One little word can make a big difference. A Biblical example of this is found in the salvation experience. The difference is between the words “in” and “to.”
Ephesians 2:1-5 and Colossians 2:13 teach that each of us was born dead in trespasses and sins. Furthermore, each us remains in that spiritually dead state until the moment we place saving belief (faith) in Jesus Christ. At that moment, the spiritually dead sinner is made spiritually alive in Jesus (Ephesians 2:5).
What happens next is beautiful. The New Testament model is that the salvation experience is quickly followed by the newly saved believer (Christian) agreeing to be baptized — by immersion to be specific — in water. Baptism by immersion is a public object lesson that signifies to all the witnesses that the newly saved believer (Christian) is professing to now be dead to his or her old way of living and is going to walk in the newness of life found in following Jesus (Romans 6:1-4). And what does the Bible call this new walk? It calls it being dead to sin (Romans 6:2,11).
Being dead to sin means that the Christian is no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:6), having been set free from its bondage (Romans 6:7). Because of this spiritual emancipation, the Christian should no longer allow sin to reign in his or her body (Romans 6:12) and should use the different parts of the body as instruments of righteousness rather than unrighteousness (Romans 6:13). The idea of sin continuing to have dominion over the Christian is virtually unthinkable to the New Testament mindset (Romans 6:1-2,14).
This doesn’t mean that the Christian will ever reach a state of sinless perfection while upon this earth. No, as long as the Christian lives in a mortal body, sins will on occasion be committed. However, the point of being dead to sin is that the Christian will not engage in a lifestyle of persistent, continual, habitual sin. While slip ups and stumbles are to be expected as part of us having the Adamic nature of sin coursing through our veins, the slip ups and stumbles should never become the rule rather than the exception. Falling down into the mud is one thing. Continuing to lie there and wallow in it is something else entirely.
And so the question on the table for each of us right now is: “Am I dead in sin or am I dead to sin?” If you are a Christian, you are dead to sin, at least you are supposed to be. Admittedly, some Christians are so backslidden that it’s hard to tell that Jesus is even their Savior because they certainly aren’t walking in the newness of life that He offers. But this isn’t the norm. This isn’t the standard. This isn’t the ideal. Being dead to sin means that you are no longer dead in sin, and the proper response to such a condition is to live a life that is free from sin. That’s how it’s supposed to work, and that’s how it will work, Christian, if you will let Jesus have His way in your life.