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Cremation Or Burial: What Does The Bible Say? (1)

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SIH STSTA ICONFor the Christian, the responsibility to do ALL THINGS in a way that honors and glorifies our Lord is no small issue.  As a matter of fact, this one, basic, responsibility given to us by our Lord should be the central motivating force behind all that we do…

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:  Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.    (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

This responsibility touches every aspect of our life upon earth, even the final event of this earthly life, our physical death.    (The only exception to this is for the remnant of saved individuals who will be alive at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.)

Many times, it is during a funeral that we can reach others for Christ that we could not reach in any other way.  Because of this, I ALWAYS share the gospel message when I am doing a funeral service.  Everything done at a funeral, to the best of our ability should be done with the intent to honor the Lord and share Him with others.  There could easily be lost loved ones present who will never “darken a church door”, but they will show up for a funeral.  So, in my way of thinking, our testimony during the funeral and disposition of the body is important as well.

The necessity of the death of our body, and its use to honor and glorify the Lord, is an issue for which we all should be prepared.  This would include the testimony that we display during the events leading up to our passing, as well as the funeral service and disposal of our body   After all, our physical bodies are a wonderful gift from the Lord of which we are to use for His glory in every way possible…

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I have said all of this to simply explain the importance of the issue we will be studying today.  It is the issue of the burial of our body versus the cremation of our body.  Do either of these dishonor our Lord or harm our testimony before Him?


In my way of thinking, one reason why there is so many questions about cremation versus burial of the body is because there is no “thus saith the Lord”.  To my knowledge, the Bible does not clearly state a position on this issue.  It is an issue that will have to be decided based upon a variety of Biblical principles instead of a clear Biblical declaration.

Keeping that in mind, I would like us to look at some Biblical principles that we can prayerfully consider…

1. The Stewardship Principle (this lesson)

2. The Example Of Bible Characters (see lesson 2)

3.  The Symbolism Of Fire And Burial (see lesson 2)


The Stewardship Principle

To begin, let’s look at a text we have already mentioned in our introduction:

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Here, we find that the Apostle Paul clearly explains that the physical body that we possess was created, redeemed, and then set apart for the use of God as the habitation of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  When we consider the importance of our body to the workings of the Lord in our lives, we can easily see the need to ALWAYS treat it with appreciation, respect and honor.

The need to care for the body properly is one of the major reasons for the creation of the marital union.  Without marriage, based upon our desire for physical intimacy, we would commit the sin of sexual fornication which is a sin involving the misuse of our bodies …  “ Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body”  (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Paul then teaches us that the proper way to fulfill our desires for physical intimacy is found in the marital union…

“Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”  (1 Corinthians 7:2)

So how important is it that we care for our physical bodies and use them in a proper way?  It must be very important because the marriage union was created by God, in part, to give us a way to escape sinning against our bodies through their misuse.

(By the way, misusing our bodies is not limited to sexual misuse.  In actuality, any action that brings harm to our bodies, or takes honor from the Lord through its use is a sin.  This would also include taking anything in our body that harms it, using our bodies in any way that breaks the laws of God or puts forth a bad testimony, and using it to harm others through our speech or actions etc etc.)

If we understand this principle, we can understand why, throughout the ages, the proper care of the body of the deceased was considered a sign of respect for the deceased.  Note how the bodies of the deceased were given great care prior to their burial…

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound [weight].  Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.(John 19:39-41)

Although Christ’s body was the one being prepared, His body was being treated in the same way as the body of other deceased Jews.    Keep in mind, a greatest of disrespect was shown through the delay or lack of a burial.  This was because of the great abuse the body would then endure at the hands of nature and the elements…

A Psalm of Asaph. O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.  The dead bodies of thy servants have they given [to be] meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.  Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and [there was] none to bury [them].  We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.”   (Psalms 79:1-4)

If a man beget an hundred [children], and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also [that] he have no burial; I say, [that] an untimely birth [is] better than he. (Ecclesiastes 6:3)

Although, we are not specifically told in the Bible, we need to consider if the burning a body akin to other abuses that can be brought upon a body.  Perhaps this is the case.  It is a matter open for each believer’s consideration.


Also, the Bible, relates the burning of the body with disrespect for the lawless…

And it shall be, [that] he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel…

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.  And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.”  (Joshua 7:15, 25-26)

The children of Israel, under the direction of the Lord cremated Achan following his stoning to illustrate God’s displeasure with Achan and His wrath being poured out upon him.

