August 2019 Bible Questions & Answers

  1. Is cremation a sin?
  2. Are the qualifications for elders and deacons to be met before they are appointed, or are they “goals” for one to work toward?
  3. Is it a sin to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with musical instruments outside of the worship service?
  4. If someone is divorced (not for adultery) and remarried and then comes to know God and is baptized, does that make their current marriage “good” in God’s sight?

Is cremation a sin?

There are several biblical problems with the notion that cremation is inherently sinful. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Where God has not made a law, sin cannot take place (Rom. 7:8b). The only place one finds the laws which God has made is in the Spirit-inspired Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:11-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). A search of the totality of Scripture finds no condemnation of cremation (Ps. 119:160; 2 Tim. 2:15).

The few mentions of cremation in the Bible include the burning of the bodies of Saul and his sons to keep the Philistines from continuing to desecrate them (1 Sam. 31:8-13), God’s condemnation of the burning to lime of the bones of the king of Edom (Amos 2:1), and the punishment of being burned alive for certain sexual sins during the time of the patriarchs and the law of Moses (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 20:14).

Notice that the Lord Himself specifically prescribed the punishment of the burning of one’s body for the sin of fornication in Leviticus. God is not the source of sin; He does not violate His own laws, nor does He command His people to disobey Him (James 1:13). If cremation (the burning of one’s body in death) was inherently sinful, He would not have prescribed it as a punishment.

Some think God’s statement to Adam – “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19; cf. Job 34:15; Ps. 104:29; Eccl. 3:20; 12:7) – indicts cremation as sinful because they conclude God is promoting burial in the ground. Yet the Hebrew for “dust” (aphar) is defined as “dust (as powdered or gray); hence, clay, earth, mud: — ashes, dust, earth, ground, morter, powder, rubbish” (Strong, emphasis added). Ashes are included in the definition of the “dust” to which we return after death. Thus, the burning of our bodies to ash is not inherently sinful because it is included in God’s promise to Adam.

What must also be considered is the fact that sin takes place after one is “lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14-15). Yet the cremation of one’s deceased body is not done by that person after they had a desire to do it; they are dead and thus lack the capability to have desire for anything, be tempted by that desire, and give into that desire. After death comes judgment (Heb. 9:27), at which time one will be judged for what they have done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10), not for what was done to their bodies by others or by nature after they passed away.

Finally, some think cremation is sinful because they conclude it keeps the dead from rising on the last day (1 Thess. 4:15-16), likely because they have mentally pictured people rising out of the ground and coffins in which they were buried on that wonderful day. Yet the Bible also mentions that “the sea (will give) up the dead who were in it” when the resurrection of the dead occurs (Rev. 20:13). Those who died by drowning and/or ingestion of sea animals certainly were not buried in the ground; nor were those who were eaten whole by land-dwelling animals or people.

Yet God still promises that on that day we will resurrected (John 5:28-29) and given a new, imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:35-57). The fact that our deceased bodies have been decomposed inside a coffin or underwater, or have been eaten and digested, or have been turned into ash and scattered, will certainly not be a hindrance to the Deity who spoke this universe into existence keeping His promise to resurrect us and change our perished, perishable bodies into imperishable ones.

Thus, cremation is not in any way inherently sinful.

Are the qualifications for elders and deacons to be met before they are appointed, or are they “goals” for one to work toward?

The qualifications for elders and deacons must have already be met before they are put into office, and must be continually met in order to remain qualified to be in the office. God inspired Paul to write that an overseer and deacon “must be” all of these things (1 Tim. 3:2, 8; Tit. 1:6-9), not “must have been at one time.” The Greek “must” (dei) is defined as a necessity, and “must be” in the Greek is in the present tense, meaning that it must be something happening continually.

It must be pointed out that this does not require sinless perfection on the part of elders and deacons. If such were the case, no one would be qualified to be appointed or remain in either office since none of us are sinless (1 John 1:8, 10).   Rather, elders and deacons must be men who faithfully and continually meet these qualifications and possess these characteristics. Those who meet these qualifications do not let sin reign in their lives because they are continually penitent when they fail and they continually strive with all their being to live as God would have them to live with His help.

Is it a sin to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with musical instruments outside of the worship service?

We must worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), so we must worship God as He has directed in Scripture. The Old Testament, while not the covenant we are under (Heb. 8:6-13), nonetheless still serves as an example to us (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). In it we read of God’s displeasure when one worships Him in a way which He has not directed (Lev. 10:1-3).

Under the New Covenant, musical worship to God is limited to the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Christians sang “to one another” (Eph. 5:19), i.e., in the worship assembly (1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Heb. 2:12). Yet Christians also sang praises to God when they were not assembled together to worship (Acts 16:25; James 5:13).

Worship is something done purposefully (Matt. 15:8-9; cf. Gen. 22:5). Playing musical instruments is not inherently sinful, just as eating carrots and hummus is not inherently sinful. Yet to eat carrots and hummus as part of the Lord’s Supper would be sinful because it would be outside of God’s directive concerning communion. In like manner, playing musical instruments as part of worship to God at any time or in any place would be sinful because it would be outside of God’s directive to sing in New Testament worship. Thus, if one wants to musically worship God privately, do so according to His directives and limit your musical worship to singing His praises.

If someone is divorced (not for adultery) and remarried and then comes to know God and is baptized, does that make their current marriage “good” in God’s sight?

In addition to baptism, repentance is also required for salvation and forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19; 17:30). In fact, repentance is directed BEFORE baptism in order to have one’s sins forgiven (Acts 2:38).

The “gospel of the kingdom” was believed before people were baptized (Acts 8:12). Part of that gospel includes teaching about repentance for forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47). Adultery is included in the list of sins which keep one out of the kingdom (Gal.5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

After citing adultery as what will keep one out of the kingdom, Paul told the Corinthians, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” (1 Cor. 6:11). “And such were some of you” indicates they had repented of their adultery when they were converted (“washed (baptized)…sanctified…justified.”)

When he cited adultery as a work of the flesh which keeps one out of God’s kingdom, he told the Galatians that he had “warned you before” about this (Gal. 5:19-21). This was likely when he had initially brought the gospel to them and converted them.

Repentance is just as necessary for forgiveness as baptism. In fact, without repentance baptism is meaningless because without it we continue to walk in our old way of life rather than become the new person in Christ God wants us to be (Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 3:5-10).

Therefore, if I was a non-Christian adulterer who, hypothetically, decided to be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins on a Sunday and then decided to celebrate by meeting my girlfriend for a tryst at a hotel that night, would I die in a saved state if I was hit by a car while on my home to my unsuspecting wife? Since it is clear I had not repented of my adultery, Scripture indicates I would die in an unforgiven state even though I had been baptized earlier that day.

In like manner, if a non-Christian had divorced their spouse for reasons other than their fornication and then remarried, they are committing adultery by doing so (Matt. 19:9). Without repenting of that adultery, baptism will not wash away that sin.

This is why it is necessary to spend time teaching to potential converts exactly what repentance means and what sin is so that they will be able to “count the cost” of becoming a disciple (Luke 14:25-33).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s