“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).
Don’t let your trials turn into temptations.
When we hear the English word temptation, we usually think of a solicitation to evil. But “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 translates a Greek word that can refer either to a trial that God permits in order to refine your spiritual character (James 1:2–4) or a temptation that Satan or your flesh brings to incite you to sin (Matt. 4:1; James 1:13–15). Both are valid translations.
I believe “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 refers in part to trials. Even though we know God uses trials for our good, it’s still good to pray that He won’t allow us to be caught in a trial that becomes an irresistible temptation. That can happen if we’re spiritually weak or ill-prepared to deal with a situation.
God will never test you beyond what you’re able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13), but resisting temptation requires spiritual discipline and divine resources. Praying for God to deliver you from trials that might overcome you is a safeguard against leaning on your own strength and neglecting His power.
God tested Joseph by allowing him to be sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by an adulterous woman, and unjustly imprisoned by a jealous husband. But Joseph knew that God’s hand was on his life. That’s why he could later say to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to … preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph was ready for the test and passed it beautifully!
Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matt. 4:1). God wanted to test Him to prove His virtue, but Satan wanted to tempt Him to destroy His virtue. Jesus, too, was victorious.
When you experience trials, don’t let them turn into temptations. Recognize God’s purposes and seek His strength. Learn from the example of those who have successfully endured the same trials. Be assured that God is in control and is using each trial to mold your character and to teach you greater dependence on Him.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the trials He brings your way. ✧ Ask Him to help you see your trials as means by which He strengthens you and glorifies Himself.
For Further Study: Read Psalm 119:11, Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:10–18, and James 4:7. What do those verses teach you about dealing with temptation?
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (6:13a)
Peirasmos (temptation) is basically a neutral word in the Greek, having no necessary connotation either of good or evil, as does our English temptation, which refers to inducement to evil. The root meaning has to do with a testing or proving, and from that meaning are derived the related meanings of trial and temptation. Here it seems to parallel the term evil, indicating that it has in view enticement to sin.
God’s holiness and goodness will not allow His leading anyone, certainly not one of His children, into a place or experience in which they would purposely be induced to commit sin. “Let no one say when he is tempted,” says James, “ ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
Yet James had just said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (peirasmos), knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (vv. 2–3). There is an interpretive problem, therefore, as to whether peirasmos in Matthew 6:13 is translated temptation or trial. As James tells us, God does not tempt. So why ask Him not to do what He would never do anyway? Yet James also tells us we should rejoice when trials come and not seek to avoid them. So why should we pray, do not lead us into temptation?
I affirm with Chrysostom, the early church Father, that the solution to this issue is that Jesus is here not speaking of logic or theology but of a heart desire and inclination that cause a believer to want to avoid the danger and trouble sin creates. It is the expression of the redeemed soul that so despises and fears sin that it wants to escape all prospects of falling into it, choosing to avoid rather than having to defeat temptation.
Here is another paradox of Scripture. We know that trials are a means for our growing spiritually, morally, and emotionally. Yet we have no desire to be in a place where even the possibility of sin is increased. Even Jesus, when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, first asked, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” before He said, “yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). He was horrified at the prospect of taking sin upon Himself, yet He was willing to endure it in order to fulfill the will of His Father to make possible the redemption of man.
Our proper reaction to times of temptation is similar to Christ’s, but for us it is primarily a matter of self-distrust. When we honestly look at the power of sin and at our own weakness and sinful propensities, we shudder at the danger of temptation or even trial. This petition is another plea for God to provide what we in ourselves do not have. It is an appeal to God to place a watch over our eyes, our ears, our mouth, our feet, and our hands-that in whatever we see, hear, or say, and in any place we go and in anything we do, He will protect us from sin.
Like Joseph we know that what men and Satan mean for evil God will turn to the good of His children (see Gen. 50:20); but we are not certain that, like Joseph, we will be completely submissive to and dependent on God in our trials. The implication of this part of the prayer seems to be: “Lord, don’t ever lead us into a trial that will present such a temptation that we will not be able to resist it.” It is laying claim to the promise that “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, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
This petition is a safeguard against presumption and a false sense of security and self-sufficiency. We know that we will never have arrived spiritually, and that we will never be free of the danger of sin, until we are with the Lord. With Martin Luther we say, “We cannot help being exposed to the assaults, but we pray that we may not fall and perish under them.” As our dear Lord prayed for us in His great intercessory prayer, we want, at all costs, to be kept from the evil one (John 17:15).
When we sincerely pray, do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we also declare that we submit to His Word, which is our protection from sin. “submit therefore to God,”James says. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Submitting to God is submitting to His Word. “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). So the believer prays to be kept from overwhelming solicitation to sin, and if he falls into it, to be rescued from it. Deliver is actually in the form of a command.
