Is Cremation Wrong for Christians? – LIVE Q&A for February 15, 2024

Is Cremation WRONG for Christians?

Magda sent this question:

I have a question for you. Many years ago, our pastor at that time gave his opinion on the question of being cremated. He explained that in the days of Jesus on earth, the people that were criminals were thrown in a fire to be burnt outside the city. So there is a bad connection to being burnt. Also, most people were buried. He said that to be laid in the earth is like burying a seed that comes to life when Jesus comes to fetch us. I am a widow for just over a year now and my husband requested to be cremated. Probably because it was the cheapest option. I would love to know your opinion about this.

  • The Bible really doesn’t say anything specific about cremation.
  • It’s true that the ancient Hebrews would have been horrified at cremation, given their thinking of how a dead body should be cared for.
  • It’s also true that some early Christians – in the first few centuries of Christianity, and then beyond – thought that cremation was (a) an imitation of pagan Roman customs (b) a denial or disrespect of the Biblical principle of resurrection.

John Trapp is an example of a Christian who said believers should not be cremated:

“The bodies of the saints, being temples of the Holy Ghost, should with reverence be commended and committed unto Christian sepulcher, in hope of the resurrection.”

I like what you said about your pastor giving his opinion – because that’s what it is. We need to be careful about knowing what the Bible says and what it does not say. We should also be careful about those who elevate the traditions of men to the commandments of God, or make God’s commandments of no effect because of their traditions (Mark 7:9-13).

  • It is absolutely true – the Bible says that God will resurrect these bodies.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

  • It’s true – God has a plan and a purpose for these bodies.
  • Our salvation is total: soul, spirit, and body.
  • In some way, our resurrection body will come from these bodies that exist right now.
  • Yet, the bodies of believers are “destroyed” all the time, either through violent destruction or through the decay of time.
  • Cremation does to the body in 30 minutes what 30 years in the ground does.

Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother, and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious to him, the Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace. Amen.

  • We will all turn to dust anyway, and in some way God will take the molecules of our body and reassemble them into a glorious resurrection body.
  • God doesn’t need a well-preserved corpse to do this!
  • Since there is no specific Biblical command against cremation, I think Christians are free to choose it if it does not violate their conscience.
  • Tradition – both Jesus and Christian traditions – speak against the practice of cremation, but the Bible specifically does not.
  • We have freedom in Christ about this.

Remember the resurrection!

Do Christians cremate?

Well, they certainly can. By tradition, some Christian denominations do not cremate. They think it disrespects God’s promise to resurrect the body. Because they want to respect God’s promise to resurrect the body, they don’t want to disrespect it. So that’s why they refuse to cremate. But there’s nothing in the Scripture which prohibits cremation.

Cremation does to the body in 30 minutes what ten years in the ground does to the body. So, it really doesn’t make any difference. The body will decay and turn to ashes and dust in one way or another. I don’t think there’s any Scriptural prohibition to cremation; there are just some Christian traditions who prohibit cremation.

So here is the basic answer: by tradition, both Jews and Christians have been against cremation, because they feel it disrespects the truth and promise of the resurrection of the body. This tradition is probably even stronger in Judaism, coming from the ancient near eastern culture, which believed that to have one’s corpse treated badly after death was a terrible disgrace. However, there isn’t anything in the Bible that specifically condemns cremation… and, as one person said, “Cremation does to the body in 30 minutes what 30 years in the grave does naturally” – the idea being that our bodies decompose and turn to “ash” anyway.

Because it isn’t a strictly Biblical matter, I think it is something up to the individual conscience before God. If someone felt persuaded that they should NOT be cremated, I would not try to persuade them differently. But if someone wanted to do it, I think that is between them and the Lord also. Does that make sense?

Does the Bible teach separation from other believers if they endorse or fellowship with false teachers?

