In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul spoke of the lost as being “dead in sin”. We understand that one is dead in sin when they willfully choose to embrace the lusts of the flesh. Through their disobedience they are doomed to a bleak fate with the way of sin only leading to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Even though we deserve punishment for our former life, God is loving and merciful. It is by His grace He allowed us a means of escape from condemnation. Through the sacrifice of Christ, God forgives our sin, thereby making us “alive” so that we may stand before Him redeemed!
Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
In a turn of that phrase – “dead in sin” – Paul also spoke of the concept of one being “dead to sin”… This particular phrase refers to one who has accepted Christ as their Savior!
Dead in Sin versus Dead to Sin
Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
One word makes a big difference! Being “dead in sin” is very different from being “dead to sin”. As we have seen, being “dead in sin” is a hopeless situation in which the unrepentant are condemned in their sins, eternally separated from God. Meanwhile, being “dead to sin” offers us redemption, a path to eternal life through God’s grace.
So how do we go from being “dead in sin” to being “dead to sin”?
In Romans 6 Paul related the act of baptism - the avenue by which God provides the remission of sins - to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Romans 6:3-7 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.
As we will see through this lesson, God desires us to be “dead to sin” so that we will have freedom from sin and be once more “alive” in His eyes. We will find that being dead to sin requires some effort on our part, but that, ultimately, it is being dead to sin that offers us hope for the future.
Freedom from Sin
When one is dead to sin, they are no longer controlled by sin.
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
To the unbelieving of the world, sin might be frowned upon at best, and it is very unpopular to condemn sin outright. In our society especially morals seem to be subjective. We know all too well that some sins are celebrated as a sort of freedom.
But to one who has committed their life to Christ, sin is recognized for what it truly is: Tyranny. When were in sin, we were enslaved by our own desires.
Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Through God’s grace manifested by Christ’s sacrifice, we are granted freedom from our sin.
A New Creation with a New Purpose
Upon rising up from the waters of baptism, a Christian has been cleansed of their former sin. We stand before God renewed… A new creation with a new purpose!
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…
Some on the verge of accepting Christ find themselves discouraged at the prospect of giving up sin. This is a spiritually shortsighted attitude! It’s important to realize that God offers us something so much better than the temporary pleasures of sin. Not only are we putting away our former desires but we are allowing God to replace them. Through Christ’s redeeming power we are made new once more!
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The phrase “living sacrifices” would seem at first glance to be a paradox; After all, sacrifices do not live, they die.
But this is a great analogy for the kind of life a Christian should strive toward. Our devotion to Christ should be so deep that we readily put away our own desires. A dramatic metamorphosis should occur. In becoming Christians we should no longer desire to please ourselves, but God!
Colossians 3:1-4 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set you mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him glory.
Our mindset should change completely and we should live a life that emulates the life of Christ.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Aspiring to be Christ-like requires great commitment on our part. As we have read, we ought to set our mind on the pursuit of righteousness, doing the will of God. Accordingly, we should actively be avoiding sin!
Understand that a new Christian will still face temptation, it’s not like being cleansed from your former sin makes one immune to future temptation. Being imperfect, we will still be tempted. We will stumble in our Christian walk. We will – unfortunately – sin.
(We shouldn’t be discouraged by this as God lets us know that we will not be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand - 1 Corinthians 10:13)
But as a new creation set upon a new purpose, we will grow in strength as we develop as Christians. We will dwell upon godly principles (Psalm 1:1-3, Philippians 4:8) and thereby completely change the way we think about the world, the way we approach certain situations. Our attitude will attune to God’s will. We will find certain temptations easier and easier to overcome until they are no longer enticing to us at all. With time we will develop a distaste and intolerance for sinful behavior (2 Timothy 2:22).
However, we cannot allow this newfound confidence to become self-righteousness. And we certainly cannot allow ourselves to take God’s forgiveness for granted, especially not to the point that we misuse it as a license to sin!
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
In this passage Paul was rebuking Christians who sought to use God’s grace as an excuse to return to a life of sin. What an awful attitude to have, treating the sacrifice of Christ so irreverently as to casually return to sin, perhaps thinking, “Well, God will just forgive me anyway…”
Peter described just how disgusting it would be to willingly return to the depravity of sin.
2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Returning to a life of sin after being forgiven would be like Christ abandoning the glory of His resurrection only to return to the despair of the grave.
Romans 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
We must not return to our former life of sin, for in doing so we foolishly forfeit our salvation, rejecting the gift of God (Romans 6:23).
Created for Good Works
Therefore, our new purpose should be set upon pleasing the Lord and doing His will through good works.
Of course, in doing these good works, we must always remember that our salvation is attained by works.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Indeed we are saved by God’s grace. However, God expects an obedient faith (James 1:22).
1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Therefore we work as “instruments of righteousness” not to be saved, but because we are saved!
Romans 6:12-14 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Alive to God
As we read in Romans 6:11, to be dead to sin is to be “alive to God”.
Let’s attempt to tie together all of the figurative language:
When one decides to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, they repent of their former life of sin… They put to death the self-serving life of sin that they once led. They become dead to sin. But that’s not the end of the story. As one reborn through baptism, they are a new creation likened to the resurrected Christ.
Romans 6:8 -9 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
Just as Christ won’t die anymore now that He has been resurrected, neither will we. Being alive to God is a blessing while we live in the flesh and onward into eternity.
John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
As Jesus points out, through Him our earthly life will be enriched greatly.
No longer burdened by sin and diligently resisting temptation, a faithful Christian lives a fulfilling life with a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21), enjoys the spiritual blessings God offers (Ephesians 1:3), and now has a hopeful future to look forward to as he is guaranteed an eternal home with Jesus!
John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.