In a cursed world where we are battered by evil all around us, we confess our inadequacy to deal with evil. We confess the weakness of our flesh and the absolute impotency of human resources to combat sin and rescue us from its clutches. Above all we confess our need for the protection and deliverance of our loving heavenly Father.
[For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.] (6:13b)
Because they are not found in the most reliable manuscripts, it is likely that these words were not in the original text. In many modern translations they are therefore given in footnotes or, as here, placed in brackets.
Although they may not have been in the original account, the words are perfectly fitting in this passage, and express truths that are thoroughly scriptural. They form a beautiful doxology, declaring the preeminence of God as seen in the greatness of His eternal kingdom, … power, and … glory. They are an echo of 1 Chronicles 29:11 and, to the minds and hearts of Matthew’s Jewish readers, would have been a moving and appropriate climax.
How to Defeat Temptation
At the end of the sixteenth century, after the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the wars that followed it, an anonymous Christian wrote these lines about temptation:
In all the strife of mortal life
Our feet shall stand securely;
Temptation’s hour shall lose its power,
For thou shalt guard us surely.
O God, renew, with heavenly dew,
Our body, soul, and spirit,
Until we stand at thy right hand,
Through Jesus’ saving merit.
These lines summarize some of the truths that the Word of God contains about temptation. To some extent they are, therefore, a commentary on the references to temptation in the Lord’s Prayer, in the verse to which we now come in our study. The Prayer says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Types of Temptations
If we are to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ was talking about in this suggestion of how we should pray, we need to understand that several distinct types of temptation are mentioned in the Bible—some from God and some from Satan—and that this is a prayer for deliverance from only one kind.
Words often have more than one meaning. For instance, I have often had to explain the double significance of the word “marry” to my young daughter, particularly after I have performed a marriage ceremony. My daughter loves weddings and loves to talk about them. But when I say something about marrying the couple, this is very confusing to her. “How can you marry them?” she asks. “You already have a wife. You can’t have two wives. And besides you can’t marry the man anyway; you have to marry a woman.” I am glad to see that she has all of the important rules and relationships right, but I have to explain that the word “marry” can be used in two senses.
Well, the word “temptation” also has two meanings. It can refer either to a direct temptation to do evil, or to a trial, an ordeal, a testing.
We see this most clearly in the first chapter of the Book of James. In the second and third verses of that chapter we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds [kjv, ‘divers temptations’], because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” It is obvious that the writer is referring to a kind of test that comes to a Christian from God. This is the kind of testing that came to Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son, or that comes to us in persecution, sickness, discouragement, or abuse by our family or friends. Through these experiences God strengthens the faith of the Christian. We are to rejoice in such testing, counting it an honor so to suffer.
Later on in the same chapter James speaks of another kind of tempting, however. This is not at all from God. In fact, James says of this temptation, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (v. 13). This is a temptation to sin, of course. So James adds, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (v. 14). We are not to rejoice in this type of temptation. It comes from our own sinful natures, and we are urged to triumph over it.
Finally, in the fourth chapter, verse 7, James speaks of the assaults we receive from the devil. Only here he says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
The temptation referred to in the Lord’s Prayer is not the first or the second of these three temptations. It is not the temptation that comes from God as a trial to strengthen our faith. Nor is it primarily the temptation that comes from within our own sinful lusts. The temptation that Jesus meant is the last of these three temptations. It is the temptation that comes to the believer directly from Satan (the “evil one”).
Submit and Resist
What is the secret to resisting this type of temptation? The secret is found in the last verse quoted from James. We read elsewhere that the temptation that comes from the flesh is to be resisted by fleeing from it; Paul writes, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim. 2:22) and “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). We are to resist the temptation that comes to us from the world by allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove his perfect will for us (Rom. 12:1–2). But when it comes to the devil, Scripture says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
I think that at this point we must be very clear about what James is saying. He says, “Submit … to God” and “Resist the devil.” We are to submit and resist. But how do we do that? What does “submission” mean? And how can we “resist” the wisdom and superior cunning of Satan? We need to answer these questions clearly, for if we are sensitive to spiritual things we know that Satan is stronger than we are. We know that we are unable to resist him in ourselves, and that we are weak beside him. Therefore, we need to know how we are to seek deliverance from the One who has defeated Satan and who will one day imprison him forever.
What does it mean to submit? Quite simply it means to surrender one’s will to God; and since this cannot be done in isolation apart from a personal relationship to him, it means that we must spend time conversing with God through prayer. It is certainly no accident, for instance, that the petition “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” comes last in the Lord’s Prayer, after the Christian has already prayed, “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” This means that although the believer is to resist the devil—although he is to fight against him—he is able to do this successfully only after he has first of all submitted himself to God.
