In the Lord’s Prayer, Yeshua instructs his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” What does this mean? Does this mean that our Father in heaven leads us into temptation?
The following are notes from Nathan’s commentary on this verse that will hopefully clear up this confusion.
Matthew 6:13, Lead [or bring] us not into temptation [Gr. peirasmos]. What is the meaning of this phrase found in “the Lord’s Prayer” ? Why did Yeshua instruct his disciples to ask his Father not to lead them into temptation, and how does one reconcile this verse with what James says in his epistle?
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted [Gr. peirazō from peirasmos] by Elohim”; for Elohim cannot be tempted [Gr. peirazō] by evil, nor does He Himself tempt [Gr. peirazō] anyone. But each one is tempted [Gr. peirazō] when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas 1:13–16)
Temptation is the Greek word peirasmos meaning “putting to a proof, an experience, a discipline, a trial, a provocation, calamity or by implication, adversity, temptation.” Obviously this word as several meanings. Here are how some other English translations render this phrase:
And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. (CJB)
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. (NRS)
Bring us not into sore trial… (Adam Clarke in his commentary on this verse)
Peirasmos can also refer to a trial with a beneficial purpose or effect. Indeed, YHVH tests the faith of his people to make them spiritually strong and to prove if they will remain faithful and obey to him or not (see Deut 8:2–5). Moreover, trials come to the saints or are divinely permitted for their betterment (Luke 22:28; Acts 22:19). James goes so far as to say,
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [peirasmos], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas 1:2–4)
So in James 1:13–16, the Greek verb for to tempt (peirazō which is the verb form peirasmos) takes on a more precise meaning when read in the context of verse 12,
Blessed is the man who endures temptation [peirasmos]; for when he is approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Jas 1:12)
By placing verses 13–16 in context with verses 2–4 and 12, we see that the trials (peirasmos) that come from Elohim are for our spiritual growth and development or for our betterment, whereas temptations (also peirasmos) which come from somewhere else can lead or tempt us to sin, and thus are not from Elohim.
Evidently, E.W. Bullinger in his Companion Bible has in view James’ discussion of good trials versus bad temptations, which is why states that the word temptation in Matthew 6:13 is better translated as trial, which in this case is a more apt translation of the word peirasmos. The CJB, NRS and Adam Clarke in their translations above seem to agree.
Interestingly, we read in Matthew 4:1,
Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [peirazō] by the devil.
In this case, the Spirit of Elohim led Yeshua into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Here the Father was using the adversary to be put Yeshua to the test for is betterment.
Undoubtedly, all of these concepts may be difficult to collate much less to wrap one’s brain around in light of the nuanced meanings of peirazō and peirasmos and the varied scriptural contexts in which these words are used. Suffice it to say, YHVH does allow his children to go through trials, but how we react to them and the choices we make will determine the outcome for us whether good or bad. If we sin, it is not because YHVH tempted us to sin; rather, it is the devil who does that. However, YHVH tests, disciplines, refines and proves his children to purify, refine and to make them strong, even as wind, rain, snow, ice, drought and heat make strong trees.
So when Yeshua told us to pray, Do not lead or bring us into temptation or, more correctly, hard testing or time of trial, but deliver us from the evil one, we are basically asking the Father to go easy on us and to keep or deliver us from the snares of the enemy, who is intent on causing us to sin thus potentially shipwrecking us spiritually.
This is also the understanding of Adam Clarke, the Wesleyan Methodist scholar who wrote and published a well known Bible commentary in the early 19th century, where he translates temptation as “sore trial” and states that some of early church fathers understood this verse to mean, “do not lead us into trials that we cannot bear.” Clarke goes on to say that peirasmos not only implies violent assaults from Satan, but also sorely afflictive circumstances, none of which we have, as yet, grace or fortitude to bear.
Thank you so much, Natan. I really appreciate your teachings on issues that hardly anyone else ever preaches about. There are frequently questions coming up from Scripture that need explanations and you are doing an excellent job to help us understand.