Monday, October 26, 2009

Why should we fast less?

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 12 - Church Discipline in censures and excommunication
14-18 - Fasting
14. This isn't under the power of the keys, but is called by the leadership in solemn times - Joel 2:15; Acts 13:2-3 - like when there is controversy to settle, or a minister to select.
15. Purposes include subduing our flesh, preparing for prayer, and confirming humility or repentance. The first is private, not public. The key is motive, and motive will lead to outward action.
16. Fasting is not an end in itself, but is typically joined with prayer.
Acts 13:3; 14:23; Luke 2:37; Neh 1:4; 1 Cor 7:3, 5.
17. Fasting is appropriate when disease, natural disaster, famine, or war threaten. God may thus avert His judgment. It is just as valuable today as in the past, so "why should we use it less"? See 1 Sam 7:6; 31:13; 2 Sam 1:12; Jonah 3:5; Matt 9:15; Luke 5:34-35.
18. All our lives should be frugal and sober, like a fast. But we set aside certain times for prayer, when we eat less than usual, or nothing, and we eat "only for need, not also for pleasure."

19-21 - Superstition and merit in fasting during Lent
19. 3 dangers: rending your garments and not your heart; considering it a "work of merit" or act of obedience in itself; going overboard in strictness and regarding it a chief virtue.
20. Jesus fasted only once at the beginning of His ministry, not to give us an example to follow, but to establish His authority like Moses and Elijah - Ex 24:18; 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8.
21. Rome corrupted fasting by abstaining from one thing, but indulging in greater delicacies.

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