The first occurrence of temptation in the recorded history of man may be
found in the first seven verses of the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible,
where the serpent (Satan) successfully tempts the first woman (Eve) and the
first man (Adam) to sin. The last occurrence of temptation in the (advanced)
recorded history of man may also be found in the Bible, Revelation 20:7-10,
where after the Millennial Kingdom of Christ upon earth Satan will successfully
tempt the nations to rise up against Christ only to have his rebellion crushed.
Between these two events the inspired Word of God chronicles many temptations
of man. Whether they are the temptations of the nation Israel, the mighty
Samson, the Patriarch David or any of the New Testament Apostles; all fall under
either the direct or permissive will of God and God’s grace-plan for the
salvation, sanctification and glorification of man. It may be succinctly said
that temptations are a certainty of life that every person will experience, be
they Christian or non-Christian.
Within the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture there are seven words that are
translated either tempt, temptation, temptations, tempted, tempter, tempteth or
tempting (KJV all). They follow:
- Nacah—to test, prove or try (Genesis 22:1; Exodus 17:2,
7; Deuteronomy 6:16; Isaiah 7:12; Numbers 14:22; Psalm 78:18, 41, 56;
- Bachan—to try, prove, test, examine or search about (Malachi
- Maccah—a testing or trial (Psalm 95:8; Deuteronomy 4:34;
- Ekpeirazo—try, prove, put to the test (Matthew 4:7; Luke
4:12; 1 Corinthians 10:9; Luke 10:25).
- Peirazo—to try, to prove in either a good or bad sense,
also to prove by solicitation to sin (Matthew 4:1, 3; 16:1; 19:3;
22:18, 35; Mark 1:13; 8:11; 10:2; 12:15; Luke 4:2; 11:16; 29:23; John
8:6; Acts 5:9; 15:10; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 10: 9,13; Galatians 6:1; 1
Thessalonians 3:5; Hebrews 2:18; 3:9; 4:15; 11:37; James 1:13a, 14).
- Peirasmos—trial (Matthew 6:13; 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke
4:13; 8:13; 11:4; 22:28, 40, 46; Acts 20:19; 1 Corinthians 10:13;
Galatians 4:14; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 3:8; James 1:2, 12; 1 Peter
1;6; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 3:10).
- Apeirastos—negative of peirazo, incapable of being
tempted (James 1:13b).
Although all the words carry nearly the same meaning, their primary
connotation is one of a trial or test. Such trials or tests may be
made for the purpose of making a person fall into sin (the exclusive territory
of Satan). They may be made for the purpose of proving, refining and
strengthening one’s spirituality. They may be made to try one’s patience, such
is the case with the nation Israel as they on many occasions did with God. They
may be made by God directly, by Satan directly with God’s permission or by Satan
through man with God’s permission. The point is that all temptations are either
by the direct or permissive will of God. God is unquestionably in control of His
domain and may do with it as He wills (2 Kings 19:28; Job 12:19; Proverbs
21:1; Isaiah 44:25); the theological debate being how He does it. The
answer may be found in understanding God’s direct and permissive
control of events.
The Christian is subject to temptation, just as he was subject to it prior to
his salvation. The primary difference with the Christian, as opposed to the
non-Christian, is that in addition to being tested with a solicitation to evil
(by the hand of Satan) he may also be tested with a solicitation to virtue (that
is to refine and strengthen his spirituality). In either case and for whatever
the objective, the Christian is faced with a choice between good and evil, which
God has allowed Satan to present and display. This second aspect of temptation
is most likely what is meant in the model prayer as given by Jesus Christ in
Matthew 6:13, as follows.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For
Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The Hodder & Stoughton NIV Bible Commentary co-edited by Kenneth L.
Barker and John Kohlenberger III has this to say regarding this verse of
The word used for “temptation” (Gk. 4280) rarely if ever before the
writing of the NT means “temptation” in the sense of “enticement to
sin” (see comments on 4:1; Lk 4:1-2); rather, it means testing. But
testing can have various purposes and diverse results (e.g., greater
purity, growth in faith, but also sin); the word can thus slide over
into the entirely negative sense of “temptation” (see especially Jas
1:13-14). In the light of Jas 1:13-14, the word used here cannot
easily mean “temptation,” for that would be to pray that God would not
do what in fact he cannot do.
