Bible Question:

Jesus teaches us in the “Lord's prayer” (as you said, really “our prayer”), “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. However, you quote it later as, “keep us from temptation and rescue us from evil.” I have always found it difficult to understand the part “lead me not into temptation.” Though I believe that God may at times lead us into “the wilderness to see what is in our hearts,” which is His prerogative, I have found it difficult to understand why I should pray that He would not lead me into temptation. Is your translation correct? I would love to have a deeper understanding of that part of the prayer. Am I right to understand that “deliver (or rescue) us from evil” has a lighter implication than “deliver us from the evil one?” What is in the original language?

Bible Answer:

The literal English wording of the Greek text of Matthew 6:13 reads like this,

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil. Matthew 6:13 (NASB)

Three English words (lead, temptation and deliver) determine the meaning of the verse. The Greek words corresponding to these three words are eisphero, peirasmos and rhuomai. The following is an explanation of these three words and the meaning of the verse.

Mathew 6:13

The Greek Word — Eisphero

Eisenenkes is the aorist active subjunctive form of eisphero. This is a compound word composed of eis and phero. Eis is usually translated as “into or to” and phero means “to bring.” Put together eisphero can be translated as “take into,” “bring into,” or “carry into.” When we add the word “not,” we end up with a request to  “not bring into.”

The aorist active subjunctive has the idea that something may happen at some point in time. Therefore, this is a prayer request that asks God to not bring us into temptation. Recently, the pope of the Roman Catholic Church changed the wording of this verse because he said,

“It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he told Italian TV. “I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.

“A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation – that’s his department.”[1]

Sadly, the pope ignored the warning in Scripture to not change any word (Revelation 22:18-19) and he also misunderstood the Greek text. Let’s continue our study and you will discover what Jesus was teaching us.

The Greek Word —  Peirasmos

The Greek word for “temptation” is peirasmos. It actually refers to a “trial,” an “affliction” and to a “proving.” It becomes a temptation when the trial involved the potential of sinning. This word was used by Jesus in Luke 22:28 to refer to His own trials. In Acts 20:19 the apostle Paul used the word to refer to his many difficult situations. In Galatians it referred to Paul’s physical ailments. In Hebrews 3:8 it spoke of Israel’s difficulties in the wilderness. In James 1:2, 12; 1 Peter 1:6; 4:12 and Revelation 3:10, it referred to trials and testings. The word was also used in eleven verses to refer to situations where someone might sin during a trial. The word does not refer to an attempt to intentionally make someone sin!

The Greek Word —  Rhoumai

The Greek word for “deliver” is the aorist middle imperative of rhuomai. Rhuomai means to “deliver,” “rescue,” “save,” “guard,” “snatch,” or “free” in general. The aorist middle imperative is actually a command. It is the idea of God rescuing us!

The Greek word for “evil” is poneros which has the idea of “evil” or “wicked.” It refers to evil in general. But in this verse, Jesus added the Greek definite article and so it appears that He referred to “the evil one,” that is to Satan. Jesus is encouraging us to ask for help – to help us rescue ourselves from evil – all kinds of evil, that includes all manner of sin. It includes Satan!

Conclusion:

Since there is a “but” between these two thoughts, lets combine them. Here is the essence of the verse,

. . . and do not allow us to enter into a “testing situation,” but rescue us from the evil situations (or the Evil One). Matthew 6:13 (NASB)

This helps us understand that Jesus was not teaching us to ask God to purposely motivate us to sin. He was urging us to ask God to keep us from situations where we might sin. The patriarch Job is an excellent example of a situation where God allowed a man to suffer. It was possible that Job might sin by complaining or curse God, but he never did. In this example, God did not attempt to motivate Job to sin. God allowed Satan to test Job. Jesus urged us to ask God to keep us from such testing and, most likely, from the Evil One!

But what should you do when you encounter temptation? In 1 Corinthians 10:13 God tells us that we can have victory over every sin that comes our way! We are not victims!

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)

What is the way of escape? The answer is we need to submit to the Holy Spirit. Listen to Galatians 5:16.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit . . . Galatians 5:16-17 (NASB)

Many Christians are not aware of this passage. It is the key to victory over sin. Notice that it says if we walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh. What are the desires of the flesh? The next several verses (Galatians 5:18-21) say the flesh wants to sin. So if we walk in the Spirit, we will be sinning less and less and the fruit of Spirit will become increasingly evident in our life (Galatians 5:22-23).  The Lord wants to rescue us from evil, to give us a desire to flee sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22) and to walk in the Spirit! We encourage you to read “God’s Will – Be Filled With The Spirit.”

 

References:

1. Harriet Sherwood. “Led not into temptation: pope approves change to Lord’s Prayer.” The Guardian. 6 June 2019.

Suggested Links:

God’s Will – Be Filled With The Spirit
How To Be Filled With The Spirit
The Lord’s Prayer