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Scripture Memory: God’s Benevolence.

VERSE : Psalm 103:8 “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

17 August 2014
8 am & 1045am Worship Service
Rev Charles Seet (Comfort and Hope in Loss, 1 Thes 4:13-18)
6:00 pm Evening Service
Tan Thiam Hong (Just As I Am, Rom 3:21-31)

24 August 2014
8 am & 1045am Worship Service
Rev Charles Seet (Watch and Be Sober!, 1 Thes 5:1-8)
6:00 pm Evening Service:
Rev Ho Chee Lai (God’s Outpouring Love, Rom 5:5)

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BURIAL  AND  CREMATION

by Rev Calvin Loh

In recent years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to consider burial over cremation because of land scarcity. The policies that are being implemented by the government e.g. making the crematoriums more presentable, increasing the cost for burial...etc. have placed many Christians and even pastors in a dilemma.

But ultimately, the writer believes that it is not pragmatism but the Scripture that should determine what practices are acceptable or not to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Various Views on Burial and Cremation

A brief survey of the issue indicates that there are at least two different views:

View No. 1: It is Up to Individual Preference

On one hand, there are those who say that the Bible does not offer any instruction on the disposal of a body. They quote Jesus’ answer to the young man who wanted to bury his father before following him (cf. Luke 9:59-60) and come to the conclusion that since the Lord gave such low priority to this matter, it implies that the manner of disposal may be left to each individual’s preference or circumstances.

Furthermore, there are those who argue that since all flesh and blood will eventually decay to become like dust in the earth and cremation itself merely speeds up this process, therefore it is not wrong to cremate.

Those who hold to this understanding believe that both burial and cremation are acceptable form of practices.

View No. 2: Burial is the Christian Way

On the other hand, there are those who believe that Christians should practice burial as long as the option is available because it is the scriptural way for the disposal of the body. Some of their arguments are:

1.  All the saints of God in both Old and New Testament were buried.

2.  God buried Moses Himself (cf. Deuteronomy 35:5,6).

3.  Even criminals were allowed to be buried in the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22,23).

4.  The Bible teaches that those who commit certain sexual sins are not to die only, but shall be burnt with fire (cf. Leviticus 20:14; 21:9).

Understanding the Issue

Very often those who argue against cremation point to the fact that many who died under God’s judgment in the Scripture were burnt with fire.

The writer does not think that such examples are helpful. To equate those who were burnt under God’s judgement as cremation (cf. Leviticus 20:14; Joshua 7:15) is tantamount to equating those who were buried under God’s judgement (cf. Numbers 16:32) as burial. Being burnt by God’s judgement in itself is not cremation; neither is a person being buried in itself to be considered as burial.

In the writer’s understanding, cremation or burial has always been understood as a religious ritual that concerns the disposal of the body AFTER the individual has departed from this world. Therefore, a better way to consider this issue is to evaluate it using the following approach.

Are There Any Explicit Commands from the Scripture concerning this Issue?

Firstly, it must be admitted that God has not issued any explicit commandment concerning the disposal of a body.

The writer believes this silence is significant because it indicates that we are not to view the issue of cremation in the same category as other moral issues e.g. adultery, murder, idolatry...etc. This is the reason why we can still allow for exceptions in extreme cases, e.g. if the government no longer allows burial, or if a person dies as a result of a certain sickness...etc.

Making such exceptions will not be possible if God’s commandments have indeed been violated.

Does it Really Matter How We Dispose the Body?

Now because of the silence from the Scripture, there are those who believe that this also implies that God is more concerned with how we live, and not how our bodies are disposed of after our death.

The writer disagrees with this view because “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15) It does not make sense to say that God regards the death of his beloved saints as precious and yet thinks nothing about how their bodies are to be disposed.

In fact, it is reasonable to deduce that if we ourselves are concerned that the bodies of our loved ones should be disposed of in a proper and respectable manner, then surely God is more concerned than us in this matter.

What was the Standard Practice of God’s People in the Past?

To understand God’s definition of ‘proper and respectable’, we turn to the standard practice of God’s people in the past. What did they do to the bodies of their loved ones?

The only possible incident of cremation is found in 1 Samuel 31:12-13, where the bodies of King Saul and his sons (including Jonathan) were first burnt, and then their bones were buried. According to a commentator, this was likely due to the condition of the corpses, which made it impossible for the men of Jabesh-gilead to follow the usual customs of embalming and burial. Cremation was thus the next best option under such circumstances.

But under normal circumstances, we note that God’s people were consistently entombed or buried after their death. We see this with Job (cf. Job 19:25-26); with Abraham (cf. Genesis 25:9-10); with Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 34:5-6); with Lazarus (cf. John 11:17); and even with Jesus Himself.

This consistency among God’s people is significant because the practice of cremation was not something that they were unaware of. The Greeks themselves practised cremation as early as 1000 BC. The Romans also adopted the practice until AD 100. Yet despite this, burial continued to be the standard practice of God’s people, even when they were going through severe persecutions.

It is plain from these facts that they were not moved by the benefits of pragmatism, neither did they adhere to the practice of burial simply as a matter of tradition.

Which Practice Reflects the Christian Hope More Accurately?

The only plausible explanation is that burial was regarded as the norm for God’s people because it reflected their blessed hope in Christ more accurately.

As one writer pointed out, the wonderful truths of a believer ‘falling sleeping in Christ’ and ‘waking up one day’ is best symbolised by burial, for it anticipates the final preservation of the body in the resurrection.

Cremation, on the other hand, is a most inappropriate picture to remind believers of these truths. 

Conclusion

For this reason, the writer believes that burial is the proper and respectable manner for God’s people to deal with the bodies of their loved ones under normal circumstances.

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GOSPEL SUNDAY

Date: 31st August 2014

Time: 8 am & 10:45 am

Topic: Why is the Gospel Good News? (Rom 5:6-11)

Speakers:
Pastor Tan Soon Yong (English Service)

Rev Tang Chee Keong (Mandarin/Hokkien)

Members are encouraged to invite their friends and relatives.

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1) Infant Baptism on Anniversary Sunday, 19 Oct 14. Parents who intend to have their infants baptised must register by 31 Aug 14. Please call the Church Office (6594 9399) or email Yin Chan giving child’s name, date of birth and parents’ names and contact.

Preaching appointment: Rev Seet Thai Service, 2.30 pm. Rev Wong at YLW, 10.45 am.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11