Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 2

In the last post, we began to see how the Holy Spirit is God’s solution for our hard hearts. That’s the teaching of Romans 8, and Paul stands on the shoulders of the prophets when he teaches this.

We skip ahead to Romans 12 to see how Paul applies that principle in more practical terms.

(Rom 12:1 ESV)  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is the theme sentence of the rest of Romans, until he gets to the greetings in chapter 16. Romans 12-15 are about how to become living sacrifices. And they aren’t about ascetic practices or even individual disciplines in the currently fashionable sense.

It’s a reference back to —

(Rom 8:13 ESV) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

How do we eliminate sin from our bodies? By becoming living sacrifices! And this is our worship. This is how we honor God. It’s all about sacrifice.

And, of course, “sacrifice” in this context just has to be a reference to the sacrifice of Jesus. We must become like Jesus, emptying ourselves for the sake of others. How?

(Rom 12:2 ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Well, by being different from the world. How? By being transformed. We don’t transform ourselves. The verb is passive; someone else transforms us. Obviously, Paul is referring to the Spirit.

Somehow, that means our minds are transformed. Again, Paul is referring back to chapter 8 —

(Rom 8:5 ESV) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Thus, the change of mind is not entirely our own. Our minds become set on the things of the Spirit by the power of the Spirit.

Finally, Paul explains that if our minds are transformed by the Spirit, we can test what is good and what is not. That is, by having our minds attuned to the Spirit, we will be able to tell right from wrong — indeed, what is in accord with God’s will and what is not! And this is a big deal.

Paul next explains what is in fact in accord with God’s will. He’s not intending to be utterly comprehensive, but rather wants his readers to see some critical examples of thinking as God thinks.

(Rom 12:3 ESV) For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

You see, by the Spirit, we can discern that we aren’t all the same. We have different gifts. With the confidence that comes from being right with God, we can be honest in self-appraisal. It’s does God no good if we suffer low self-esteem and refuse to use the talents he gives us in his service. Nor is God helped if we think too highly of ourselves and fail to get the help we need. Humility is not making ourselves nothing; it’s being honest about whom God has made us to be — and then using who we are in God’s service.

(Rom 12:4-8 ESV) 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;  8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Thus, we have a duty to realize what we can do and to use those gifts to serve the community of faith. Notice, that all the gifts Paul mentions are gifts that serve others! He says nothing of seeking solitude or mortifying the flesh. Rather, we take what we’ve been given and use it in sacrificial service to others.

You see, the disciplines of honest self-assessment and service to others are community disciplines. Indeed, most of us would do well to involve wiser friends within the church and ask them what talents we have that can used to serve. We discern our giftedness best in community. And we use these gifts in community.

(Rom 12:9-13 ESV) 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

“Love” is love for others, especially our brothers. It is a community discipline. Showing honor is a community discipline. Contributing to the needs of the saints and offering hospitality are community disciplines.

The point Paul is making is, first, to love one another, but second, that we can’t love all by ourselves alone. We have to be in community, spending time with each other in order to be effectively loving each other. This entire passage is about our lives together.

How do I put to death the sins of the body? How am I to be made holy? By the Spirit working in me to transform me as I do these sorts of things. We learn to love by loving. We learn to be generous by being generous. You see, the feeling often comes after the doing.

Many have entered into service for others as a matter of duty and obligation only to find their hearts thrilled as they serve others. The Spirit turns duty into joy. And then next time, they volunteer from the heart.

(Rom 12:14-21 ESV)  14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I lump these commands together because they are all contrary to common sense. We desperately want to curse our persecutors. We want to be jealous of those who rejoice. We want to avoid those who weep. We don’t want to associate with the lowly. We want to be wise in our own sights. We want to repay evil for evil and seek vengeance. All these are contrary to human nature.

Indeed, teach these as serious obligations in some classes and you’ll be sneered at (perhaps behind your back). “You can’t be serious!” some will say. But this is why we need renewed minds. Normal minds can’t grasp such thoughts.

Again, though, the teachings presume life in community. We can only weep with those who weep if we know them and know their problems. The announcements at church thus become critically important. They aren’t the boring stuff that precedes the exciting singing or sermon — they are the lifeblood of the church. If you hate announcements, the Spirit has a lot of work to do on your heart. You need to get seriously involved in your church.

