STUDY 10: THE THIRD CONCERN IN PRAYER - PART FOUR: BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 

Bible teachers and translators question whether this phrase means ‘evil’ or ‘evil one’. It would appear Biblically accurate to hold that it means both, and to run with a comprehensive, all-inclusive understanding of Christ’s meaning here, for the two go hand in hand.

 

WHO IS THE EVIL ONE FROM WHOM WE ARE PRAYING TO BE DELIVERED?

[1] He is the original tempter: Genesis 3:1-4 , Revelation 12:9; see also Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

[2] He is the original deceiver: Genesis 3:1-4. Read also the following references to see deception in action by the evil one and his servants: Deuteronomy 11:16; Jeremiah 29:8; Matthew 24:4,5, 24; Luke 21:8; John 8:44; Acts 5:3; Romans 7:11; 16:18; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Ephesians 4:14; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; 1 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 3:13; Titus 3:3; 1 John 3:7; 2 John 7; Revelation 12:9; 20:3,8; 13:14.

In the above references the evil one’s deception is aimed to make us:

[1] worship false gods

[2] listen to and believe the messages, visions and dreams of false prophets

[3] be impacted by false miracles

[4] believe false Christs

[5] believe lies

[6] believe sin is okay

[7] lead us away from God and the truth – ‘astray’.

There is also an aspect of deception in which we are deluded that God will let unrepentant sinners into heaven, or that it is okay to sin, or that we have no sin. This is perhaps the ultimate deception: that a man is convinced that he is acceptable to God and going to heaven when in reality he is not. [1 Cor 3:18 ; 1Cor 6:9,10; Galatians 6:7; James 1:22 ,26; 1 John 1:8.]

[3] He is the original sinner, and promotes sin and ignorance of God (darkness): Matthew 23:16,17,19, 24,26; 15:13-14; Luke 22:53; John 8:44; 9:40; Acts 26:17,18; Romans 1:21; 2 Cor 3:14; 4:4; Ephesians 4:18; 6:12; Colossians 1:13; 1 John 2:11; 3:8,12.

[4] He is the destroyer: Luke 4:35 ; 8:12 ; 9:42 ; 22:31 ; 2 Cor 12:7; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 9:11.

[5] He is the accuser [the Greek word diabolo s which is translated ‘devil’, means ‘slanderer’, ‘accuser’, ‘defamer’.] Genesis 3:1,5; Job 1:9; 2:4; Revelation 12:10.

[6] He is the manipulator of men: 1 Chronicles 21:1; Matthew 16:23; John 13:2, 27; Acts 5:3; 2 Cor 2:10 ,11; Revelation 13:2.

[7] He is the one who oppresses, ensnares, and enslaves: Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38; 1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:26.

[8] He is the enemy of God and God’s people: Matt 13:(28), 39; Luke 10:19 ; Acts 13:10 ; Ephesians 6:12 ; Colossians 2:15 ; Revelation 12:17 ; 13:5-7.

[9] He is the ruler of this world: John 12:31; 14:30; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 1:13; 1 John 5:19.

When we pray ‘deliver us from the evil one’ we are asking our Father to snatch us away from all that is listed in these nine points. Again, as we have seen in earlier phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, this is a massive prayer.

 

WHAT IS THE EVIL FROM WHICH WE ARE PRAYING TO BE DELIVERED?

It is all that results from the power, work and suggestions of ‘the evil one’, and all that is in line with, and contributes to, his purpose and his persistent opposition to God, as listed above. This includes:

[1] all moral sin.

[2] the ultimate sin of rejection of God and any form or level of rebellion against God.

[3] all that is listed above as being the work of the evil one, or resulting from the work of the evil one.

[4] all that will be no more after the final judgement day: those things that are here only as the result of the entry of sin and suffering onto earth at the devil’s instigation in Genesis 3: imperfection (1 Corinthians 13:10 ; 1 John 3:1,2); anti-God dominion, power and authority (1 Corinthians 15:24 ); death (1 Corinthians 15:26 ); weakness and mortality (1 Corinthians 15:40 , 52-55); hunger, thirst, tears ( Rev 7:16 ,17); death ( Rev 20:14 ); tears, death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4); impurity, shamefulness or deception ( Rev 21:27 ); curse (Rev 22:3); darkness (Rev 22:5).

 

WHAT ARE WE PRAYING HERE?

This a twofold prayer in which both parts express a very similar thought; in the first part the thought is expressed negatively – ‘lead us not into temptation’; in the second, the thought is expressed positively – ‘but deliver us from the evil one.’ ‘Temptation’ in the first thought parallels ‘the evil one’ in the second thought, so that they amount to the same thing at a comprehensive, foundational level. ‘Lead us not into’ of the first thought parallels the ‘deliver us from’ of the second thought. The two thoughts are connected by the strong adversative alla - ‘but’, which expresses a strong contrast or opposition: don’t do this, rather do this.

[1] ‘lead us not into temptation’ – The Greek is literally ‘do not bring us into temptation’. [GNB: ‘Do not bring us to hard testing’. NEB : ‘And do not bring us to the test.’] The construction used here is interesting. It is the form of the verb known as the Aorist Subjunctive, which, when preceded by the negative me, expresses a command (or entreaty) not to begin an action. To bring out the meaning of the Greek grammar we need to translate it: ‘do not begin to bring us into temptation’.

