July 17, 2018

Lead Us Not Into Temptation… But Deliver Us From Evil

temptationThere have been more than a few comments this week about the Devil, demons, and evil.  All of which started me thinking of a recent study I had done with a small group on the Lord’s prayer.

The Lord’s prayer is familiar to all of us.  Many of us have said it a thousand times or more.  I don’t know if you have ever heard a sermon on the Lord’s prayer, or looked at it in a bible study or small group, but there is an incredible amount of richness packed into a few short verses.  The sentence that I was reminded of this week was:  “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Did you realize that there is the underlying assumption express here that God leads us into temptation.  Jesus is the speaker, and it parallels his experiences in the early part of his ministry.  Perhaps the following was what Jesus was thinking about when he taught this prayer.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. – Mark 1: 12-13

Michael Spencer once wrote:

The most striking thing about this passage is the verb ekballo used by Mark to indicate how the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Mark uses this verb 17 times, often in the context of exorcisms. The force of the verb is not captured by the NIV’s “sent”. Better is the NASB “impelled.” We are not to think that Jesus is reluctant to experience this chapter of his life, but to see the strong hand of the Spirit leading Jesus in his ministry. The Spirit of the Lord is truly “upon” him and we read of similar strong directions by the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. John’s gospel records many statements of Jesus explaining that he is in the world to do and say exactly what he is directed by the Father. We are not to think of Jesus as a puppet, but we are also not to think of the Holy Spirit as anyone less than the sovereign God! God’s Spirit is the mightiest of powers and we should expect strong leadership of the Holy Spirit in those things that are in the plan and purpose of God.

James 1:13 tells us that no one is tempted by God, but as Job can attest, God can certainly allow tempting to take place.   In the case of Jesus, there appears to have been an appointment with temptation orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.  James, interestingly enough doesn’t ascribe temptation to the Devil, but to our own lustful desires.  Peter, on the other hand, is much more upfront about Satan’s role.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

I think James and Peter both have a perspective on the big picture.  I know that when I am tired, that is not alert and sober minded, I am more easily tempted by food.  For those of you who are old enough to remember it, one of the catch phrases of the ’70s was, “The Devil made me do it”, coined and popularized by the late Flip Wilson.  I can remember debates and sermons  in those years discussing how much blame should be attributed to the Devil, and how much should be attributed to our own sinful desires.  (Feel free to continue the debate in the comments below.)

The second part of the phrase also has its own interesting twist.  While I learned the Lord’s prayer, I learned the version that included the phrase “deliver us from evil.”  Or at least that is what it says in certain translations, not to mention the form used in Catholic and Anglican churches.  Most translations now express the second part of the sentence as “deliver us from the evil one”.  The Greek is literally “the evil”, leaving us to wonder what Jesus had in mind.  Scholars are divided, and we see that expressed in our translations.  Most scholars however are of the opinion that it is more that a generic evil that is being referred to here, but rather a reference to Satan himself.  This too would parallel Jesus’ experience in the wilderness as the evil he faced was Satan himself.  Could he have been talking about some other particular evil, like the persecution that his followers would face?  It doesn’t appear to be likely, as Matthew doesn’t use the phrase elsewhere in that manner.

So those were the thoughts that I was ruminating on this week.  What do you think?  Do you see God playing a role in temptation?  Did the Devil make me do it?  Or am I responsible for my own actions?  Jesus appears to speak of evil personified.  Do you agree with that interpretation?  How tied together do you see the ideas of personified evil and general evil?  As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.


  1. Vega Magnus says:

    I believe in evil personified in Satan, however, when it comes to my personal temptations and sins, I am pretty certain that they are generated internally by my human flaws and that the responsibility for both the idea to sin and the action itself are mine.

  2. Christiane says:

    one verse that helps make sense of ‘ne nos inducas in tentationem’ is:

    “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 Cor. 10:13)

    I encountered something peculiar on Southern Baptist blogs, where some thought that just being tempted was itself a sin. I have always believed that unless there was uncoerced consent of the will to sin that there was not sin, even if a person faced temptation.
    But if someone has succumbed to a particular sin and confesses it, he is then bound to AVOID what is called ‘the near occasions of sin’ . . . that is, the situations and places and people that led to the sin being confessed . . . in other words, avoid the temptation in as much as is possible . . .

