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

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?

THE STUDY:

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.

 

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

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.”

Easter Week Devotion: The Sayings of Christ On The Cross

SIH STSTA ICONAs we think about the glorious resurrection of Christ, it is very important that we also recall His suffering and His death that led to His burial and later resurrection. The gospel message is a message that includes all three His death, burial, resurrection and its proofs. (1 Cor 15:1-9).


As our Lord was being crucified, He uttered 7 sayings that teach us a summary of His accomplishments while on the cross. These seven sayings, when taken in the context of His crucifixion, reveal to us a loving, sinless, sovereign God who was willing to give all for the sake of those He loved…

THE SCRIPTURE:

Luke 23:34 (KJV)

34) Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Luke 23:43 (KJV)

43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

John 19:26-27 (KJV)

26) When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

27) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home].

Matt 27:46 (KJV)

46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

John 19:28 (KJV)

28) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

John 19:30 (KJV)

30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Luke 23:46 (KJV)

46) And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Matt 27:50 (KJV)

50) Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

THE STUDY:

The Voice Of Forgiveness…. Luke 23:34 (KJV)Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Here, we find our Lord making a plea motivated by His love for those who were mocking, physically abusing and murdering Him.

Not only was His love on display as He uttered these words, but also the purpose of His death on the cross is being revealed as well. One of the great motives that drove the Son of God to submission to the sufferings of the cross was FORGIVENESS. You see, without a substitutionary sacrifice being made on the cross, God cannot forgive the sins of His people. Christ was issuing his plea for forgiveness in view of His coming death on the cross. He was determined to finish the work that His Father had given Him to do.

The Voice Of Promise …. Luke 23:43 (KJV) – 43)And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Here, we see the Lord’s promise to one of the thieves that was being crucified with Him. His promise was that very soon both He and the thief would be together in heaven. Following the death of Christ, His spirit would ascend to heaven while His body would remain in the grave for three days and three nights. Because the thief had placed His faith in Jesus as the sinless Messiah (Luke 23:39-42) he, too, would experience heaven with Jesus.

The Voice of Responsibility – John 19:26-27 (KJV)When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home].

In New Testament times, following the death of the father, the oldest male son was normally given the responsibility to care and provide for his widowed mother. Following the death of Joseph, Mary’s care had become the responsibility of Christ. As Christ was hanging on the cross, with death only hours away, Christ made sure that His mother would be taken care of. He looked to His closest friend, John, to take that responsibility upon himself.

Not only was Christ faithful in His responsibility to His mother, Mary. He was also faithful to the responsibility that His Heavenly Father had placed upon Him. In John 17:1-10, we find Christ praying to the Father before His arrest, trial and crucifixion. In this prayer, Christ makes the statement… “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Christ, by making this statement, was proclaiming His determination to follow the will of His Father even to His death on the cross.

The Voice of Separation – Matt 27:46 (KJV)And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The phrase “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” – is a Hebrew phrase quoted from Psalm 22:1. This phrase in the Psalm was uttered by King David during a time of great distress in his life. As he was praying to God for aid, there appeared to be no response. This does not break David’s faith, but by the end of the Psalm, David recognizes God’s ability to intervene and deliver him IF it is God’s will for David’s life.

Likewise with Christ, as He is hanging on the cross it seemed as if God the Father was refusing to come to His aid. But just as with David, Christ is determined to follow His Father’s will for his life even to the death.

Also, it is very important to recognize when Christ uttered these words. According to the Matthew account, Christ uttered these words immediately after a three hour period of darkness (Matt 27:45). This period of darkness is thought, by many, to be the time frame when Christ had the sins of His people placed upon Him as He paid the price for these sins.

If this is the case, then as Christ proclaimed “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me”, He is perhaps, speaking of the loss of communion with the Father as He bare the sins of His people upon Himself. Our sins, when placed upon Christ, would have caused a rupture of communion that Christ had experienced with the Father. The Father cannot look upon sin, nor can he have communion with those who have sin in their life.

The Voice of Humanity – John 19:28 (KJV) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

As Christ hung on the cross, He experienced the human fleshly desire of thirst. This helps us to understand that, although Christ was God, He was also truly of human flesh and would suffer as any human would suffer. I have heard of those who try to minimize the sufferings of Christ on the cross by saying that “Because Jesus was God, He did not feel the pain and distress a human being would feel.” THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. He, as a human being with a fleshly body experienced the need for water, food, rest and while on the cross most certainly felt pain and suffering just as any other human being.

The Voice of Completion – John 19:30 (KJV) – When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The word for “finish” here in Greek means to “to complete. To fulfill, to execute a command” In other words, as His death was drawing near, so to was the fulfill of His Father’s will for His life. He had fulfilled God’s will perfectly by paying the sin debt for His Father’s people. Out of a heart of love for His Father and His people, He had perfectly followed His Father’s will for His life. (Philp 2:5-11)

The Voice of Security – Luke 23:46 (KJV) And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Commend” in Greek means “to deposit to another’s trust”. As the Lord took His final breaths, He handed His spirit over to His Father knowing that His Father would secure His entrance into heaven.

Also, please note the Jesus was in control of His own death. He handed over His spirit to the Father, He was the one that gave up His own spirit (ghost). He had the power to lay down His life and to raise it again. (John 10:17-18)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

For those who have been given the Lord’s saving grace…

We are told in Philippians 2:5-11- “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.“

We, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are to strive to think as He thought. We are to share the same mindset as He displayed in His seven sayings. Our goal should be to possess a mindset that has a…

  1. Willingness to forgive and pray for the salvation of those who have wronged us.

  2. Willingness to speak to others about our Lord and share with them the gospel message.
  3. Willingness to accept the responsibility for service in the areas to which we are called of God to serve.

  4. Willingness to be honest about the sin that is in our life; the communion we are lacking because of that sin; and deal with that sin through confession and repentance.
  5. Willingness to recognize the weakness of our sinful flesh, and seek to guard against Satan working in those areas of our life.

  6. Willingness to follow the Lord to completion of our appointed ministry. Motivated by a recognition of all He has done for us…even if we are called upon to give our life for Him.
  7. Willingness to trust the Lord with our future eternity. We can do this by keeping our eyes on His promises of heaven and future rewards, using these precious promises as a motivation to continue to serve Him.

For those who have yet to be given His saving grace…

After reading of the Lord’s attitude towards those who abused and mistreated Him to the ultimate degree, you can rest assured that the Lord will accept anyone who turns from their sin and comes to Him in faith…

John 6:37-38All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

By turning from sin to submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find forgiveness, peace and joy that surpasses all understanding. May the Lord use His Word to bring you to a saving knowledge of Him.

If you have any further questions about the salvation that our Lord so graciously gives, please feel free to read my blog page… “How to have a relationship with God”. Also, you are welcome to contact me via a blog comment or email for any further questions you may have.

May the Lord bless you.

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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.”