Introduction: One common Greek noun translated "fast" is nesteia. Nesteia consists of two parts, ne, negative prefix, and esthio, to eat. Hence, fasting is abstaining from food. The situation that made the devil's challenge to turn the stones into bread was the fact that Jesus had been fasting for forty days and nights (Matt. 4: 1-11).
I. Some believe fasting is a commandment.
A. Fasting is nowhere commanded of man in order for man to be saved.
B. We do see the acknowledgement of fasting in the New Testament, though (I Cor. 7: 5).
C. Fasting was often observed during public calamities, afflictions, and regarding sin (2 Sam. 1: 12; Ps. 35: 13; I Sam. 7: 6). Approaching danger, bereavement, and important occasions often prompted fasting (Esther 4: 16; I Chroni. 10: 12; Acts 13: 3, 14: 23).
a. Fasting was often accompanied by prayer (Acts 14: 23).
II. Some mistakenly teach that Jesus condemned fasting.
A. The Sermon on the Mount is basically an exposť of Phariseeism (Matt. 5-7, see 5: 20).
B. Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for fasting, but rather for their insincerity (Matt. 6: 16 ff.). In fact, Jesus acknowledged fasting in situations of bereavement (Matt. 9: 14-18).
III. As we have seen, fasting is not a commandment and is not a "church action," as such.
A. It should also be observed that fasting was not used by the early church to induce an euphoric state of mind that was to prompt "tongue speaking."
B. Simply stated, fasting is an act that is especially done during sorrow or great spiritual concentration.
C. One commentator wrote of Jesus' fasting thus, "Jesus was wholly absorbed by spiritual realities; this was a state which rendered him for a time independent of the common necessaries of life; we are not to understand that he was miraculously sustained during this time" (H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, pg. 97).
Conclusion: Religious fasting is a choice but not a requisite. However, fasting should not be turned into something it was not during Bible days.