Now, there’s another subtle lesson here. How did Paul expect the members to do these very, very hard things? What was going to bring the changes into reality? A prayer vigil? 40 days in the wilderness? No, I think he actually thought the members of the Roman church would read his letter and take his teachings to heart. Really.

Of course, he knew the letter would be read aloud in the congregation. He assumed group reading and group study. Questions would be asked. Leaders would add their own exhortations. The church — as a church — would commit to honor Paul’s words and to spend time in further, deeper study.

You see, part of the secret of obedience is being part of an obedient community. And it’s my opinion that the failure of the church to be as obedient as it should be is not so much a lack of individual disciplines as a lack of good examples and good leadership. The church has failed to be the church, and as a result, the members have failed to grow as they should.

To grow up to be like Jesus, we need congregations that look like Jesus. And for that to happen, the members and leaders must, together, commit to strive to become living sacrifices. And with the power of the Spirit and God’s grace, it’ll happen. And I don’t think there’s another way.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Christian Disciplines, Romans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 2

  1. Willard would likely respond that the individual disciplines are our way of opening our hearts to the Spirit in renewing our mind, while agreeing with your call for community disciplines.

    Paul did say to Timothy that “bodily exercise profits” – but only a little. I take this to be a reference to ascetic practices such as fasting. On the other hand, he also said to the Colossians that the rules of men’s discipline, “Touch not! Taste not! Handle not!” were useless in overcoming the passions of the flesh.

    It is easy to become enamored with what WE do while ignoring what GOD does. This may be part of the appeal of individual disciplines. On the other hand, the disciplines of prayer, Bible Study, and simplicity in living do contribute much to our growth in Christ. However, we must never think that any of these things will by themselves, automatically cause growth in the things of the Spirit. It is easy to be like the Pharisee who boasted of his fasting and tithes.


  2. laymond says:

    “(Rom 8:5 ESV) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

    Thus, the change of mind is not entirely our own. Our minds become set on the things of the Spirit by the power of the Spirit.”

    Jay, please explain just how you came to your conclusion, from reading Ro.8-5
    It plainly says “whatever you put first becomes first in your mind”
    Mat 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
    (you cannot serve God, and satan) but it is absolutly your decesion. This is quoted many times in different ways in the bible, Paul did not break new ground here.

  3. Enterprise says:

    I have often wondered in verse 2, if the proving is for ourselves or others. Now the ESV clearly indicated that it is for our discerning, but other versions simply state that you may prove….

    To ourselves, or to others. I think we would understand that a transforming of our minds would indeed allow us to be the proof to the world of ‘what is good and acceptable and perfect’.

    Perhaps it is merely a consequence of our finding out what His will is and what is good, acceptable and perfect rather than the purpose.

    I think that Jim McQuiggan’s book on Romans is excellent. A number of typo’s from time to time but good thoughts.

  4. “The announcements at church thus become critically important. ”

    I add, the way we deliver announcements at church thus become critically important.

    I have seen announcements delivered so poorly that no one could understand them or even hear them.

  5. abasnar says:

    It is easy to be like the Pharisee who boasted of his fasting and tithes.

    And it is equally easy to use them as an excuse for neglecting fasting and tithing. Be balanced, brothers! We don’t define ourselves and our spirituality by saing what we don’t do in comparison to opthers but rather what we do according to the scriptures. And there it is stated:

    Mat 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
    Mat 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

    Christ expects His disciples to fast when He is gone. Strange that we don’t do it, very strange. The ECF however were very – VERY – unaniomous on fasting on the fourth and sixthg day of the week. Maybe they misunderstood Christ?`Or maybe we do?

    I deeply distrust our modern pride that so often says that we don’t have to do what others did and regarded as spiritually normal. Of course we know better than they! We have scholars and they didn’t have them back then! You see, we are far more advanced than … even Paul! Because he fasted, you know, and that’s a sign of spiritual inferiority, isn’t it?

    Brothers, please step aside for a moment and ask yourselves: How does our Lord Jesus feel, when He sees us feasting instead of fasting? Aren’t we expecting the wedding feast to come? But how can we enjoy it when it comes when we are already so filled up with all hte GOODS OF HTE WORLD?

