The Nazarite vow is an illustration of this principle. God did not demand that people take a Nazarite vow (except in a few unusual cases, such as that of Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist). It was a free will vow an individual could make to God beyond the required duties of the law. Fasting is of this nature.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING
The importance of fasting is seen in the number of positive references in the Old and New Testaments.
There are over 30 positive examples, commands, and instructions in Scripture about fasting.
Judges 20:26--Israel fasted for victory in war.
1 Sam. 1:6-7--Hannah fasted for a son
1 Sam. 7:6--Israel fasted in repentance
1 Sam. 31:13--Men of Jabeshgilead fasted in mourning for Saul
2 Sam. 1:12--David and his men fasted in mourning for Saul, Jonathan, and the fallen of Israel
2 Sam. 12--David fasted for mercy upon his child
1 Kings 21:27--Ahab fasted for mercy
2 Chron. 20:3--Jehoshaphat and Israel fasted for help and protection
Ezra 8:21-23--Ezra and the people fasted for help and protection
Nehemiah 1:4--Nehemiah fasted in mourning and for help upon Jerusalem
Nehemiah 9:1,2--Israel fasting in mourning and repentance
Esther 4:16--Esther and friends fasted for victory
Esther 9:3--Fasting is mentioned as having had a role in the victory
Psalm 35:13,14--Fasting in prayer and mourning
Psalm 69: 10,11--Fasting in prayer and mourning
Isaiah 58:6-8--The fast which pleases God
Jeremiah 36:9--Israel fasted for mercy
Joel 1:14; 2:12,15--God commanded fasting and repentance
Jonah 3:5--The Ninevites fasted in repentance for mercy
Daniel 9:3--Daniel fasted for wisdom
Matthew 4:2--Jesus fasted when tempted in the wilderness
Matthew 6:17-18--Jesus promised that the Father would bless fasting
Matthew 9:14-15--Jesus said his disciples would fast
Matthew 17:21--Fasting is necessary for overcoming some demonic strongholds
Mark 9:29--Fasting is necessary for overcoming some demonic powers
Luke 2:37--Fasting was part of Anna's service to God
Acts 13:2--Fasting was part of the ministry of the workers at Antioch
Acts 13:3--Ordination was accompanied by fasting Acts 14:23--Ordination was accompanied by fasting
1 Cor. 7:5--Fasting and prayer is the only proper reason for abstinence from the marital relationship
2 Cor. 6:5--Fasting was one way Paul approved himself as a minister of Jesus Christ
2 Cor. 11:27--Paul fasted often
These examples and instructions regarding fasting cannot be taken lightly. We are told that the examples of Scripture are as important and binding as are its direct commands--1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4--and these verses speak specifically of the Old Testament examples. It should go without saying that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Pattern (1 Pet. 1:21). Christ's fasting during His temptation in the wilderness is our example, just as His prayers during the temptations in the garden are our examples. Also we are told that the Apostle Paul is to be imitated--Phil. 3:17; 4:9. Paul put before us the example of frequent fasting (2 Cor. 11:27).
The simple fact that the Holy Spirit chose to put before God's people so many positive examples of fasting in itself reveals the importance of this spiritual practice.
Fasting is one of the ways whereby a minister of Christ approves himself.
"But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings..." (2 Cor. 6:4,5).
Here, fasting is mentioned right alongside such things as patience, pureness, and knowledge. Paul obviously considered fasting to be a very important part of the ministry.
The Lord Jesus made a definite promise about fasting.
When one fasts in the proper manner for the proper reason, "the Father which seeth in secret SHALL reward thee openly" (Mat. 6:17-18). This is one of the most wonderful promises in the Bible and cannot be dismissed lightly. God would not make such a promise if He did not consider fasting important. Christ never discouraged proper fasting. He condemned and corrected false practices, but never did He discourage scriptural fasting. In fact, He took for granted that His followers would fast. In Mat. 6:17, He did not say, "IF thou fastest." He said, "WHEN thou fastest."
