Question: "What does it mean to be dead to sin?"
Answer: The phrase “dead to sin” comes from Romans 6:11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Here, the contrast is made that to be “dead to sin” is to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Those who have come to faith in Jesus are no longer to allow sin to control their lives. Instead, we offer ourselves to God to serve His purposes.
Paul expands on this concept in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The phrase “living sacrifice” is a paradox—sacrifices do not “live”; they die. But it’s a good summation of the Christian life, as we are dead to sin and alive to God. The emphasis here is on living a different life as a result of God’s salvation. We no longer follow the pattern of the world but live according to God’s will.
To be dead to sin does not mean we are sinless. Paul made clear that he continued to struggle with temptation and sin: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:19-20). If Paul could call himself the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16), then we should certainly expect to continue our conflict with sin until we reach heaven.
To be dead to sin means we no longer need to be controlled by our sin nature. Romans 6:17 teaches that “though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.” Before Christ, we are “slaves” to sin. Now we have a new Master. Sin continues to exist, but we are no longer dominated by it.
As Christians, we have God’s Spirit within us to empower us. However, we still face temptation and must strive to stand against sin. We can live “dead to sin” as we follow Christ, knowing that our Lord will one day remove the curse of sin altogether (Revelation 22:3).