And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that [were] there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned [them] upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.  Then he said, What title [is] that that I see? And the men of the city told him, [It is] the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.  And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.  And all the houses also of the high places that [were] in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke [the LORD] to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.  And he slew all the priests of the high places that [were] there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.  (2 Kings 23:16-20)

In this case, Josiah, cremates what is left of the bodies of the buried idolatrous worshippers as a public display of God’s enmity against them and the pollution of their idolatrous altars upon which they worshipped.

Based on the principle of stewardship, we should desire to treat the body of our deceased with respect and honor, recognizing the Lord is its Creator, Redeemer and Indweller.  The best way to accomplish this task would seem to be through burial of the body as opposed to cremation.



In this section of our study we have seen the importance of glorifying God even after our death.  This  involves the proper treatment of our body as an act of stewardship over the temple of the Holy Spirit.  One way in which a body can be mistreated (and disrespect shown to the deceased) is by leaving the body open to corruption by the forces of nature.

At the least this emphasizes the need to treat the body properly following death… at the most, it is possible we can include fire as a type of force of nature that can bring the body to ruin.  So far in our study, we can see that, without doubt, burial is a proper way to dispose of a body, as it shows great respect for the deceased as well as proper stewardship of the body.

However, the use of fire is certainly a questionable way of disposing of the body because, perhaps, it can be looked upon as abuse of the body.

First things first….

The greatest consideration for us all is not the condition of our bodies following our death, but the condition of our souls now.  Keep in mind, one of the supreme goals of a Christian’s service to the Lord is to see the salvation of those who are lost.  For the Christian, are we certain our hearts are right with the Lord?  Likewise, are we living a life that glorifies and honors Christ?   Furthermore, are we using the opportunities the Lord has given to us to witness to and pray for the lost around us?  All of these things are of utmost importance.

For those who are lost, have you ever experienced the Lord’s saving grace in your life?  Have you ever seen that you have sinned against the Lord and, apart from His gracious intervention in your life, you can do nothing to gain forgiveness from Him?  Have you come before Him humbly, turning form those sins and trusting in Him to save you from those sins?  Have you ever experienced a change within you that results in recognizing Christ as your Lord and seeking to live your life for Him?

These are the marks of genuine salvation and the most important consideration that lies before us…

 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:  Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.   (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

 May the Lord bless you as you continue to seek His truth.

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May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”


  1. SLIMJIM says:

    Good study and I like the priority you put with the emphasis first of salvation of the soul. Looking forward to part 2.

  2. I’m glad you brought up this subject. It troubles me that so many Christians want to be cremated. I know it’s not a salvation issue, but still it’s troubling.

    When I toured the catacombs in Rome, the guide pointed out that Christians in the early church wanted to be buried, not cremated. Why? Because Roman PAGANS practiced cremation, and Christians did not want to adopt pagan practices.

    You included even more reasons for burial vs. cremation in your article that I had not thought of. Thank you.

    When my dad died, my Mom had him cremated. I was devastated but didn’t say much because Dad had left the decision up to her. Later Mom and I visited 3 different funeral homes to buy an urn for my dad’s ashes. Mom asked each manager what he personally thought of cremation. Each of the 3 funeral directors adamantly stated that he would not consider cremation for himself. (Keep in mind that these men had nothing to gain financially since my dad had already been cremated. It made me wonder what they know about cremation that the general public does not know).

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Hi Sheryl,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, it is really appreciated.

      Throughout the years I have definitely seen a growth in Christians using cremation. There was a time when cremation was barely considered by Christian families. Now things are changing. In many cases, a part of their motivation is the financial issue. I’ve asked funeral directors and they have said you can save from 5000-10000, in costs by having a body cremated, so it is a big issue for some families. So I can understand the appeal for cremation.
      That’s a big reason why I wanted to look at the issue and just remind everyone it is not just an issue of money but there are spiritual issues at work in the decision as well. In part two of the series we will see a lot more of those issue come to light.

      As far as why the funeral directors said they would not want to be cremated, I it is a very good question, if I get a chance next time I do a funeral I may talk to the director and see what he says about the subject. Thanks fro bringing this to my mind. Lord bless you Sheryl.

  3. RJ Dawson says:

    Good study, Rob, and one that many would not make or see the need for. I remember many years ago this question came up by way of a Christian tract and it had quite an impact on me. I think most people know in their heart there is something not right about cremation, but especially among followers of the Lord. I agree that we must let nature take its proper course and treat the body with respect.

    The Lord’s people showed how it is done. We know from studying the Torah and history of the Lord’s people how to properly conduct burials. They never used cremation except in such instances as you’ve stated as a form of judgment or cleansing regarding evil.