The Lord Jesus said very plainly that His disciples WOULD fast after His departure from the earthly scene.
"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 unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast" (Mat. 9:14-15).
Jesus never discouraged fasting. He practiced it and said His followers would practice it. Like all other aspects of spiritual living, Christ corrected false ideas and abuses surrounding fasting, but He did not discourage it nor treat it as something unimportant.
God's choicest servants have practiced fasting throughout the centuries.
If fasting is unnecessary or unimportant, the Lord's best people have been greatly misled in their thinking! Behold Samuel's mother fasting while others were feasting (1 Sam. 1:6-7). Behold David, the man after God's own heart, fasting. Behold Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Mordecai, the godly king Jehoshaphat, Daniel, Samuel, Anna the prophetess, Paul--all fasting. Behold the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, fasting. Christians today who practice fasting for biblical reasons are in excellent company! It is obvious that God's people of all ages who fasted knew something which those today who do not fast, or who say fasting is unnecessary, or who relegate the practice to an Old Testament or Jewish custom, do not know.
Fasting and prayer is the only spiritual practice which is to interfere with the physical aspect of the marital relationship.
"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye 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 your incontinency" (1 Cor. 7:1-5).
God warns that husbands and wives must be careful to meet one another's physical needs. This is one of the divinely ordained functions of marriage: "... to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (1 Cor. 7:2) Only one thing is to be allowed to break into regular sexual relationship between married couples, and that is fasting and prayer. Again, we note that the Bible does not command that Christians fast, but it takes it for granted that they will and sets out to regulate the practice.
Fasting is essential for the breaking down of certain demonic strongholds.
"And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall removed; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Mat. 17:18-21).
This should settle the question of whether or not fasting is an important part of the Christian life. The Lord Jesus said it fasting is an essential part of spiritual warfare, and those who war against satanic strongholds know this to be a fact! There are indeed demonic strongholds which can be broken by NOTHING but prayer AND fasting.
WHEN SHOULD WE FAST?
1. Fast when sorely tempted (Mat. 4:2). 2. Fast when wisdom is earnestly desired (Dan. 9:3). 3. Fast when help and protection are needed (Ezra 8:21-23; 2 Chron. 20:3; Jer. 36:9). 4. Fast when victory is desired over strong demonic powers (Mat. 17:21; Mk. 9:29). 5. Fast when victory is desired in seemingly impossible situations (Est. 4:10-17; 9:31; Neh. 1:4). 6. Fast when something is earnestly desired from God and the answer has not come through prayer alone (1 Sam. 1:6-7). 7. Fast when in mourning for loved ones or the defeat of God's people (2 Sam. 1:12). 8. Fast when new ministries are launched and when men go forth to proclaim God's Word and battle spiritual enemies (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). 9. Fast when involved in spiritual ministry (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27) 10. Fast during times of special repentance, confession, and revival (Joel 1:14; 2:12; 2:15; Neh. 9:1-2).
WHY IS FASTING IMPORTANT?
Fasting is important because of spiritual warfare (Mat. 17:21).
When we fast, we are not forcing God to do something, but are resisting supernatural strongholds and powers. Someone might say, "Why is this necessary when Christ has all power?" I do not know the answer to this question, but I do know that Christ said, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Fasting demonstrates the earnestness and desire of the heart--Heb. 11:6.
God sees the hearts of men, but the Bible says He requires open evidence of the heart's desire--Joel 2:12. "Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning."
This is seen in Abraham's offering of Isaac. God knew that Abraham would obey and give up the beloved son, but He required Abraham to go through with the act up to the very point of driving the knife into Isaac's heart. Only then did God say, "For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me" (Gen. 22:12).
Fasting can be seen as one way of evidencing the earnestness and sincerity of our hearts toward God in matters of prayer. We can say that such things as fasting are not necessary since God knows our hearts, but examples such as the one about Abraham and his son show that God does require evidence of our faith and earnestness.
