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Matthew 6:13 "Jesus' Example of Prayer, Part 6: Rescue Us from the Evil One"

And bring us not into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

As with v. 12, this final request begins with the conjunction καὶ, indicating that this is not only connected with what precedes but is within the same vein of thought. All three petitions in vv. 11-13 are uttered in faith that God will provide for a disciple’s needs. Needs for physical survival (v. 11), providential salvation (v. 12) and preserving sanctification (v. 13). Anything and everything a believer needs is addressed in this second section of the Lord’s model prayer. Though necessary, it is not enough to identify the grammatical and syntactical meaning of this request. This of course will be our first step, but then we must press on to place this request within the context of the prayer to understand precisely what we are being exhorted to pray for, so that we might pray thusly.

Understanding the Text:This final request consists of two parts. The English may seem as if there are two petitions in a single verse, but the first clause is formed with a negated subjunctive (μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς – might you not bring us) that sets the background for the petition proper formed (as usual) with the aorist imperative (ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς – but rescue us). Jesus presents this request in two halves, where unlike the previous petition, the human temporal situation is presented first while the divine requested action is saved for the end.

And bring us not into temptation. This phrase has been explained in various ways ranging from an assumption that Matthew’s Greek is a botched attempt to translate Jesus’ original Aramaic statement[1] to the idea that v. 13 is a permissive request (if it pleases You, please do not allow us to be tested) which more or less requests the same thing twice. This being the idea stated negatively as the second clause states the request positively.[2] These (and other) flimsy arguments forget that (1) there is not a scrap of evidence that suggests Jesus spoke in Aramaic, (2) Matthew’s use of Greek to a Jewish audience combined with Matthew’s introduction to the sermon (5:2) demands that these words are quoted from Jesus in the language He used, and (3) there is nothing permissive about this statement.[3] The negated aorist subjunctive (μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς) functions as a negative command or prohibition.[4] The context of a prayer makes this a request, but this is still a far cry from a request for God’s permission. One only need look at similar constructions (μὴ + aorist subjunctive) in the very near context to understand the folly of a permissive interpretation (Matt. 5:17, 20, 42; 6:2, 7, 8, 15, 18). The reason Jesus uses the subjunctive here instead of the customary imperative (as in vv. 9, 10, 11, 12) should be obvious enough: the sixth and final request appears in the second clause of v. 13. Here, we are given the background needed to understand the request. There are therefore three questions of concern to us: (1) what is the meaning of the verb εἰσενέγκῃς? (2) To whom does the verb concern? (3) What is the meaning of πειρασμός translated here as temptation?

The subjunctive verb comes from the compound εἰσφέρω meaning to bring in. While not overly common in the New Testament (only 8 occurrences) it is used in a variety of contexts whereby (a) a person is brought in to a house (Lk. 5:18, 19) or to an assembly (Lk. 12:11), (b) ideas or concepts are brought to the attention to others (Acts 17:20), (c) material objects are brought into a certain place (1 Tim. 6:7; Heb. 13:11), or (d) persons are placed/brought in a particular situation (Matt. 6:13; Lk. 11:4). The overall usage of this term indicates that the object of verb is not led so much as it is placed, positioned, or brought into a physical place or situation. The prayer begins by the disciple strongly asking the Father not to pick him up and set him down in a situation of temptation.

From here it is best to consider who the object of the verb is. This is a prayer for Jesus’ disciples and followers, that is to say believers. This is prayed by those who refer to the Creator of the universe as Father (v. 9). This is a prayer for such men to pray for themselves and for their fellow disciples. The first plural ἡμᾶς (us), as with the need for daily sustenance (v. 11) and forgiveness (v. 12), phrases this as prayer uttered by the community of believers for the community of believers. When Jesus commands His disciples to pray thusly, He exhorts corporate intercession more so than private cries of desperation. Bring us not into temptation. But what does Jesus mean by temptation?