    In the same way we cannot take life into our own hands but allow people to die naturally instead of using some form of euthanasia, so must we not take into our own hands the destruction of the body through some means other than natural processes. The Lord showed us the way primarily through His people the Hebrews, though other societies obviously buried properly with dignity and respect for the deceased. Many pagan societies, however, often used cremation, which not only showed a lack of respect for dead and family members, it also portrayed a dishonoring of God. If one studies such pagan societies, he or she will discover other vile practices and beliefs, proving they were not walking in the light of God.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Hi RJ,

      Thanks for your comments…. I especially appreciate your application to euthanasia as another type of abuse of the body. Very good point. Lord bless you. Thanks again for your comments.

  4. Citizen Tom says:

    Interesting post, and that surprised me. I never have given much thought about the issue, but my wife already has already purchased what she hopes will be our resting spot. She adamantly opposes cremation, and the idea I did not care horrified her.

    Since the decay of human flesh has much the same chemical effect as cremation, as purely practical matter, I still don’t care whether I am buried or cremated. However, the verses you cited suggests God is not indifferent.

    Why would He care whether we choose to bury or cremate our dead? Apparently, it is because we care. Yet why doesn’t the Bible say what we should do? Is it because we must sometimes allow practical considerations to override our heart’s desire?

    When we put those love to rest in a grave or a tomb as thoughtfully as we can, we have something that still resembles our loved ones to grieve over. When burned our loved ones to ashes, even with modern cremation ovens, I would not be surprised if that sometimes gets ugly and smelly. I cannot imagine what the ancients thought when they saw their dead burning up on a funeral pyre. Our movies glorify such things, but our movie makers can be frightfully stupid. Nevertheless, where wood or some sort of combustible is plentiful, cremation can be a relatively safe, quick, and easy way dispose of the dead.

    Like SLIMJIM I too appreciate the emphasis you put on the salvation of the soul. And I also am looking forward to part 2.

    • Rob Barkman says:


      You are so right…From a strictly practical aspect of things returning to dust (or ashes) is really no big difference. Likewise, I really do understand why many families choose cremation because of the tremendous amount of financial savings. The number of cremations are on the rise and I believe a part of the reason behind this is the financial situation many families are facing in today’s time. If a loved one dies without insurance there are many lower income families who do not have the 7000-10000 burial fees. They just don’t have it. So what are they to do?

      My only concern is that there are some Christian families who do not even give the spiritual aspects of cremation and burial any thought at all. To me it is obvious that the spiritual aspects of these things need to be considered when the final decisions are being made. My feeling is that, when it is possible, burial is the more God honoring way to dispose of a loved ones body… my reasoning behind this is the subject of the postings.

      However just as I said in the posting, to my knowledge, there is no strict “thus saith the Lord” on this subject. Therefore great care needs to be taken before we come to a hardened conclusion on the subject. I truly believe it should be left to each individual in consultation with their families as to how their bodies are to be disposed.

      Thanks for a great comment Tom. Lord bless you!

  5. sagescenery says:

    I was very interested in this post..Thanks you for making the topic so clear and Scriptural!
    Before my Christian Mom passed away at 90-years old several years ago…she told me she just wanted to be cremated at her death. She had insurance, but felt the money would be wasted…and she wouldn’t be alive, so why care? But, I just couldn’t feel good about it, so I told her, “No, there’s a grave plot for you right next to Daddy..and that’s where your body will be…argue with him about it!!”

    And now she’s in the arms of Jesus! Amen!

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Its wonderful to know that she was saved and now is home with the Lord!

      • sagescenery says:

        I come from a strong Christian family of pastors and prayer warriors…and I know the family members who have gone to Jesus are rejoicing together, while Jesus continues to use the rest of us right here!

  6. Shofar says:

    Thank you for presenting spiritual insights that I had overlooked. Some reasons for cremation are that cemeteries may have a shortage of plot spaces and in places like our island state, it is a custom of scattering ashes at sea which is a memorable event. A question that comes up is what happens at the resurrection if the remains of bodies have been separated or scattered?

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Great to hear from you my friend. I’m sure you are right about the shortage of lot space in some areas. Makes perfect sense. About the Lord resurrecting our bodies if we are cremated.

      The best I can say would be that if the Lord was able to create the human body from dust, He certainly could recreate it from dust, ashes or whatever condition it is in. I think about the martyrs who were eaten by lions or the missionaries who were eaten by cannibals, things like that. Surely they will not be restricted from having glorified bodies simply because their bodies were mistreated.

      No matter what may happen to our bodies, I believe, the Lord would be able to resurrect them in the last days.

      Lord bless you.

      • Shofar says:

        Thank you, Pastor Rob, for the reassuring comments about God’s power to resurrect our bodies and give us glorified bodies! May God continue to bless your teaching ministry!

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