STILL ON PRAYING FOR THE DEAD
"May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus" (2 Timothy 1:16-18 NIV).
Before I sent my message on praying for the dead out two weeks ago, I have decided not to engage in any debate on the issue because I knew that it is a controversial issue. My determination was to make known the simple message of the Bible about the issue. However, I followed people's reactions and counter-actions to the message with interest. It amused me to discover that some people are using a somewhat obscure passage of the Bible to support the issue. According to these people, Paul in the passage cited above prayed for Onesiphorus who was dead by then. Can you read the passage again? What in the passage suggests that Onesiphorus was dead by the time Paul said this prayer? Some will claim that the phrase "on that day" suggests that. Interesting!
Well, the purpose of this message is not to debate this issue, but to point out a fact: never use any controversial Bible passage to propagate a teaching or doctrine, rather, let other clearer passages of the Bible explain the controversial passages. The Holy Bible never contradicts itself in any way. Only a Bible critic who is ready to discredit the word of God will adamantly say that the Bible contradicts itself. I know that most of the people that are in support of praying for the dead are not Bible critics. They are people that have been taught dogmatically about some practices based on traditions and cultures and now try to find biblical supports for such practices.
As for praying for the dead, one's beliefs about God, life after death, salvation and other salient doctrines of the Bible will determine whether to pray for the dead or not. Man's doctrines and cultures may thrive for awhile, but the undiluted words of God will stand for ever. No amount of prayers will change the state of the dead. Instead of praying for the dead, pray for the living ones that the dead left behind.
In His service,
Bayo Afolaranmi (Pastor).
Your reactions to this issue are still welcome. I have gone into my archive to retrieve an article "WHERE DO THE DEAD GO?" that I wrote some years ago. If you have interest in it, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless you!