And what does it mean to resist? How do we resist? The answer is: by God’s Word, by means of the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3), meaning that purity of life can be ours to the degree that we feed upon the Bible and study it. The psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). Paul wrote specifically of our spiritual warfare saying, “Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
In Pilgrim’s Progress there is a scene in which this is portrayed allegorically as a terrible battle between Apollyon (who is the devil) and Christian:
Then Apollyon espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s Sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now; and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his Sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! When I fall I shall arise; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound: Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. And with that Apollyon spread forth his Dragon’s wings, and sped away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.”
As I read this paragraph I realize that Bunyan knew the truth of James 4:7 personally, for he knew that it had reference to the use of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
The Lord’s Example
One final example of how temptation can be resisted is the account of the temptation of Jesus Christ recorded in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
At some point during the first year in which I was speaking on the Bible Study Hour, in a question and answer period, the announcer asked a question that I have heard many people ask in one form or another. He asked, “We have all heard the expression, Dr. Boice, that temptations come to us from the world, the flesh and the devil, but it seems that all three of Christ’s temptations in the wilderness came to him from the devil. Isn’t that right? And if it is, how can we say Jesus ‘was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb. 4:15)?”
It was a good question. I pointed out the fact that there is a fine distinction here, on the basis of which it was necessary for Jesus to be tempted in all points directly by the devil. Jesus did not have a sinful nature as we do, so he could not be tempted by a sinful nature. Neither could he be tempted by the world directly because the sins of the world are pride, arrogance, a desire for dominance, and so on, and Jesus had no point of contact in himself for these. If Jesus was to be tempted at all, the temptations had to come to him from a direct encounter with the devil, just as Adam and Eve had to receive their temptations from the devil; for before their fall, Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature either.
At the same time, however, we notice as we read the account of Christ’s temptations that each of the temptations did relate to one of these three areas. The temptation to turn stones to bread was a fleshly temptation; the temptation to throw himself from the top of the temple in Jerusalem was a temptation to gain the world’s esteem in the world’s way; the temptation to worship Satan was an outright spiritual temptation that would have placed the Lord in direct opposition to God, his heavenly Father. Thus, although all the temptations came originally from the devil, they were nevertheless temptations to the sins of the flesh, the world, and the devil. They show us that Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we are. Of course, these temptations were far more subtle and stronger than our temptations because of their source.
Now, how did the Lord Jesus Christ come out on top of these temptations? The answer to this question is contrary to what most people think, for they think he did it by drawing on his divine nature. They believe that he had more power to resist temptation than we have. It is true, of course, that Jesus did have more power than we have. But there is nothing in the Bible to show that Christ ever resisted temptation by drawing on his divine nature. Jesus was both man and God. Yet he resisted temptation as a man. What is more, it is for this reason that he is an example for us when we are tempted.
So let me ask the question again. How did Jesus resist the temptations that are recorded in Matthew 4? Well, first, he had just spent forty days in fasting and in prayer. And, second, he replied to the devil in every instance by quoting Scripture.
Satan had come to him saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” This was a temptation to put physical needs above spiritual ones, and Jesus answered by saying, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It was a direct quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3. Next, the devil took him up to Jerusalem and, placing him on a pinnacle of the temple, challenged him to throw himself down trusting God to bear him up. In this way Christ would appear, as it were, from heaven and thereby gain an immediate following. Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” In the final temptation Satan asked Christ to worship him in exchange for this world’s glory. This was a spiritual temptation. Jesus replied, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Once again Jesus had resisted the devil by a quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:13).
Jesus overcame temptation just as we are to overcome temptation—by prayer and by the knowledge of the Bible, and he even had to learn his knowledge of the Bible. Certainly when we learn to pray as Jesus prayed and when we learn the Bible as Jesus knew the Bible, then we will experience victory over our temptations also.
Moreover, if we do these things we also will have great confidence before God even when we are faced with temptations. We will pray that God will keep us from Satan’s temptations. I would rephrase this section of the Lord’s Prayer to say, “Keep us from wandering into paths where we will be tempted by the devil; but if he comes, keep us out of his clutches.” But even as we pray this we will pray knowing that “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Finally, the prayer ends with the words, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” It does not ask that these things might become true. It acknowledges that they are true. Are they true? Then we ought not to worry about the future if we are God’s children. All too often we find ourselves doubting that God really is able to take care of us, and we worry about our own little kingdoms, our power, and our glory. How foolish when we know that his kingdom is certain, that his power is sufficient for all situations, and that his glory ultimately will prevail.
13 The word peirasmos (“temptation,” GK 4280) and its cognate verb rarely if ever before the NT mean “temptation” in the sense of “enticement to sin” (whether from inward lust or outward circumstances) but rather “testing” (see comments at 4:1–12). But testing can have various purposes (e.g., refinement, ascertaining the strength of character, enticement to sin) and diverse results (greater purity, self-confidence, growth in faith, sin); as a result, the word can slide over into the entirely negative sense of “temptation.” See comments on the cognate verb in 4:1. The word sustains the unambiguous meaning in James 1:13–14, which assures us that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone [i.e., with evil]” (cf. Mt 4:1, 3; 1 Co 7:5; 1 Th 3:5; Rev 2:10). In this light, peirasmos cannot easily mean “temptation” here in v. 13, for that would be to pray that God would not do what in fact he cannot do, akin to praying that God would not sin.
