LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
T. PIERCE BROWN
As we were studying what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer,” the question was raised, “Why pray that God lead us not into temptation? Does not the Bible say that God never tempts anyone? Would He ever lead us into temptation even without such a prayer?”
We need to realize that the Greek word, peirazo, translated “tempt,” has two or three meanings. Many words are like that, even having meanings that are opposite. For example a “fast” color is one that will not run; a “fast” horse is one that will. One may fast if he does not eat. Then if he does eat, he may eat fast.
The Bible says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man” (James 1:13). Yet in Hebrews 3:9, we find that the Israelites tempted God as Psalm 78:18 says, “And they tempted God in their heart, by asking food according to their desire.” Also, Genesis 22:1 says that God did tempt Abraham. So God both tempted man and is tempted of man, yet it is specifically said that he cannot be tempted with evil and does not tempt man.
A clue to what may seem contradictory to some can be found in the expression “tempted with evil” as well as by reading the expression in the American Standard Version in Genesis 22:1 which says, “God did prove Abraham.” God does not tempt man to do evil, nor can He be tempted to do evil. But the word also means to test or prove. A person can test, try or prove God. And God did prove Abraham. So it is proper to pray that God not lead us into testings that will be hard for us to bear. It would not be proper to pray in such a way as to imply that God was tempting us to do evil.
You may be able to better see the difference in the two by considering Abraham’s situation. If the Devil had been tempting Abraham to do evil, he might have tried to incite him to desire to kill Isaac, which would have been murder. God tested him by asking him to kill Isaac, but did not incite him to murder nor have evil intent. As an interesting fact, you may notice that the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness were not temptations to do anything that was inherently evil. To be hungry, and even to turn stones into bread was not wrong of itself. To trust God to bear Him up if he fell from the temple was not wrong. To want all the kingdoms of the world to be submissive was not wrong. It is doubtful that Jesus had anything in His nature that would allow Him to be tempted to do evil, but He was tempted or tested by the suggestion that He gain a good objective, but in the wrong way.