    Pray that He won’t come in the midst of our “drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Gal 5:21) – we might not be admitted to His banquet.

  6. Alexander,
    I totally agree. I did not, by my comment, mean to say that fasting is unimportant. We need to absorb the lessons of Isaiah 58:3-10.

    ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

    True fasting is more than depriving ourselves. It is sharing God’s gifts to us with others.


  7. abasnar says:

    Both and, Jerry. Don’t you see that every time someone mentions literal fasting, others immediately (like a reflex) point to the pharisees or to Isaiah in order to say: We don’t really need to literally fast (you obviously don’t mean it that strongly).

    Let me give you an example: Let’s speak of drinking milk. You cannot simply drink milk, can you? You need a cup. Now some may focus on the cup and say: “We need this cup!” The reply will be: “No it’s the milk that is important!”. The latter will sometimes also point out: “Don’t you see how empty your cup is? It’s full of dust, but no milk is there!”

    There is only one reply: “Show me how you drink your milk out of your empty hand!” What a mess … and what a loss.

    I look at Christianity today, the whole Protestant world in general that belittles fasting in the same way. They are not bright and shining examples of Isaiah 58 either. Individuals are, but not the church in general.

    We need a balance: Outward forms of piety convey a message, are a constant reminder if understood rightly. The lifting up of our hands in prayer is as well an outward sign of a (much more) imoprtant inward disposition. The same is true for the Lord’s Supper. The same is true for fasting. Unless we literally do it, we have no cup to really drink the milk.


  8. Larry Cheek says:

    From the descriptions of fasting here it seems to leave the impression upon me that your fasting is done in a community, with peers having knowledge of your fasting. Organized, possibly prescribed, or directed fasting. Is that the picture of fasting in the scriptures? My studies on that subject had guided me in the direction of individualism in that this was in individual action not to be publicized. The same concept as the prayers in public, to be seen of men. If this is truly the message of the scriptures are you really supposed to see or have a knowledge of your brother or sisters actions of fasting? Thinking more upon this action as it has been described, what keeps this fasting from becoming a “work”, it almost sounds like we are being admonished to accomplish a lot more of it maybe to be a better Christian or to be accepted by the savior.

  9. Alabama John says:

    Many people cannot fast. They have medical conditions that would send their medicine off in the wrong direction.

    Instead of fasting, which is simply denying yourself of something for a while, maybe they could abstain instead.

    Old people abstain as well as young? Abstain from what?

    Well, Abraham did get Sarah pregnant at a very old age.But, most men today by that age have their prostates removed!

    What would be an alternative to fasting? That is if you believe fasting accomplishes anything today.

  10. Larry,
    In the same place where Jesus spoke of fasting in secret, He also spoke of entering your closet to pray. This did not keep the church from public, community prayers.

    Nor should His admonition about fasting being secret keep us from community fasting – as for example in Acts 13:1ff where the church in Antioch fasted and prayed before sending Barnabas and Saul out as missionaries.

    The prophets often called for general fasting in times of national crisis. Perhaps the believing community should do the same today. After all, Jesus did say that when the bridegroom is gone, His servants will fast.

    Should a fast be mandatory on the church? Remember that there are different kinds of fasts. Alabama John asks, “Abstain from what?” Perhaps abstaining from TV – even if the Alabama Crimson Tide is playing the Auburn War Eagles. The observance of Lent in the liturgical churches includes “giving up something for Lent.” This is a vestige, albeit a very modest one, of the forty day fast some observed for Lent in the old days.

    Alexander is right in saying that we need to reconsider – very seriously – what the Bible says about fasting. All the Bible says about fasting – it limitations as well as its purposes. In the absence of such consideration, most of what we may say about fasting will be mutual exchanges of ignorance.



  11. Alabama John says:

    Jerry, so true.
    Fasting is as you say there are different kinds of fast or abstainings.
    The real purpose is to rid all earthly needs for a while and just think on God and all connected to that thinking.
    Must it be doing without something/ I think not. Accomplishing that purpose tfor many of us is in going out in the woods surrounded by Gods creation whether on a moonlit night like last night or in a cave, or mountain top and simply get on your knees or prostrate on the ground and have a time just between you and God.
    Nothing showy, just you and God.
    Denying all else, just you and God.
    Forsaking all encumbrances, just you and God.
    No worries or cares of this world, just you and God. Looking forward to that meeting in the sky, and thanking God for it!
    Isn’t that what fasting or any other that brings you closer to God is for?

