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Q: #484. What does "lead us not into temptation" mean in the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:13)?

     A: There has always been people who have had difficulty understanding exactly what is meant when we ask God in the Lord’s Prayer to “lead us not into temptation.” Will God actually “lead us into temptation,” therefore we should pray that He won’t? The reason why I write on this today is because the Pope has recently decided to that he is going to reword this part of the Lord’s Prayer to say, “abandon us not when in temptation.” During an interview with an Italian news service, he said, “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.” Therefore, he wants to change it.

     I’ll freely admit that when I first heard this, my immediate thought was, “The audacity of this guy to think that he can change the words of the Lord’s Prayer, the most important prayer in the Bible!” However, as I have spent time reflecting on it, while still somewhat annoyed, I have begun to think, “is this really that different from what different translations of the Bible do when interpreting certain passages?” For example, the NLT says, “And don’t let us yield to temptation.” The CEV says, “keep us from being tempted.” The Message says, “keep us safe from ourselves.” They do this to “try” and help the reader understand the passage better.

     This is why I prefer Bibles like the KJV or the NASB (my favorite) which offer a word for word translation rather than a thought for thought translation, or paraphrase Bible. It is with this in mind that we look at “lead us not into temptation.” A look at (Mt 6:13) in a Greek interlinear Bible looks virtually the same as the KJV Bible does in translation. When we look at the two key words in Greek, “lead” = “eisphero” and “temptation” = “peirasmon,” we find that they are properly translated. Using “abandon” in place of “lead” (as the Pope wants to do) is an improper translation from the Greek. “Eisphero” means “bring,” “to bring,” lead into.” For some other verses that use eisphero, and help clarify this word, see (Lk 5:18,19)(Acts 17:20)(1 Tim 6:7)(Heb 13:11).

     Therefore, since “lead us not into temptation” is properly translated, does this mean that God actually “leads us to be tempted?” The Bible clearly tells us the following in (James 1:13), “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Clearly, God does not “tempt” us. However, God DOES “test” those who belong to Him. This is seen all through the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God tested Abraham (Gen 22:1-14). The whole book of Job is about Job being tested. Peter (Lk 22:31-32), Paul (2 Cor 12:7-10), and even Jesus were tested (Mt 4:1).

     In the words of Charles Spurgeon, here is what God is doing: “For God to tempt in the sense of enticing to sin is (were) inconsistent with his nature, and altogether contrary to his known character; but for God to lead us into those conflicts with evil which we call temptations, is not only possible, but usual.” In other words, God does not “entice us to sin,” just as (James 1:13) says. However, God will lead us into situations where we will be tempted (by Satan) to sin. With each trial we face, “temptation” is a part of it, and we can make one of two choices: #1. giving into that “temptation,” which then becomes sin (James 1:14-15), OR #2. stand strong, and not give into the temptation, thereby avoiding sin (Heb 4:15). Of those above whom God led into temptation, Adam and Eve gave into temptation, and they, as well as all of mankind paid the price. Peter gave into temptation, and denied Jesus 3 times (Mt 26:69-75)(Jn 18:15-27), but repented and was restored by Jesus (Jn 21:15-19). However, Abraham, Job, Paul. and Jesus all resisted temptation, and did not sin.

     (1 Cor 10:13) says this, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Put another way, all men are tempted, however, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, and He will always give us a way out.

     God allows these trials for a number of reasons:

“to test whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 13:3)

“to humble you and test you, to know what is (was) in your heart, whether you will (would) keep His commandments or not” (Deut 8:2)(NKJV)

“the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-4)(NASB)

“tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom 5:3-4)

“that we might have peace through Jesus” (Jn 16:33)

“to receive great reward in Heaven” (Mt 5:10-12)

“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:6-7)(NASB) (Also see: Job 23:10)

“to find favor with God” (1 Pet 2:20)(NASB)

“to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Pet 5:10)

     So, in summing up, let me share a prayer that we might go to God with in relation to “lead us not into temptation:”

“Father, I would ask you not to lead me into temptation. That you would keep me from trials in which I will be tempted to be unfaithful to you. I echo the prayer of Jesus in (Jn 17:15) that you would “keep (me) from the evil one,” and His words to Peter in (Mt 26:41) to “watch and pray, that (I) enter not into temptation.” However, I know that know that there will be times when trials will come, and they will be for my good. In the midst of these trials, I know that in my own strength, I will give into temptation, and fall into evil, and sin. “My flesh is weak.” I cannot face these tests on my own. Therefore, I am leaning on you. Your Word says: that you “give us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57), that we can be “conquerors” through Jesus (Rom 8:37), and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Therefore, it is through His name that I come to you and ask these things. Amen.”

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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Hi, Steve, Thank you for putting this out there. It clarified something. I suspect that you have gone into the original Hebrew to see what the word “test” means in regards to Abraham. I find it hard to believe that the Lord does not already know what is in our hearts. I believe He does. Could “test” mean to purify/strengthen as in metal? And Romans speaks of God foreknowing. And… Read more »