  3. 2 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has [m]been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted [n]by God”; for God cannot be tempted [o]by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin [p]is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be [q]deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or [r]shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be [s]a kind of first fruits [t]among His creatures. NASB

    I guess my questions would be perseveres under trial and where that trial is coming from. Each one is tempted and enticed….. It seems to me he addressing attributes of God not Satan here. I am not convinced that this is saying it is all us I only see where it says once conceived it is all on us. Why would anything being around for such a long time not use the things that tempt us and entice us to do that which is evil in the sight of God and then say see as to prove a point. Seems to happen a lot round here. Sorry that song is in my mind, round here are the little twistings as big as the truly dastardly things that happen. It isn’t so much how big the crime now is it. What a little yeast does is work it ways through the whole batch. This is what the “uneducated man” sees in the world of religion and throws it all out and why. I think because they would need to learn how to love and forgive by being loved and forgiven. The two just can’t work on their own. It has to be love and forgiveness.

    Over simplified, Teach or help us how to love and forgive as You and lead us away from evil and of course the add on because You are what we really desire.

    When we get tired why wouldn’t something not throw thoughts at us at our weakest moments. They surely don’t ever seem to be a problem when we are at our strongest moments. It seems within humility and knowing how weak we are on our own it is then we reach for one or the other. The only good thing is when we fail we have a Savior who intercedes and brings us back to the same point we were at before the sin. In His patience we are given again more opportunity by sin to once again learn the ways of love. Seems we come to the same places again and again til we overcome them with communion in Him and get set free from them. It is light that reveals the good things and that which can’t stand the light.

    • “Round here” is a great song, w, though it’s about a whole lot of pain. “Round here we talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs…”

  4. The Charles Swindoll approach seems appropriate in thinking about anything that happens( whether initiated by good or bad). “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. I have seen people amazed by how transforming this can be, and at the same time amazed to find out the insight was by an evangelical Christian.

    • Logotherapy founder Victor Frankl might suggest recalibrating the ratio to something closer to 1% and 99%, resp.

  5. Marcus Johnson says:

    Do you see God playing a role in temptation? Did the Devil make me do it? Or am I responsible for my own actions? Jesus appears to speak of evil personified. Do you agree with that interpretation?

    Is it possible that the answer to all of your questions is, “Yes?”

    • Christiane says:

      I hesitate to imagine anything about God that I cannot find is true about Our Lord Himself
      . . . What I know of Christ is the ONLY thing that grounds me in my own quest for understanding about ‘God’ . . .

      Our Lord is the greatest revelation we have of ‘Who God Is’

      . . . so if I ask if something is true about God, then I look to Christ . . . where else can we go ?

  6. The custom of our parish is to cross ourselves during the “deliver us from evil” section of the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t recall seeing this practice before I came to this parish, but our rector explains that we cross ourselves as a reminder that it’s only through Jesus’ sacrifice that we can indeed be delivered from evil or the Evil One.

    The Scriptures tell us that we fight against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. I firmly believe that, though I find from time to time that it is difficult to tell which of the three is the origin of a given struggle.

    • Dana Ames says:

      We cross ourselves at the beginning of the Our Father and again at “deliver us from the evil one.” As I am doing it the second time, most of the time I inwardly ask God to deliver me from whatever is in me that would turn toward evil. I agree with Vega above, and with your second paragraph, Fr I.


  7. Michael Z says:

    The greek word for “temptation” there (peirasmon) is more frequently used to mean, “testing, trial, or ordeal.” At least in my dictionary, “temptation” is listed as one of the last translations. Some modern translations render that, “save us from the time of trial” – i.e. from persecution or testing of our faith, from temptation to renounce our faith rather than from temptations to commit particular other sins.

  8. “Lead us not into temptation . . . .” I have been trying to come to terms with that phrase for quite a while. One attempt has been to rephrase it, “Lead us out of temptation . . . .” Temptation seems a given in life. Mostly it seems to come from the ego, in my experience, tho the world certainly provides an abundance of opportunity and encouragement bordering on coercion. Do we have to petition God to stop joining the forces leading us astray? Jesus was the one with the most explicit example of being led into temptation, and Jesus is the one giving us this prayer. Seems like he would know what he was talking about.

    It helps me to bring in the other side of the Greek word in question which involves testing. Temptation and testing are not the same in English, but related. I guess the Greek speakers heard both at once without it being a problem. I don’t have a problem with God leading me into testing. It seems what life on Earth is all about. Jesus in the wilderness was tested and got an A+, sort of his mid-term exam. You could view his arrest and crucifixion as his final exam, certainly an ultimate test, but also a great temptation, one which his whole life and ministry led him into.