But if the word means “testing,” we face another problem. The NT
everywhere insists that believers will face testing or trials of many
kinds and that they should face them with joy (Jas 1:2). Thus, to pray
for grace and endurance in trial is understandable; but to pray not to
be brought to testings is strange. Yet perhaps this is not so strange.
The NT tells us that this age will be characterized by wars and rumors
of wars (24:6) but does not find it incongruous to urge us to pray for
those in authority so “that we may live peaceful and quit lives” (1 Ti
2:2). While Jesus told His disciples to rejoice when persecuted
(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).
This writer believes that the temptation mentioned in Matthew 6:13 can
best be understood if the reader will realize that, just as in the believer’s
salvation, God does not act (test or allow to be tempted) except in conjunction
with the expressed will of the believer. This involves the foreknowledge and
foreordination of God, which may only be partially appreciated by the
human-finite-mind if it grasps the extra-dimensionality of God. As background
for this argument, the reader is directed to this writer’s topical study
entitled “Election vs. Free Will,” which may be found on his web site at
www.bibleone.net. In a nutshell, the
testings or temptations a Christian experiences are the result of God and the
believer, working hand-in-hand, in order to produce the desired result. The end
result though will always depend on God’s ability to influence it by the indwelt
Holy Spirit, which in turn is a factor of the Christian’s faith. If the
Christian is “filled with” (controlled by) the Holy Spirit, all such testings
and temptations will strengthen him spiritually and leave him a more mature
The appeal to God to “not lead” into testing or temptation is therefore
essentially an appeal for the faith and spiritual strength to be untouched by
any such testing or temptation. But if indeed temptation or testing is
unavoidable, the appeal goes on by asking God to deliver (by His strength
working the believer) the Christian from (or “out of”) the evil (or evil one).
The Christian should understand that temptations or testings come relative to
- Physical needs and desires.
- Possessions and power.
- Pride (it is through the Christian’s strengths that he is most
susceptible to pride).
This is clearly seen in Satan’s first temptation to Eve right after her
creation. It is also clearly expressed in 1 John 2:15, 16, where
“worldliness is addressed,” as follows:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but
is of the world.
The Apostle John is saying that worldliness is eternal and is
expressed by the following:
- The cravings of the flesh—preoccupation with gratifying physical
- The lusts of the eyes—preoccupation with material gain and beauty.
- The pride of life (boasting of what one has, does and can
do)—preoccupation with status, importance and power.
If a Christian is well-fortified against these three, by the power of God
(Holy Spirit) in his life, he will be insulated from temptation, and as such,
God may well honor his prayer to “lead him not” into temptation. Otherwise, God
will in fact allow temptation into his life in order to refine and strengthen
him, at which point there comes to play the second part of the 13th
verse of Matthew 6, which is one of deliverance—a factor of the
Christian’s submission to and faith in God’s “deliverance formula” (the
empowerment of the Holy Spirit).
Finally, regardless of the temptations and trials a Christian will face
during this life time, he should always remember that:
- God will not allow his tempting to be unbearable (1 Corinthians
- God does not tempt for the purpose of making the Christian succumb
to evil (James 1:13).
- Jesus was tempted or tested in every way, just as he is tempted and
tested (Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-13).
This last point always sparks a theological debate over whether or not Christ
was actually tempted or tested in the same fashion as a Christian, since Christ
could not sin. It is a fact that because of His Divinity (which was always in
control when it came to such matters and therefore could not sin), it was
through His humanity that He was able to feel and understand humanities
experience with thirst, hunger, pain, weariness and temptation. This allows God
(in Christ) to totally empathize with the Christian, and it allows the Christian
to know that Jesus Christ, in addition to His making intercession for him, will
also not allow any temptation or testing to be more than he can endue, meet and