There are Christian brothers who teach things that I think are wrong or false. I believe that God still appoints and grants the gifts of the Spirit, including the more apparently miraculous gifts of the Spirit. I believe that those who teach otherwise, who are known as cessationists, are wrong. In fact, we just finished a 10-part video series on our YouTube channel on Why Cessationism is Wrong.

I believe that those who teach cessationism are wrong, but I would not call them false teachers. People should be aware of what they teach, and if you agree or disagree with them according to your understanding of Scripture, that’s fine.

Other people teach things that I think are dangerous. There are people who teach that there is no substitutionary aspect to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. I believe that a very important aspect of Jesus’ death on the cross was to stand in the place of guilty sinners and receive the wrath and the judgment that they deserved. But there are Christians that deny that. I would call that a false teaching, to deny that there’s any substitutionary punishment aspect to the atoning work of Jesus Christ. I think that teachers like that should be avoided.

The Bible does say to mark and avoid people who are divisive, and people who teach contrary to the truth. However, we need to have wisdom and priority in this so that we’re not dividing from every single brother or sister with whom we might have a relatively small difference of opinion. If we divided on every small difference of opinion, then there would be no unity in the body of Christ. There really needs to be an ordering of priority in the Christian mind about areas of doctrine that we can disagree about. We can disagree on things, yet still recognize that we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

On the central doctrines of our faith, we need to agree. If there is dangerous error in the central doctrines, then separation is allowed. We can err on either side, by being too accommodating or by being too strict. We aren’t looking for some golden middle; we are just looking to follow what’s biblical. What is biblical isn’t always in the middle; it could be more to one side or the other. So, we’re not just trying to find the middle. We’re trying to find what’s biblical.

How does the Holy Spirit guide a Christian? How do we seek out His guidance on what or where God is calling us to?

This is a great question. First and foremost, I would say that the Holy Spirit guides a Christian through the Word of God. This is the clear and incontrovertible way that God has communicated to mankind. Has God communicated in creation? Yes, He has. Has God create communicated to mankind in conscience? Yes, He has. But nothing matches the clarity, helpfulness, and comprehensiveness by which God has communicated to humanity in and through His Word. If you want to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the first thing is to really put yourself in the Word of God. I’m won’t say that you’re always going to find a chapter and verse in the Bible that answers your specific question. But the Word of God will help you to abide in Jesus Christ. It will help you to live in a way that honors Him and listens to Him.

Beyond the obvious emphasis of being in God’s word, I’m a big believer in the way that God guides the believer in a naturally supernatural way. He simply guides our steps. In other words, if I’m trying to pick which university to attend, I don’t have to wait for God to put it in flaming letters in the sky. I don’t have to wait for God to speak in an audible voice. I think it would be extremely rare for God to communicate to somebody in an audible voice, so I’d even be a little bit suspicious of that.

Instead of looking for those things, live your life in general obedience to God and fellowship with God, and follow your sanctified common sense. There are ways in which the Holy Spirit communicates to us through an impression in our mind, or through words spoken by another person, and the Holy Spirit makes it alive to us. But we will only be able to discern such communication from the Holy Spirit as we are walking in the Spirit and anchored in the Word.

In making big life decisions, I would encourage you to walk in the Lord, keep your life right with Him as much as you’re able, and then just simply make decisions using sanctified common sense. Weigh out pluses and minuses and ask God to guide you along the way. There is no one answer to your question, but I hope I’ve given you a general way to seek out the guidance of where God is calling us.

I’ll share one more principle. I think where we are in our stage of life matters a lot. If a single guy comes to me and says, “Hey, I think the Lord might want me to move to such and such country and do this and that.” I might respond, “Well, have you prayed about it? What do you think about it? Do you think you could do it? Then go for it.” On the other hand, if somebody who is married and has three or four kids comes to me and asks the same question, I might say, “Brother, take care, and make sure. Let’s seek the Lord.” I really believe that in cases where more people will be impacted by a decision, it’s okay for us to look for more guidance and more confirmation from the Lord on it. That has been true in some of the big decisions I’ve made in my life.

