This week we are considering the Sixth Petition to the Lord’s Prayer: “And lead us not into temptation.” And Luther’s explanation reads, “God tempts no one to sin, but we ask in this prayer that God would watch over us and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful self may not deceive us and draw us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins. And we pray that even though we are so tempted we may still win the final victory.”
Luther is certainly on the mark when he reminds us that God himself does not tempt us to sin (see James 1:13). The identity of the tempter is threefold: the devil, the world, and our sinful self. So we might ask, why would we ask God not to do something that he in fact has no intention of doing?
I think the answer, at least in part, is to remind us that we can rely upon the Lord to protect us from those elements that would lead us into temptation and then have us succumb to them. For far from leading us in that direction, God will deliver us from temptation and lead us in the path of life.
It is also interesting to note the two temptations to which Luther directs our attention. They are false belief and despair. On the surface they may not seem so serious. But Luther recognizes that the effect of either of these two can lead to damnation!
Even other great and shameful sins can be forgiven you if you retain right belief, and do not knuckle under to despair. For false believe can lead us to bark up the wrong tree for the fruit of forgiveness. Christ’s death alone atones for our sin. And despair blinds a person to the love of God and his outstretched arm of mercy. It is the antithesis of faith and hope.
And so that we don’t take our salvation for granted, we are taught to continually pray that we not succumb to temptation, especially false belief and despair.
Since You Asked…
What is the Significance of The Baptism of Our Lord?
John the Baptist came proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Since Jesus was sinless he had no need to be forgiven. The human race, however, is sinful. And our need for forgiveness is great indeed. In explaining why he should be baptized by John, Jesus said, it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, Jesus came to stand with us and accomplish on our behalf all that God requires of us, including repentance and the forgiveness of sins! At his baptism there was a revealing (an epiphany) of the Holy Trinity. And at his baptism, Jesus took our humanity which he assumed in the Incarnation and lowered it in the cleansing water of Baptism. His public ministry would commence with this public rite.