A further point of importance is that eis – ‘into’ occurs twice in this phrase – firstly as a prefix to the verb translated ‘lead’ or ‘bring’, and secondly, as a preposition before ‘temptation’. It would be clumsy to try to fit these two ‘into’s into an English translation, but their double presence emphasises their significance. We are not telling/entreating God not to bring us to the point where we are confronted by temptation (temptation/testing confronts us at every turn, at every decision; we are surrounded by temptation/testing); rather, we are telling/entreating him not to bring us to the point where we actually give into the temptation (testing) that confronts us, and actually do what is being suggested by or provoked by the temptation (testing). We are expressing here that we do not want even dip our finger into the temptation and just taste it, that we do not even want to dabble our toes in it to see what it’s like: that we do not want even to begin to get involved, not even in an initial, exploratory way, in whatever it is that confronts us. We do not even want to have to struggle with the possibility of doing it. 

Here in this prayer we affirm our commitment to God, we acknowledge our own vulnerability and weakness (see 1 Corinthians 10:12 ), and we express our awareness of the enemy and his nature. We are saying ‘our Father, we love and honour you so much that our whole being shrinks from the thought that we might prove unfaithful to you, so we beg you, we even ‘command’ you, if it is possible for mere humans to ‘command’ you, that you never even begin to bring us to the point where the temptation is so alluring, so strong, that we actually begin to even think about doing what it is provoking us to do.’

We must be careful here that we do not ascribe the source of temptation to God. The source of temptation is

      • not God (James 1:13 ), but ... 
      • our own desires (Galatians 7:17; James 1:14,15; 1 Timothy 6:9 )
      • the devil (Matthew 4:1; 1 Corinthians 7:5)
      • our common human lot since the fall (Romans 7:23 ; 1 Corinthians 10:12 )
      • ‘the world’ (James 4:4; 1 John 5:3-5).

Rather than attribute temptation to God, this prayer is acknowledging his sovereign control over all things – that even temptation’s content and purpose, which is utterly opposed to him and his purpose, is not beyond his power and his authority. Here, knowing that it is inevitable that we will be the targets of Satan’s opposition to all that God approves, we express our confidence that God can limit it, that he can control it, that he can stop it. We are not alone, victims of our own sinful weakness, confronted by this device of the enemy: God is in control. (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13). This bold faith we acknowledge here in this urgent, trembling entreaty.

[2] ‘but deliver us from the evil one’

The introductory ‘but’ in this part of the prayer releases us from the tension posed in the first part. We quickly move from the foolishness of the unthinkable thought that God himself would ever bring us into temptation, to the very opposite of that thought. Not only will he not lead us into temptation, but he will rather ‘deliver us from the evil one’, and for this imperative rescue we urgently entreat him.

The ‘deliver us’ means to drag out of danger, to rescue, or to save. The Greek word translated ‘from’ means ‘away from’ not ‘out of’.

Here we are asking our Father to snatch us away from the evil one and his temptations before he deceives us and sucks us into his schemes and purposes – before we get sucked in by his temptations or overpowered by his provocations, to snatch us away from the evil one even before we have to struggle against him. Again, this is an acknowledgement of our weakness and vulnerability, and an acknowledgement of the subtle deceitfulness of the evil one. If Jesus Christ, who was perfectly committed to and desiring nothing else but to do the will of his Father, struggled so intensely against the evil one’s alluring suggestions, what hope have we sinners of surviving the struggle with our faith and commitment intact, apart from God’s rescuing us.

 

GOD’S PROMISE OF THE MEANS OF DELIVERANCE FROM THE EVIL ONE AND HIS TEMPTATIONS

When we pray ‘but deliver us from the evil one’ that deliverance, most of the time, will be in keeping with what God has already promised and provided. At those promises we will now look.

In 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 we read: ‘if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And 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.’

This teaches us:

[1] we are vulnerable, even if we think we are not.

[2] the testing/temptations that come to us are ‘common to man’; in other words, we can expect testing/tempting situations to confront us, and none of them will be in a new category that has not happened before, and that doesn’t happen to everyone generally. [The specifics of the individual circumstances may vary, but the end result sought by the evil one, (along with the techniques he uses) is the same: that we deny and dishonour God.]

It also promises us :

[1] God is faithful . Here we are reminded of other promises in John 6:37,39,40; 10:28 ,29; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Jude 24.

[2] he will not let us be tested/tempted beyond what than we can bear . God knows us; he knows our circumstances, and is able to, and does, set a limit or restriction on the testing/ temptation. We can see this clearly in the case of Job, where Satan was limited by God in what he was allowed to do to Job. We also see it in God’s obvious confidence that Job will come out of the testing unscathed, that his faith will be proved to be genuine, and that Satan’s accusations of non-genuine faith and lack of integrity are false. God knew Job, and he knew that Job’s faith was his gift to Job, and therefore genuine. This promise also assures us that when we are confronted by testing/temptation, it is not something that is too hard for us, because God here assures us that he will not let anything come our way that we are not able to cope with. [So, what does this say about the times we give in? It means simply that we gave in where we could have survived unscathed if we had laid hold of God’s way of escape. ]

[3] that God will provide a way of escape from the testing/temptation so that we will not give in under the pressure, but rather, will stand up under it.

This part of the promise is introduced by the same strong ‘but’ that we saw in the Lord’s prayer introducing ‘but deliver us from the evil one’. We are promised that not only will God not let us be tested/tempted beyond what we are able to cope with, BUT he will also, to the contrary, actually provide a ‘way out’, an escape route, enabling us to ‘stand up’ (bear, endure) under the testing/temptation. Paul uses the same word in 2 Timothy 3:10-12: ‘You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted …’ And Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:19: ‘ .. it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.’

In addition to these promises, we have God’s provision for our deliverance firstly in our calling, and secondly in the comprehensive and perfect armour which he provides for us in Christ Jesus, and which he details in Ephesians 6:10-18, and which is a separate study.