Fasting helps keep the body under subjection.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
The body continually desires its own way. Its lusts cry out for fulfillment, and the process of fasting is in itself a subduing of the bodily appetites. The Apostle Paul knew that big battles are won through victory in small skirmishes, and wars are won through victory in individual battles. Daniel first had to conquer the small skirmish of his own bodily appetites as a young man before he could conquer the larger battle of refusing to obey the solemn law of the king regarding prayer as an old man. Victory had to be gained over food before victory could be gained over the lions.
This is one reason so few church members attend prayer meetings. Too often we haven't won the victory of prayer in our daily lives. Too often we aren't in the regular habit of subduing the flesh in order to serve the Spirit. The Bible says Eli the priest was fat (1 Sam. 4:18). He did not subdue his bodily craving for rich food. The fearful truth is that his carelessness in the area of food carried over into every area of his life and ministry. He allowed his bodily craving for sleep to keep him from maintaining the lamp in the tabernacle through the night. The lamp went out each night, even though it was to be kept lit. The failure to subdue his own body was kin to and connected with his failure to discipline his sons. God said that Eli loved the fat offerings just as well as did his wicked sons (1 Sam. 2:29). Eli was not committing immorality with the women at the door of the tabernacle as his sons were, but his unsubdued love for food and ease was hurtful to his ministry. Eli should have been fasting and working instead of feasting and sitting!
HOW LONG IS A BIBLICAL FAST?
The Bible sets no specific time length for fasting. Daniel fasted 21 days. Esther and Mordecai fasted 3 days and nights. The Lord Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness. But frequently the Bible simply does not say how long people fasted. We are not told, for example, how long Ezra fasted before making the journey to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:21-23). Fasting must be an matter of individual freedom under the direction of the Holy Spirit. It can be one meal or many meals, according to the need of the hour and the direction of God. Romans 14 speaks of this sort of thing and says, "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom. 14:5).
WHAT IS A BIBLICAL FAST?
Again there is no set or rigid guidelines for fasting. In Daniel's fast of 21 days, we are told that he ate "no pleasant bread, nor flesh, nor wine" (Dan. 10:3). Apparently Daniel did eat something, but he abstained from pleasant foods. God has not given specific instructions about fasting because it is to be a private matter between an individual and the Lord. A nursing mother, for example, would be unwise to go entirely without food for any significant length of time, because not only is she dependent upon that food, but her infant is also. God has promised, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psa. 32:8). This precious promise applies to fasting. When should you fast? For how long? What should you abstain from as you fast? God will lead you very personally and clearly in all of these things if you are walking in fellowship with Him.
While the Bible does not spell out every detail of fasting, it does give the following basic guidelines:
Abstinence from food and normal physical pleasures (Dan. 10:3; 1 Cor. 7:5).
Note again that Daniel did not abstain from food completely, but only from "pleasant bread." From this example we see that there are many ways of observing a fast. One can abstain entirely from all foods and drinks, or abstain only from those which are more tasteful and desirable. This apparently is what Daniel did. Scriptural fasting is a private and special matter between an individual and God and there are no set rules to observe. God might lead us to observe a fast one way at a particular time and an entirely different way another time. Some who have medical problems such as diabetes have asked me how they can fast. I believe it is possible for such a person to fast by determining before God to abstain from certain favorite foods and pleasures for a specified period of time.
"Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer AND fasting" (Matt. 17:21).
Biblical fasting is always connected with an increased attention to prayer and communion with God. Fasting divorced from prayer is not biblical fasting.
Confession of sins
"And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from the precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land" (Dan. 9:3-6; see entire chapter).
Biblical examples of fasting are often connected with periods of special repentance and confession of sins.
Service toward God (Isaiah 58:6-8).
Christian fasting is temporary abstinence from food and perhaps other physical pleasures in order to concentrate on a definite spiritual problem or need. It is not a ritual to be performed in a superstitious manner, hoping that the very act of going without food would bring some form of blessing, but is a special period of devotion toward God in prayer and abstinence of normal pleasures for a clear objective.
