1 Corinthians 3:12-15
What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).
Main Point: Scripture does not prohibit or proscribe cremation or burial, so you are free to do what you wish.
I. What are some of the arguments against cremation?
a. Some Christians worry that if they are cremated their bodies won’t be resurrected.
b. Some Christians think that cremation is a pagan rite, that ashes are evil, and that Christians should bury their dead.
c. Some Christians have a fear of fire and are emotionally traumatized by the thought of burning.
d. Some Christians think we must follow Jesus’ example and be buried.
II. The Christian’s responses to people’s concerns about cremation include the following:
a. Answer #1: Cremation and ashes are not pagan or inherently evil. Actually, Temple sacrificial ashes and sackcloth were used for ceremonial purification.
“And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place. And they shall be kept for the water for impurity for the congregation of the people of Israel; it is a sin offering” (Numbers 19:9).
“And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes” (Job 2:7–8).
b. Answer #2: Funerals used to end with, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Furthermore, Jews during biblical times stored the remains of their relative’s bodies in an ossuary box, which has many similarities to a cremation urn.
“Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.’” (Exodus 13:19–Nu 1:10).
Note: whether the body is buried or burned, after a time all that will be left are ashes. In fact, in Jesus’ day, after a body had been buried for a year, the tomb would be opened and the dust and ash bodily remains were collected and placed in an ossuary box. They have an ossuary box with the inscription, James the son of Joseph, from the time of Jesus.
c. Answer #3: Persecutors burned Christian martyrs at the stake, but the martyrs still trusted in the resurrection.
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18).
III. Final Answer: No scripture prohibits cremation. Although Jesus was buried, Scripture in no way prohibits cremation or commands burials.
IV. Final Comments: Practical reasons may exist for Christians to prefer cremation over a casket and burial.
a. First, the cost of burial services, transporting dead bodies, and interment can be $15,000 to $20,000, which is prohibitive for many people.
b. Second, there are over eight billion people on this planet and 330 million people in the United States. Over 40,000,000 people die in the United States each year, and cities are running out of places to bury the dead.
c. Third, an element of convenience exists for families who wish to remember or honor their deceased family by keeping the ashes nearby. They don’t have to maintain a burial plot.
Conclusion: It is neither right nor wrong for a family to prefer a funeral and graveside service, or a cremation with a memorial service. Biblically, Christians are free to do either.
(Resource: Roger Olson’s article –
Let’s Talk About Cremation)