What Does it Mean for the Christian to Be Dead to Sin?

The Apostle Paul in the letter to the believers in Rome, addresses what the God has done through Gospel in us and what does it look like the Gospel through us. He clearly points out that the Christian is not saved by works or can earn favor from God. It is a work of Christ on the cross (Rom. 3:20, 23-24).

In Romans 6, Paul asks a rhetorical question. He asks, “If we are saved not by our works but by Christ’s perfect record then how we can live however we want because it won’t change our standing before God” (6:10)?

Paul’s answer is, “Absolutely it does matter how we live!” We don’t sin so grace can keep on be dished out. No, as one who is in Christ (the believer), it does matter how we live. We do not live based upon works, we go forward based upon grace. It is not out of obligation but out of joy and wanting to please God because we are not the same that we used to be. 

The Apostle Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). He also mentions this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

In Romans 6 Paul asks this question then, “How can we who are dead to sin still live in it” (vs 2)? The believer has been changed, they are no longer living in sin but dead to sin. What does is mean to be dead to sin?

Dead to Sin

As a believer you are dead to sin. Sin no longer has bondage or power over you. Jesus broke the chains of sin and death through his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54–57).

I had an opportunity in college to go to Cambodia and while I was in there I rode an elephant. It is a massive animal that has so much power. This massive animal ripped a tree from the ground like it was nothing while I was on it! I was truly impressed and in awe of the strength of this animal.

Yet, these massive animals can be trained in a circus. In an article from the Huffington Post we read that when the calf is still small a strong rope is tied around their necks and attach to a secure pole. The baby elephants naturally try to walk away but are stopped by the rope. They try to break free but are conditioned to being secure. The elephant will grow and become strong yet is accustomed to being held back by the rope. That rope, which they can easily break because of their mere size and power but are held in bondage because of being conditioned to think they can not break free.

Many believers still live as if the “rope of sin” has never been broken. But we are free and “dead to sin” because of Jesus Christ! Timothy Keller does an excellent job explaining what it does not mean to be dead to sin in his commentary on Romans. In order for us to properly understand what it does mean to be dead to sin, let us look at what it does not mean. I listed them below.

Dead to Sin does not mean that we no longer have sinful desires.

Sin does not have power over us, but we still struggle with sinful desires. That is why we are warned about temptation in 1 Cor. 10:30, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Jesus himself was tempted but never gave into temptation but to show us that we can endure and fight temptation as he is the way out! We are saved by God’s grace but it doesn’t mean that you and I will be sinless. We will be battling sin until the day we die. 

Dead to sin does not mean we no longer ought to sin.

No, we died to sin not that we “ought” to die to sin. Paul is not suggesting that the believer should die to sin but the action of Christ and the union we share with Christ means we have died to sin. So it is is not a suggestion but looking to what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf.

Dead to sin does not mean that we are slowly moving away from sin.

When Paul writes you are dead in sin which means it was once and done action not a continual process. When Christ was hanging on the cross he uttered these words- “It is finished” (John 19:30)! We are daily being sanctified which means more into the image of Christ but we are dead in sin. We are not dying or moving away from sin, we are dead to sin.

Dead to sin does not mean we have renounced sin.

We should fight against sin and the things that God hates we in ourselves cannot do this. Just like we cannot save ourselves, being dead to sin is done to us.  We are one with Christ because we are dead to sin and and intertwined with him in what he has done through his life, death, and resurrection. We have shared in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).

Dead to sin means- A Christian is no longer is in bondage to the power of sin.

You are not sinless. The Christian will still struggle and battle with the flesh. There will be temptation, but the ruling power of sin has no claim on you Christian. Jesus is our victorious King who conquered sin and death! Be reminded, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13). As a believer in Jesus Christ, let us go forward in the victory of Jesus.