STUDIES IN THE LORD'S PRAYER
Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2002
STUDY NINE: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
This section of the prayer goes hand in hand with the next part 'but deliver us from evil'. We will look at the meaning of 'temptation' in this study, then, in the next study, at the meaning of 'evil' from which we are asking God to deliver us. In two further studies we will look at ways of deliverance from 'temptation' and the evil one that God has already provided and continues to provide.
A. THE COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF 'TEMPTATION'
Temptation is commonly understood to be the desire to do, or contemplation of doing, something that we know to be morally wrong , such as:
- disobedience to God's commands
- deliberate avoidance or neglect of an unpleasant duty
This kind of temptation is spoken of in:
- James 1:14, 15 : 'each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin ... '
- 1 Timothy 6:9 : 'People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.'
- Galatians 6:1: 'Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.'
- 1 Corinthians 7:5 : 'Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.'
Some people would also include here the temptations of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.
B.1 THE MEANING OF THE GREEK WORD
The Greek word is peirazo - which refers to making proof or trial of, or putting something/one to the test . Here temptation is that which brings out one's true colours, something that proves where we really stand and what our true commitment is. It is a testing, a trial.
There is both a positive and a negative aspect to it. Positively it proves the worth or integrity of something - like sticking a skewer into a cake to test whether it is cooked or not, or tasting the stew to see if it needs more salt. Negatively, it is destructive and hurtful in its intent, trying to make someone give up or give in. It is something like schoolyard bullies teasing a child to see how much it takes to make him crumble, or provoking a dog until it snarls and bites.
[In this way the Israelites were frequently said to have 'tempted' or 'tested' God when their persistent disobedience pushed him to the limit of his patience (Read: Exodus 17:2,7; Numbers 14:22; Deut 7:19; Psalm 78:18,56; 95:9). Their actions were shouting 'We'll find out if he really means what he says about punishment!' or 'Let's see how far we can go before he does what he says he'll do!' ]
B.2 OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE TEMPTATION
It is necessary also to make a distinction between the actual temptation/testing and our response to that temptation/testing. It is inevitable that we will be confronted both by temptations to commit moral sin and by a wide variety of situations that test or prove our claim to believe in the Lord. Indeed even the temptation to commit the 'smallest' sin is at the same time a test of the level of our commitment to and trust in the Lord.
This confrontation by temptation is objective - it says nothing about our response, it says nothing about how this situation or possibility is impacting us personally; it is simply there. To be confronted by a temptation/testing is not sin.
When we, confronted by the objective situation or possibility,  struggle within ourselves with the possibility of denying God or sinning,  feel like doing it, or  do it, that is subjective temptation. It has ceased to be objective - outside of us, and is impacting us within ourselves. The struggle is evidence of our acknowledgment of the wrongness of giving in, and is not sin; it is actually our fighting against dishonouring God and against sin. [In some temptations, but definitely not all, the feeling like doing it can very easily and quickly become just as much sin as doing it (lust, for instance, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 6:27-30).]
We are instructed here by the ultimate example of the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane: he struggled within himself with the possibility of avoiding the cross, to the extent that he sweat drops of blood; he pleaded with the Father three times that this 'cup' of suffering could be taken from him; he felt like avoiding the suffering, yet, because he was totally committed to the will of his Father, he submitted himself to that will, and did not sin (Read: Matthew 26: 36-44; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 5:7).
C. FROM GOD'S POINT OF VIEW
In God's hand, testing is with a view to confirming the integrity of our claim to faith, and through this learning process to'grow' and purify our faith. For example:
- Genesis 22:1: 'God tested Abraham ... '
- The example of Job, from God's perspective . [Refer here to Studies on Suffering on this website.]
- Mark 7:24-30: Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, even though the word is not used.
- We could also, with reservations, add here the temptations of Jesus, as Matthew records that Jesus 'was led by the Spirit to be tempted ... '
- John 6:6 Jesus 'tests' Philip.
- Romans 5:3: 'Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, hope ... '
- James 1:2-3: 'consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance ... '
- James 1:12: 'blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him'.
- 1 Peter 1:7: 'These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.'
- 1 Peter 4:12-19
[Check out each of the above references in their context.]
D. FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE US
In the hands of those who oppose us, or of Satan , this testing/temptation is with a view to discrediting us and our faith, or intended to make us deny our faith and/or our calling. This often includes cornering people into an apparent no-win situation, and at deeper levels includes intense pressure, so that one feels so pushed, poked, prodded, persuaded, provoked in either physical, emotional, cognitive, mental, relational or spiritual ways that the option of giving up on Jesus Christ seems desirable, excusable and reasonable. It will often be very subtle.
Read the passages listed below to identify how our opposers go about their business.
Adam & Eve
To get Adam and Eve to rebel against God
To prove that Job's faith was not genuine
To divert Jesus from his God ordained path
Phar. & Sad.
To discredit Jesus
To turn Jesus aside from the cross
To discredit Jesus
To discredit Jesus
Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38; Lk 22:31-46
To wreck his faith
Short term - succeeded
Long term - failed
Scr. & Phar.
To discredit Jesus
To stop the proclamation of the Gospel
To destroy faith
Opposition to God and all who honour him.
To still the voice of God.
Physically - succeeded
Spiritually - failed
1 Pet 1:6-9
Failed and will fail
1 P 4:12-19
Opposition to the name of Christ
1 P 5:8-10
2 P 2:1-10
False teach./ ungodly
Comes from greed, blasphemy, denial of the Lord
To prove the believers false
The temptations that result in our doing something we know we shouldn't just because we 'feel like it', reveals how weak we really are, and how minimal our commitment is. We can learn from the above that 'temptation' includes something far deeper even than the temptation to commit an individual moral sin under pressure; it is something that hits us at the very foundation of our faith, at the very centre of our relationship with God, where we are provoked and pressured to commit the ultimate sin, the very essence of sin: the denial of God, the abdication of faith.