How can I be restored to a close and strong relationship with God, after a lot of discouragement leading to stumbling? I prayed and desire restoration, but I’m scared I’ve fallen away. Is there hope?

Jesus said that whoever comes to Him, He will in no way cast out. The way in which you describe your situation makes me believe that you are the target of a lot of condemnation from the evil one. I don’t really understand exactly how Satan and demonic spirits that are in league with him have the ability to communicate to us, to suggest thoughts to us, or to tempt us, but they do have a way of making us feel extremely discouraged. Discouragement is a very powerful spiritual tool that Satan uses expertly. It’s important to understand that there can be a very real and very demonic source to discouragement.

You need to cling close to God and His Word. You need to just be able to settle down in the presence of the Lord and to say, “I am weak, but God’s promise is strong. God’s love is strong. God’s faithfulness is strong.” Let the faithfulness and goodness of God carry you in this difficult time. It’s okay for you to feel weak. He is strong. Be assured and restful in that. God bless you.

As a Levite, did John the Baptist symbolically bring the Levitical Priesthood to a close?

That’s a very interesting question, and something I haven’t really thought of before. It’s true what you say, that although Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, John the Baptist’s parents were of the tribe of Levi, and part of the priesthood of the family of Aaron.

So, did John the Baptist symbolically bring the Levitical priesthood to a close? I would say no, because the book of Hebrews makes it really clear that it was the work of Jesus as our High Priest which brought the work of the priesthood to close. The fulfillment of the priesthood is found in Jesus Christ.

Here’s something further to think about. Obviously, clearly, and importantly, the New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ is the culmination is the fulfillment of the Old Testament priesthood, so there needs to be no more animal sacrifice for sin, which now avails nothing. At the same time, the New Testament church was more open to temple ritual and ceremony than we might expect. Even after the resurrection of Jesus, even after the day of Pentecost and Acts 2, Peter and John were still going up to the temple to pray. On at least two occasions, the apostle Paul participated in temple rituals, not for the atonement of sin, but to demonstrate devotion and sacrifice and being set apart unto God.

So, yes, the priesthood is fulfilled and superseded by Jesus Christ. Absolutely. But I’m fascinated by the fact that the book of Acts tells us that not just everyday Christians, but apostles like Peter, John, and Paul participated in temple rituals and ceremonies, even as believers. I find that fascinating.

Should we rebuke and reject evil out loud?

Does rebuking and rejecting the evil as many times as you need to by speaking out loud really work? I was told to do that but I have my doubts.

I can’t give a simple answer to that question because it’s a little more complicated than that. I assume you are speaking about the idea of audibly speaking and repeating, “I rebuke you, Satan. I rebuke your strategies. I rebuke your lies. I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.”

Does it really work? Well, yes, if it is done in faith. However, there are people who do this but not in faith; they do it in the power of superstition. They do it in their idealism about how things should be. They fancy themselves to have power in and of themselves, not power in Jesus Christ, to boss around the demonic realm.

Friends, any authority that the believer has is strictly delegated authority. It’s not inherent to the believer. It is delegated to the believer in Jesus Christ. We don’t rebuke or stand against Satan in our own strength, but only in the strength of Jesus. If those words or practices become mere empty rituals, they really don’t have any power. But if they are expressions of genuine faith in Jesus Christ, in genuine resistance of the devil, then I think they can have great effect.

Remember what the Scriptures say in the letter of James, “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If vocally saying such things is an active, true way in which somebody practices resistance against demonic powers and spirits, then there’s spiritual power in that. But again, not just as mere rituals or magic potions or incantations. God not only hears the words spoke, which are important, but also sees the heart behind the words. I would say Satan and his allies in the spiritual realm do as well.
There is a fair amount of superstitious spiritual warfare, where people think that the key to spiritual warfare is almost like casting spells or doing things like that. We must avoid that kind of thinking.