Temptation and Evil

Art  in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
Art in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Do you ever worry about Satan?

Satan’s role in tempting us and promoting evil in the world is found throughout scripture.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan is pictured as a snake who rebels against God and tempts others to sin by rebelling with him [1]. God later advises Cain to be good because, otherwise, sin will strike like a snake crouching at your door (Gen 4:7).

Another important image of Satan is given in Job 1 where Satan is depicted as a ruthless prosecuting attorney in God’s court. Satan’s cruel lies slander a righteous Job. Still, Satan cannot afflict Job without first seeking God’s permission (Job 1:6-12). In spite of Satan’s cruelty, Job remains faithful. In the end, God not only acquits him of all of Satan’s charges, Job is compensated for his losses (Job 42:10).

In the synoptic gospels, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert where the devil tempts him [2]. Much like Adam and Eve are tempted with food, the devil starts by goading a hungry Jesus into turning a stone into bread. The devil tempts Jesus three times. Jesus cites scripture in response to each temptation. In the final temptation, the Devil’s temptation starts by misquoting scripture, but Jesus corrects the deception and resists the temptation [3].

Like Job and unlike Adam, Jesus remains faithful to God’s will in life and in death. Jesus’ death on the cross then fulfills the prophecy of Satan’s defeat (Gen 3:15) and pays the penalty for sin—we are redeemed. Because the curse of sin is broken, the death penalty for sin has been rescinded (1 Cor 15:22). The resurrection accordingly proves that we have been reconciled with God.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks us to pray that we not be tempted and that we be delivered from evil. Because Satan must ask permission to tempt us, God can deny that petition and our deliverance is within his power. King David writes: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Ps 16:1) Jesus has promised us that when we turn to him in weakness our salvation is secure (John 10:29).

[1] For example, Kline (2006, 302) writes about the people of God and the people of the serpent.

[2] Mark 1:12-13 gives a brief over view while Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. The Luke version has the most detail. The second and third questions posed by Satan appear in different order in Matthew and Luke.

[3]  Each temptation Jesus faces is a challenge facing all Christians, particularly leaders. Henri Nouwen (2002, 7–8) summarizes these leadership challenges as the temptation to be relevant (provide food), to be spectacular (show your divinity), and to be powerful (take charge).

REFERENCES

Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Convenental Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Nouwen, Henri J. M. 2002. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

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