But if peirasmos here means testing, we face another problem. The NT everywhere insists that believers will face testings or trials of many kinds but that these should be faced with joy (Jas 1:2; cf. 1 Co 10:13). If this is so, to pray for grace and endurance in trial is understandable; but to pray not to be brought to testings is strange. For detailed probing of the problem and interaction with the sources, see C. F. D. Moule, “An Unsolved Problem in the Temptation-Clause in the Lord’s Prayer,” RTR 33 (1974): 65–75.
Some have argued that the testing is the eschatological tribulation, the period of messianic woes (e.g., Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 104–7) characterized by apostasy. The petition becomes a plea to be secured from that final apostasy and is reflected in the NEB’s “do not bring us to the test.” But not only is peirasmos never used for this tribulation unless carefully qualified (and therefore Rev 3:10 is no exception, regardless of its interpretation), but one would at least expect to find the article in the Matthean clause. Carmignac (Recherches sur le “Notre Père,” 396, 445) so reconstructs the alleged Hebrew original that he distinguishes “to testing” from “into testing,” interpreting the latter to mean actually succumbing. The prayer then asks to be spared, not from testing, but from failing. Unfortunately, his linguistic arguments are not convincing.
Many cite b. Ber. 60b as a parallel: “Bring me not into sin, or into iniquity, or into temptation, or into contempt.” It is possible that the causative form of the Lord’s Prayer is, similarly, not meant to be unmediated but has a permissive nuance: “Let us not be brought into temptation [i.e., by the devil].” This interpretation is greatly strengthened if the word “temptation” can be taken to mean “trial or temptation that results in fall”; this appears to be required in two NT passages (Mk 14:38; Gal 6:1; cf. J. V. Dahms, “Lead Us Not into Temptation,” JETS 17 : 229).
It also may be that we are forcing this sixth petition into too rigid a mold. The NT tells us that this age will be characterized by wars and rumors of wars (see comments at 24:6) but does not find it incongruous to urge us to pray for those in authority so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives” (1 Ti 2:2). While Jesus told his disciples to rejoice when persecuted (Mt 5:10–12), he nevertheless exhorted them to flee from it (10:23) and even to pray that their flight should not be too severe (24:20). Similarly, a prayer requesting to be spared testings may not be incongruous when placed beside exhortations to consider such testings, when they come, as pure joy.
“Deliver us” (rhyomai, GK 4861) could mean either, on the one hand, “spare us from,” “preserve us against,” or, on the other hand, “deliver us out of,” “save us from” (BDAG, 907–8). Both are spiritually relevant, and which way the verb is taken depends largely on how the preceding clause is understood. The words tou ponērou (“the evil one,” GK 4505) could be either neuter (“evil”; cf. Lk 6:45; Ro 12:9; 1 Th 5:22) or masculine (“the evil one,” referring to Satan; Mt 13:19, 38; Eph 6:16; 1 Jn 2:13–14; 3:12; 5:19). In some cases, the Greek does not distinguish the gender (see comments at 5:37). However, a reference to Satan is far more likely here for two reasons: (1) “deliver us” can take either the preposition ek (“from”) or apo (“from”), the former always introducing things from which to be delivered, the latter being used predominantly of persons (cf. J. B. Bauer, “Liberanos a malo,” Verbum Domini 34 : 12–15; Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 89); and (2) Matthew’s first mention of temptation (4:1–11) is unambiguously connected with the devil. Thus the Lord’s model prayer ends with a petition that, while implicitly recognizing our own helplessness before the devil, whom Jesus alone could vanquish (4:1–11), delights to trust the heavenly Father for deliverance from the devil’s strength and wiles.
The doxology—“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”—is found in various forms in many MSS. The diversity of what parts are attested is itself suspicious (for full discussion, see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 16–17; cf. Hendriksen, 337–38). The MS evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of omission—a point conceded by Davies (Setting, 451–53), whose liturgical arguments for inclusion are not convincing.
The doxology itself is theologically profound and contextually suitable and was no doubt judged especially suitable by those who saw in the last three petitions a veiled allusion to the Trinity: the Father’s creation and providence provides our bread, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the Spirit’s indwelling power assures our safety and triumph. But “surely it is more important to know what the Bible really contains and really means than to cling to something not really in the Bible, merely because it gratifies our taste, or even because it has for us some precious associations” (Broadus).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 102). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 395–397). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 201–206). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 207–208). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.