“Therefore, never let sin rule your physical body so that you obey its desires.” Romans 6:12 (GW).
‘Dead to sin’ means disagreeing with sinful desires in your body
“Even so see yourselves as dead to sin, but living to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11 (BBE). In another translation (GNT) it is written that we should ‘think’ of yourselves as dead, as far as sin is concerned.
We all have sinful lusts and desires hidden in our body. When we are tempted, these sins “wake up”, but we must never allow them to rule. As soon as we become aware of a sinful lust or desire, we must see ourselves as dead to this sin. This is how we can always overcome sin in our life. We are all tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires, which try to trap us to do sin. (James 1:14.) But to be tempted is not sin.
As Peter says, “… it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials [temptations] you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honour on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 (GNT).
“Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28. Notice that it is written: “to lust for her”. In another translation (NCV) it is written: “to sin sexually with her”. The law said: Do not desire to take your neighbour's wife. (Exodus 20:17.) But if a man looks at a woman and really wants to sexually sin with her - in other words, he agrees with the lust in his body instead of seeing himself to be dead to sin, dead to this lust - then he has already done this sin in his heart.
But the apostle Paul said that he served the law of God with his mind. (Romans 7:25.) That means that he wanted to obey the law of God.
Dead to sin means actively saying No to sin
James asks, “Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that war within you. You want things, but you do not have them.” James 4:1-2 (NCV).
It is people’s lusts and selfish desires that cause the fighting and striving in Christian assemblies because people do not see themselves as dead to sin – dead to these lusts and selfish desires – and, as a result, they just give in to sin. But we have to actively say No to sin as soon as we become aware of it, and we do this by saying No to the lust or desire to do this sin.
The law was only effective after sin was done and was visible to others. “What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like our sinful nature, to do away with sin.” Romans 8:3 (GNT).
God’s work in Christ went deeper than the law could, since the law could only take on sin after it became visible; this work took place within Jesus’ body before sin was done and became visible. There the lust and selfish desire itself (which is also called ‘sin in the flesh’) was judged and condemned. That is why Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28.
Those who are dead to sin overcome sin
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He did this by never giving in to sin, overcoming sin every time He was tempted, through the power of the Spirit that lived in Him. In this way the sin in His body died, but in return He was made alive by the Spirit.
All through our training in godliness, as we fight the good fight of faith against the lusts and selfish desires in our bodies, we have Jesus Christ as our faithful High Priest, because He Himself was tempted and can therefore come and help us.
Only those who want to stop sinning experience this inner fight against sin and this victory - and they will also become more and more like Him.