  12. Charles McLean says:

    Laymond, the idea that we transform ourselves by dint of our own determination runs counter to the essential nature of the gospel itself. Just as we could not of our own volition escape our sins, neither do we become conformed to the likeness of the Son by simply “doing our best”. These are works beyond our capacities. One who would contradict this fundamental truth should bring me the man who has accomplished it. Just one would suffice.

    This is not to say that we need not cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit. That has always been the nature of our relationship. But we have always needed God to save us, and this fact does not change simply because we were briefly dunked in a baptistry.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    It is easy to become enamored with what WE do while ignoring what GOD does. This may be part of the appeal of individual disciplines.

    Exactly. If we aren’t careful, we can adopt a pagan approach, that is, treating prayer and fasting and other disciplines the same as magic. Say the right words enough times with enough intensity and God is bound to obey our wishes. But we cannot control God. But we can influence God — because God loves us, not because there’s some magic formula for getting what we want from him.

    I like to think of Elijah’s battle with prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. The prophets tried to prevail on Baal not only by prayer but by cutting themselves — for hours on end. They thought the intensity of their prayers and their willingness to impose suffering on themselves would persuade Baal to do a miracle. They failed.

    28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.
    29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. (1Ki 18:28-29 ESV)

    Then Elijah showed them how it’s done —

    36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.
    37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
    38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
    (1Ki 18:36-38 ESV)

    A simple prayer, said once, without self-imposed misery. No asceticism. No “vain repetitions.” Just a prayer spoken in faith.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    Jay, please explain just how you came to your conclusion, from reading Ro.8-5. It plainly says “whatever you put first becomes first in your mind”


    (Rom 8:9 ESV) 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

    Paul is obviously discussing the indwelling of the Spirit.

    (Rom 8:13-14 ESV) 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    “Led by the Spirit” is in contrast to the lifestyle Paul describes in Rom 7 and, more broadly, to having our hearts circumcised by the Spirit as in 2:28-29.

    If you start your reading in Rom 7, it’s absurd to interpret Rom 8 as saying “Read your Bible and obey it all by yourself.” The problem Paul is describing is our inherent inability to do exactly that.

  15. Jay Guin says:


    “Prove” translates dokimazo, meaning “to test.” Thayer’s gives as the definition —

    1. to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing be genuine or not) …
    2. to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

    Neither definition really means “prove” as in “demonstrate to be true.” And so I think the ESV and NIV get it right.

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Dwayne wrote,

    I add, the way we deliver announcements at church thus become critically important.

    Agreed. It’s no easy task, but neither is song leading or preaching. Communicating encouragement to love and good works deserves attention and preparation.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    True fasting is more than depriving ourselves. It is sharing God’s gifts to us with others.


  18. Jay Guin says:


    Scot McKnight (for whom I have great respect) recently wrote a book on fasting —

    This is from a review:

    At the book’s outset, McKnight names one such erroneous and detrimental way that fasting is practiced, to which he will frequently return over the course of the book: viz., fasting in order to produce results. Such a practice of fasting, which McKnight calls an instrumental view of fasting, is not a healthy spiritual discipline, but rather a “manipulative device.” McKnight argues instead that fasting is a responsive practice, saying that fasting is a body’s natural response to grief. He does not deny that sometimes results do come from fasting, but he is adamant that for the people of God, the why of fasting should be a response to grief and not a means to an end – however good that end might seem. McKnight is also careful to point out that avoiding chocolate, coffee, television or some other enjoyable habit for Lent can be helpful as a sort of abstinence, but should not be called fasting.

    What do you all think? I’m still sorting through this one …

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    I am glad to see this conversation getting a little deeper into this little known subject. I have read the posts and reread some of the scriptures about fasting and it has created some very different views of just exactly what the fasting was in the New Testament. I am working on a short but more complete message for a post later.

