14Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15And 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.
(Matthew 9:14-15, King James Version)
Form of Godliness
Matthew 9 continues with an interesting discussion between Jesus and His disciples. The Pharisees, ever the adversaries of Christ, came with new accusations. "Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?"
In other words, they were saying, "Look how Godly we are--we spend great amounts of time in prayer and fasting. Why do your disciples not fast?" Paul, in his second letter to Timothy wrote,
5Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:5, King James Version)
Such is an apt description of the Pharisees. They certainly had the appearance of godliness, and were the first to tell everyone, but in their heart of hearts, they were far from the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, they had a form of godliness, but they denied the power of Christ. The admonition from Paul is that we turn away from such arguments, for there are always those enemies of Christ who love nothing better than contention.
In spite of the nature of their reproofs, Jesus responded in defense of His disciples by asking the question, "Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?" In other words, fasting is reserved for the grievous times of life when in great agony of spirit we pour out our concerns to God. Yet, this was not such a time! The Lord Jesus, their Bridegroom, was still with them. Rather than a time of grief, it was a time of great joy.
Things, of course, would change. That time of great grief would come when the Lord would pour out His very life for His people. The disciples, after Christ returned to heaven, spent many hours in prayer and fasting--seeking the wisdom and guidance of God. With great difficulty, they took up the banner of Christ, as the early church struggled for its very survival.
Yet God, was faithful to them, as we see from the results today. By the grace of God, He has kept a faithful remnant even into our 21st century.
What is the great lesson to be learned from this passage? As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be careful that we do not let the criticism of the world--and even the criticism of fellow believers--keep us from faithfully trusting and serving God. By His grace, let us take up the mantle of service He has bestowed upon us, and faithfully spend our lives for His honor and glory.
We are, in many ways, a sorry lot. Consumed with our own struggles with sin, it is easy to give in to the temptation to put forth a showy, glitzy appearance before the world. However, it is not our great showy declarations that will bring glory to God, but rather those times when, in our own secret prayer closets, we pour out our confessions of sin and prayer for God's help. As we bare our hearts before God, seeking His help, we will bring the most glory to His name.
It is not the face of the world that we must please, but the face of God! May it not be said of us that we have a form of godliness, but deny the very power of God. Our power does not rest in us, or in the actions we perform, but rather, our power rests in Christ alone! He is our King, He is our Savior, He is our strength and our guide, and by His grace and glory we will bring honor and glory to God!
God Bless You,