DOES IT MATTER IF WE FAST?
If fasting is an individual, private matter, something not specifically commanded by God, is it really important? Can't it simply be left undone? No! The Lord Jesus Christ said that there are spiritual battles which can be won by NOTHING but by prayer AND fasting--not prayer alone, but prayer AND fasting. This means spiritual, biblical fasting is absolutely essential at times for victory over the enemy.
Paul no doubt considered fasting to be essential for victory in ministry and life. It is doubtful that he received some strange enjoyment from going without meals.
What if we were to ask Hannah if fasting is essential. What would she reply? Surely she would tell us that fasting is important. Was it not through prayer with fasting that God gave her the son she so longed for?
And what would we hear from Esther and Mordecai? Why didn't she call a prayer meeting rather than going to the trouble to fast three days and three nights? Her reply most doubtless would be, that prayer alone is not always enough. There are spiritual victories which cannot be won without prayer and fasting.
Ezra, too, would certainly add his Amen to the truth that fasting is sometimes essential for victory. Why didn't he just gather the people together at the river of Ahava and have a few hours of prayer without the sacrifice of fasting? Apparently he felt that it would require fasting as well as prayer for safety in travel through those dangerous lands? "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us" (Ezra 8:23).
But what do these ancient events have to do with Christians who live in these busy, modern times? "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11).
MODERN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS ATTACK THE DOCTRINE OF FASTING
The new versions make a strange attack against the New Testament teaching of fasting. Though some references to fasting remain, several significant references are removed.
Matthew 17:21--KJV "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." This entire verse is omitted in the New American Standard Version [NASV], Revised Standard Version [RSV], New International Version [NIV], New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, and Phillips translation. The Today's English Version [TEV] puts the verse in brackets.
Mark 9:29--KJV reads "And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." The Bible Society Greek text and the new versions based on this text omit the phrase "and fasting." This is true in the NIV, NASV, RSV, Living Bible, Phillips, New English Bible, and Jerusalem Bible.
These two verses about fasting are not the only references to this doctrine in Scripture, but they are the only references which specifically, directly teach the importance of fasting as an aspect of spiritual warfare. Those who have fought spiritual battles against the powers of darkness know the precious truth of what Jesus is saying in these passages. Prayer is a powerful spiritual resource, but there ARE demonic strongholds which cannot be broken by prayer alone without fasting. It is a fact, and it is a part of the Bible!
To remove these references from the Bible is folly and evil. It is equal to removing part of the essential armament from a soldier's equipment before sending him into battle.
The textual evidence for the references is overwhelming. Basically it is a matter of the vast majority of textual witnesses on one hand (which support the fasting readings) against the flimsy, questionable testimony of the two manuscripts preferred by Westcott and Hort--Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
Personally, I will require much, much stronger witness than this before allowing someone to remove these blessed Scriptures from my Bible. In fact, you will not take them from my Bible, thank you! I consider these references so important spiritually, that the removal of these two passages alone demonstrate to me the error of following the Westcott-Hort textual principles which allow the Sinaitic and Vaticanus manuscripts to overthrow the testimony of multitudes of other witnesses.
There are four other passages dealing with the doctrine of fasting which are removed in the new versions:
Acts 10:30--Here we read in the King James Version and most of the old Protestant translations in various languages that Cornelius was fasting and praying. The new versions, following the lead of the Westcott-Hort Greek text, removes the word fasting. This is true for the RSV, NASV, NIV, Living Bible, TEV, New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, the New Berkeley Version, and Phillips.
1 Corinthians 7:5--The KJV reads, "Defraud ye 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 your incontinency." Again turning against the majority of textual witnesses, the new versions remove fasting from this important passage. This is true for all of the versions we have been checking as mentioned above.