  20. abasnar says:

    I basically agree with your quote of Scott Mac Knight; but there are also examples for “instrumental” fasting in the NT (although I prefer it a-capella 😉 ) E.g. Casting out demons sometimes may need orayer, accompanied with fasting. Fasting is said to accompany the search for God#s guidance in the appointing of leadership, and it accompanies service in Acts 13; so there is a valid reason to say that fasting may bring better results – not in a mechanical way, but because it “sobers” our minds and helps us to focus.


  21. Charles McLean says:

    Fasting in prayer, as a way of seeking discenment, I think may bridge the two views presented. Fasting to get what we already want is indeed “instrumental”. But when we are praying to KNOW what God is doing, rather than to get God to DO what we think he should, is a different animal.

    Jesus may have well been encouraging his disciples to seek God thoroughly before proceeding against this particular sort of demon. It runs contrary to our western view of finding a principle and applying it and expecting it to accomplish the task in exactly the same way as it did yesterday across the street. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing, so perhaps here prayer and fasting is a method of spiritual discovery rather than manipulation.

  22. Jay Guin says:

    This verse —

    (Mat 17:21 KJV) Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

    — is not found in the most recent translations. Evidently, the manuscript evidence doesn’t support it.

    The ESV context is —

    (Mat 17:19-21 ESV) 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 [omitted]

    Matthew’s emphasis is thus on faith.

    The parallel is —

    (Mar 9:28-29 ESV) 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

    The NET Bible notes,

    Most witnesses, even early and excellent ones (î45vid ?????2 A C D L W ? ? ƒ1, 13 33 Û lat co), have “and fasting” (??? ???????, kai nesteia) after “prayer” here. But this seems to be a motivated reading, due to the early church’s emphasis on fasting (TCGNT 85; cf., e.g., 2 Clem. 16:4; Pol. Phil 7:2; Did. 1:3; 7:4). That the most important witnesses (?????* B), as well as a few others (0274 2427 k), lack ??? ???????, when a good reason for the omission is difficult to find, argues strongly for the shorter reading.

    Jesus taught that prayer — and hence reliance on God — was essential.

    It’s not a big deal except when we take the KJV version of these passages to teach fasting as instrumental, that is, as a means of getting a predetermined outcome from God.

  23. abasnar says:

    – is not found in the most recent translations. Evidently, the manuscript evidence doesn’t support it.

    It’s in way over 90% of the NT manuscripts, Jay, but not in those favored by Nestle Aland. We just had a very interesting afternoon on this subject today – not by a KJV only scholar, but by a scholar arguing for the majority text.

    One might also ask where the early church got this idea of fasting if not from the NT?


  24. Jay Guin says:


    The question is not whether to fast but why to fast. And we can’t answer that question without using the best Greek text possible. Whichever text you use, fasting will be found. But the precise understanding we gather from the text will shift a bit depending on the text we use.

  25. abasnar says:

    Yes, the text we use is important. It does make a difference whether we follow the (at the most) 45 oldest manuscripts (all from one region – Egypt) or the 5500 other (younger) manuscripts, who cover the whole Roman Empire.

    Mat 17:21 was referred to by Tertullian as early as aroung 200 AD, thus predating the main witnesses (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) fort he Nestle-Aland’s “minority” version.

    I know this is way off-topic, but since you made mention of it, I thought it appropriate to provide some details to it 😉


  26. abasnar says:

    The question is not whether to fast but why to fast.

    I have the impression that the “excuses” not to fast actually outweigh the suggestions how to fast. The question “why to fast” serves as an excuse at least to delay the application.

    For me this does not sound very convincing. I have to think of my Muslim neighbors who fast during Ramadan (an equivalent to Lent). Shall I proclaim the good news to them that God never inteded us to fast? If not – and if my neighbor happens to find out about fasting in the Bible – how shall I stand before him? Here I am, confessing faith in Jesus and piety – but my piety does not even meet the standards of my Muslim neighbor!

    By speaking of the hypocrites Christ did not mean that we should show less piety than they, but that we should not show our piety. Fasting was one aspect of this BTW. Our righteousnes will never surpass the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees by far, if we pray less, give less alms or fast less then they did. It is about our hearts (for sure), but also about what we do and don’t do. Our bodies are not disconnected from our soul and spirit.

    Just to think about it: Are we really spiritually convincing?


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