The term translated as temptation (πειρασμός) describes a testing of sorts. The testing could be in the form of discovery, to determine the nature or character of a person or even of a substance in the sense that precious metals are heated to a molten state to determine the level of impurities (test/trial). This sense of πειρασμός is not unheard of in the New Testament (Acts 20:19; Gal. 4:14; Heb. 3:8; 1 Pet. 4:12). Passing such a test, while unpleasant, would certainly be in the best interest of all. It would be strange indeed for Jesus to exhort His disciples to pray that the Father would not place them in such a test. The term can also describe a test or trial that is never intended for the person to pass (temptation). The sense would then be of a situation where someone is enticed or lured into failing the test. This is the exclusive use of the term (and its verbal cognate πειράζω) in Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 4:1, 3; 6:13; 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; 26:41) and is therefore the likeliest understanding here. The background of the upcoming request is therefore asking the Father not to place His children in a situation designed for their failure. That God would not and does not do this is explicitly stated in James (1:13-14). This background therefore is rooted in faith regarding God’s character. Rather than begging God not to faulter from His faithful righteousness, this request is couched in a statement that trusts the Father to never set His children up for failure.

But rescue us from the evil one. Here the request is made in a straightforward manner. The contrastive ἀλλὰ (but) notes that God cannot both place His people into temptation that seeks their downfall and rescue from the evil one. The request to be rescued presupposes (1) God is not placing His people into temptations designed for their failure and (2) the evil one is doing the tempting. The same singular articular substantival adjective found in 5:37&39 (τοῦ πονηροῦ) appears here again and with the same meaning. Every time this construction is used in Matthew, the referent is unambiguously the devil, which is Jesus’ intention here. Tempting people is what the devil does (Gen. 3:1-4; Matt. 4:1-11) and has already been referred to as the tempter (ὁ πειράζων – Matt. 4:3). This is not a request to be saved/rescued/delivered (ῥόμαι) from a nebulous evil force or even from an evil world or society but from the father of lies, Satan, the devil himself who walks about back and forth upon the earth (Job 1:7; 2:2) seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). It is worth noting that Jesus exhorts His disciples to ask the Father to rescue them, not simply to help them. Believers are never commanded or encouraged to do battle with the devil. This is God’s territory. Man does not need an assistant or a helper against the devil so much as he needs a savior, a deliverer, someone to rescue him from his helpless state. Because Jesus’ disciples know that God will never place them into a situation designed for their failure there is courage and faith to ask the Father to rescue them from the one whose goal is to see them fall. Because God is in the business of rescuing His children by always providing a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13), such trials and temptations can be counted as joy (James 1:2). But only because it is the Father who rescues His children from the schemes of the devil.

Understanding the Context: Putting all this together requires two steps. First, it is necessary to explore what other texts and scenarios Jesus is drawing from. All the other petitions in this prayer seem to have a rich biblical background and it would be at least curious if this one did not. Second, we should not miss the fact that this request, like v. 12, begins with the connective conjunction καὶ (and), thus linking all three requests in vv. 11-13 together.

Combining the action of temptation in the context of the devil as the tempter immediately should draw two related scenes to mind: (1) the temptation of Adam in Eden (Gen. 3:1-7) and (2) the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). The connection between these two texts has already been discussed in the exposition of the latter. To put it simply: Jesus, as the last Adam, succeeded where the first Adam failed. This is precisely the point here. To ask the Father not to place us in such a situation as Adam (or Jesus for that matter) is to confess our utter inability to succeed. We cannot accomplish what Jesus accomplished because we are not Him. Only Jesus can be placed directly in the devil’s path and arise victoriously. But to request that the Father rescue us from Satan’s power is to trust in that victory. There is no need to succeed where Adam failed because Jesus has already accomplished it. This prayer expresses faith in that victory. The one who prays thusly confesses his inability and clings to Jesus’ ability.

In adding this verse to His model for praying, Jesus completes a fully orbed picture of what man needs. As a physical being, man needs daily sustenance (v. 11). As a fallen spiritual being, man needs forgiveness (v. 12). And as a not yet glorified being awaiting the coming of the kingdom, man needs supernatural protection and preservation (v. 13). Simply because one has been redeemed by placing his trust in Christ’s atoning work does not limit his daily dependence upon Christ. Our salvation is secure, but only because it is secure in Christ (Jn. 10:25-30). To be redeemed is to follow Jesus. To be preserved is also to follow Jesus. To pray thusly is to trust thusly: Follow/trust Jesus alone.

[1] Robertson, p. 54.

[2] Turner, p. 189.

[3] Quarles, Sermon on the Mount, p. 216.

[4] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), p. 469.


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