2 Corinthians 6:5--The KJV reading, "fasting," has been changed in the new versions to "hunger." Obviously hunger and fasting are two different things. In 2 Cor. 11:27, where the Apostle Paul gives a similar listing of some aspects of his ministry, he mentions both hunger AND fasting. We see from this that the Holy Spirit is not using these terms synonymously. This, therefore, is another attack upon the biblical doctrine of the spiritual benefit of fasting.
2 Corinthians 11:27--The KJV reading, "fastings often," is replaced in the new versions with "often without food." The comment on 2 Cor. 6:5 above applies here as well. Being hungry and going without food does not have to be connected with the spiritual life and warfare. Going without food is not necessarily fasting. To change this reading without overwhelming proof that the King James translators were wrong--proof which modern translators do not have--is dangerous at best. The KJV reading says, "in hunger and thirst, in fastings often." A clear distinction is made between the hunger Paul often endured because of lack of food, and his frequent times of spiritual fasting. If in these two passages the Holy Spirit is referring to the apostle's spiritual battles, to spiritual fasting, which is most probable since such a distinction is made, the modern translators have done a great evil in removing this teaching through their versions.
When the reading of these six verses is taken together, a definite pattern of attack appears in the new Greek texts and versions upon the doctrine of fasting as a spiritual weapon. And this is even more serious in light of the fact that we are warned in Scripture that the spiritual warfare will grow in intensity as the time of Christ's return draws near. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. ... But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:1,13). Don't be deceived, dear Christian friend, into accepting a Bible version which removes these important spiritual weapons from your life.
The fact is that there ARE demonic strongholds which cannot be broken down without biblical fasting. While the churches are feasting, the devil runs rampant.
We have experienced the truth of this. There have been many times that we have been at the point of total despair in our ministry in the idolatrous country of Nepal. I recall such an experience at the beginning of our work there. It seemed that a dark wall was before us which could not be broken. We were proclaiming the Gospel and some Hindus had shown interest; many were coming to meetings, and some had made professions of faith. But not one idolater had truly repented and been born again.
And troubles were bearing in upon us from many directions which held the potential of ending our ministry in that difficult land. The national ecumenical fellowship slandered us and called for a total boycott of our ministry. As tourists, we were in constant danger of being evicted by the Nepali government. It appeared that our desire to establish a Nepali church which would glorify Jesus Christ would never be fulfilled.
We determined to have a time of prayer with fasting. It was the first time, really, that I had practiced this with such serious intent, and I must admit that I didn't find it easy. Soon thereafter a Nepali fellow came to our house and was saved in our living room the first time we met him. Soon he led a friend to Christ, and the friend led his sister to Christ. All of these showed real evidence of repentance. They made a complete break with idolatry and began to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of many persecutions. Soon others were saved, and the Lord then brought a faithful evangelist to join hands with us as a much needed co-laborer in the ministry. Today that fellowship has grown in the midst of much hardship and poverty and has become a lively New Testament church. It has its own leadership, pays its own bills, and has zealous evangelistic, missionary vision.
Prayer with fasting is a normal part of the ministry of that church. Would the victory have been won without the fasting? Not according to the testimony of the Son of God. He said, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
The wall we faced in that heathen land was a supernatural wall. The Scriptures lift the curtain which hides the supernatural realm from our eyes and it identifies our foe. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12).
Many other illustrations could be given, but this is enough. We have seen what the Word of God says. We have seen the example of godly people of all ages. We have seen the example of the Son of God. We must face these things and realize that spiritual fasting is very important in the Christian life and ministry and is a practice urgently needed in our day.
We have felt the power of the enemy. We have heard his fearful roar. And we believe the warning of the Lord Jesus Christ and the many examples of the infallible Scriptures. Spiritual fasting is essential.
Praise God for the sure promise of the Bible: "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" (Mat. 6:17-18).
[David W. Cloud, copyright 1994, Way of Life Literature, 1701 Harns Road, Oak Harbor, WA 98277. (360) 675-8311.]