Among the rest of the wretched news of recents days is a report that Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, wants to alter a specific line in the Lord's prayer.
For the sake of context, the Lord's prayer is:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)
The specific phrase Francis wants to change is "lead us not into temptation." His reasoning?" Lead us not into temptation" is "not a good translation."
Francis also said, "It is not He that pushes me into temptation and then sees how I fall. A father does not do this. A father quickly helps those who are provoked into Satan's temptation." (source: NPR).
As is well known, the Roman Catholic Church makes Scripture equal to unwritten tradition. Since it is the RCC itself that determines what Scripture and tradition are in the first place, and then what they mean, ultimately the highest authority for the Church is the Church itself. We certainly see this philosophy in Francis' decision. The Scripture does not mean what it says; it means what the Church – ultimately, Francis himself – says it means.
Is Francis correct? Is "lead us not" a poor translation?
No, it is not.
The Greek word translated "lead" is eispherō. It means to bring, to lead, to cause to do something. In addition to the Lord's prayer passages in Matthew and Luke, it is used several other times in the New Testament.
In Luke 5:18–19 we are told, "And behold, some men were BRINGING on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to BRING him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus."
Later on in Luke 12:11 we read, "And when they BRING you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say…"
As Paul was preaching in Athens, he was approached by some philosophers. Acts 17:19–20 tells us, "And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you BRING some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.' "
The apostle Paul wrote Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we BROUGHT nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world." (First Timothy 6:6).
The writer of Hebrews says, "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is BROUGHT into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp." (Hebrews 6:11).
There is simply no way to interpret eisphero in as passive a way as Francis wants. To do so makes nonsense of the text.
Therefore, Francis is incorrect that "lead us not" is a poor translation. He doesn't like the implications of "lead us not," but that doesn't give him any authority to simply ignore the biblical text.
What's more, Francis' initial interpretation is unbiblical: "It is not He that pushes me into temptation and then sees how I fall." This is a straw-man argument; the Bible never claims that God "pushes" us into temptation just to see how badly we do.
But God does use temptation for godly purposes. After all, Matthew 4:1 says, "Then Jesus was LED UP by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Mark's Gospel puts it even more bluntly: "The Spirit immediately DROVE Him into the wilderness." (Mark 1:12).
God is a good Father, of course, and as a good Father He brings discipline into our lives. If you read Hebrews 12:3-11 you'll see that "In your struggle against sin" (v. 4) parallels "it is for discipline that you have to endure" (v. 7). We are disciplined that we may share in the holiness of God (v. 10). Part of that discipline is the careful, God-ordained administration of temptation.
God tests our faith, as James writes in James 1:2-3. Does God Himself tempt us to sin? Absolutely not, as James 1:13-15 makes clear. But God does sovereignly and providentially place us in positions where our faith (and obedience and sanctification) may be tested.
Paul wrote the Corinthian church, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted BEYOND your ability, but WITH THE TEMPTATION HE WILL ALSO PROVIDE the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (First Corinthians 10:13). God does control our temptations, and, for Christians, prevents them from being more than we can resist. He provides the temptation and also the way of escape.
God's faithfulness means that we are not tempted beyond our ability, and He always provides the way of escape. It does not mean that He protects us against every last possible temptation.
So, does the Lord tempt us to trick us into sinning? God forbid! Does the Lord allow temptation to come upon us so that we may learn discipline and to turn away from its lies? Absolutely. Those who are in Christ, who have repented of their sins and trusted in the Savior, have His assurance that they are safe and secure in His hands. Where sin abounds, grace abounds far more (Romans 5:20-21).
But for unbelievers it is a far different story. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18).
While there is an eternal judgment coming, there are also temporal judgments upon the wicked, and those judgments include an increase in sinful activity. "God GAVE THEM UP in the lusts of their hearts to impurity … God GAVE THEM UP to dishonorable passions … God GAVE THEM UP to a debased mind to do what not ought to be done." (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).
Being given up to more and more sin is a terrible judgment, it really is. God is Love, and God is Righteousness. His justice is perfect. Paul warned the Galatian church, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7).
Putting it differently, be very, very careful. Don't think you can play games with the holiness of God, and then fool Him by presuming on His love. God is holy. Those who are not holy (that is, every single human being ever, with the exception of Jesus Christ) will either bear the full of God's righteous wrath for all eternity, or be forgiven because God placed their sin on Jesus Christ at Calvary, and poured His wrath out upon His own Son.
I'll make it personal. The wrath of holy God must be satisfied. You fully deserve the full, terrible weight of the wrath of God.
If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, then you have the promise of God that Jesus bore the complete and full wrath of God in your place, and that in exchange, you have received full credit for Jesus' own perfect righteousness.
But if you refuse the gift of Jesus Christ, whether you deny that any of this is real, or whether you believe that you aren't that bad, then your blood is on your own hands, and you will bear the wrath of God throughout all eternity.
On behalf of Jesus Christ, if you have trusted Him, then endure what this life brings, and remain faithful to the Lord Jesus. Wait patiently and faithfully for His return.
But if you have not trusted Him, then I beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God! Repent of your sins, and cast yourself upon the Lord Jesus. All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved – ALL. A lifetime of good works can't make up for even one sin. But His one sacrifice on the cross will washes away your entire lifetime of wickedness, and bring you into a loving, hope-filled relationship with your Creator. Trust Him today!