    I’ll sure be glad when today is over. Too much invocation of the dark side here these past days, intentional or not. It’s snowing out, the first of the season, white on the ground tho the grass is still showing thru, and a high wind advisory is scheduled to begin shortly and last thru the night. Not good for children participating in the festival, but helpful for me in my usual hunkering down. I did buy Halloween candy for the first time in my life as far as I can remember, and I’ll probably turn my porch light on. My first Halloween in my new home and I don’t want to offend.

    When I was a kid, we didn’t say “Trick or Treat”, we said “Please Help the Poor”, which strikes me as somewhat of an improvement if you can look upon fraud as being an improvement over extortion. If some kids show up at my door out here in the sticks tonight, I won’t lay that on them, just some Hershey snack bars. Then I’m faced with the test and temptation of what to do with the leftovers, assuming I don’t run out of candy and have my outhouse tipped over. Did God lead me into this? I’m going to study up on All Saints/Souls Day, which has gotten scant mention here lately and which may hold some answers.

  9. I have no great need to ascribe my great failures to an outside force, for I know what an evil worthless unit I am all on my own. Yes Satan is quite real but I doubt that he uses me as anything other than an example.

    I have one little hope left, that indeed Christ is strong enough and willing to lift me from this this slough of despond in which I find my self wondering seeking a path out yea any path out. Shalom.

  10. I’ve got no problem with the idea that God plays a role in temptation. Why that is…I dunno. Since by faith I believe the Bible is true, “lead us not into temptation” clearly references God doing the leading. If he’s sovereign, he can put us into situations that will lead to us being tempted. (It’s sorta similar to my question a few weeks back about whether God foreordains people to hell or simply does not foreordains them to heaven. It’s a subtle difference but I think could speak volumes.) He created the tempter and gave the tempter power and continues to give the tempter power, assuming all classic definitions of things. He clearly wants the tempter to have a job and a role to fulfill.

    Now I start thinking about the practical side of things. We pray to God that God will not lead us into temptation. So…should we not lead ourselves into temptation? Should we avoid places, areas, interests, people, etc, that may be a temptation? Must we (or do we “get to”) walk every moment of every day asking ourselves if anything and everything may be a temptation and be diligent to avoid it?

    That’s not a lifestyle I’m wiling to accept anymore. Sounds like the heaviest of yokes.

  11. Avoid every appearance of evil is another fun little verse clause that often gets abused and misunderstood.

  12. Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

    Oddly – the Orthodox Gospel reading for today included these verses from St. Luke

    “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order

    I have always wondered about the ??????? ?????. Always.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      The Greek didn’t make it over. “anhydrôn tropôn” – “waterless places”

      • It’s especially curious considering how water is used throughout the Bible, from the destructive, mysterious, chaotic force in the early OT to a sign of cleansing, newness, and purity in the NT.

        I think it speaks to the unhappy state of the unclean spirit. If it is indeed a personality with a will rather than a ‘force’ (I think so), it appears to live a tortured existence, its only usefulness as a parasitic pawn of the evil one. When not seeking to bring harm to a person, it has no other home and can’t find any rest. Kinda makes sense, I suppose.

        From a practical aspect, In my experience in deliverance, when addressing and getting rid of these spirits we usually give the directives of “go to the feet of Jesus,” or “go to the place where Jesus tells you to go,” precisely because of this verse. If it’s a generic “we cast you out,” it’s as though we release it to go somewhere else that may be unhelpful for another person. Nor do we say “we send you to hell/hades/the pit/back to where you came from” because is that a good thing or a bad thing for it? So we take all of the weirdness and awkwardness in stride (many self aware moments of “am I really doing this right now??”) — and surrender it to Christ, knowing the he knows what we don’t, he knows why all of this is the way it is, and ask him to handle the parts that we have utterly no clue about. We know he’s interested in people being free of nasty spirits, and in freedom holistically (“both/and” when it comes to mental health and spiritual forces — we never do what a doctor should do), so we participate in this sort of ministry. With all of its awkwardness.

      • In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, each ended up in the place of the dead in separate locations. All the Rich Man could think about was one drop of water, which he did not have access to and Lazarus did.

  13. Happy Reformation Day! Another of the real Christian holidays that goes uncelebrated….

    • Christiane says:

      no disrespect to Church history, JIM, but I was thinking that every day is Christian ‘Formation Day’ as those who belong to the whole Body of Christ actively seek to conform themselves to the Mind of Christ
      . . . in that way, at least, there can exist a unity of purpose that is real among us all who honor Him