In Romans 6:9–14, the apostle Paul communicates a key concept of justification referred to as “imputed righteousness.” He is teaching Christians how they can experience freedom from the control of sin over their lives. When Jesus Christ died and was resurrected from the dead, the victory He achieved over sin and death was imparted to all who believe in His name and receive Him as Lord and Savior. Paul writes, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14, NKJV).
Before salvation, sin was like a slave-driving master over us. Now, as “prisoners of Christ Jesus” (see Ephesians 3:1), we no longer live under the requirements of the law but under the freedom of God’s grace: “Just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21, NLT; see also Romans 7:4, 6; Galatians 2:19). Because we belong to Jesus, “the power of the life-giving Spirit” has set us free “from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:2, NLT). We are no longer obligated to do what our sinful nature urges us to do (Romans 8:12).
In Romans 6:9, Paul explains that “Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Romans 6:9–10, NKJV). Then Paul clarifies how we can experience what Jesus experienced: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). To “count” is “to consider, to reckon, to think, to credit.” In the same way that Jesus is free from sin and death and alive to God, we must think of ourselves as free. We get to credit or apply to ourselves the same truth that applies to our Savior. Christ’s freedom is now our freedom. Sin shall not have dominion over you because it has no mastery over Christ in whom you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28; see also 1 John 4:9).
Through the death of Jesus, the believer has died, and his life is now “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We are new creations in Christ; the old life of sin under the law is gone, and a new life of spiritual freedom under God’s grace has begun (2 Corinthians 5:17). If we are truly dead, we are free from sin’s influence. The penalty for sin has been paid, and we no longer must answer to sin’s dominion over us.
God counts Christians dead to sin because of their identification with the death and resurrection of Christ. If God considers us dead to sin, we must also think of ourselves as dead to sin’s dominion. If God says it is so, then we must believe it. Counting yourself dead to sin means you “don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
In Romans 6:12–13, Paul firmly cautions believers to make a clean break from their old sinful ways of living: “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Romans 6:12–13, NLT). Peter affirms that Jesus carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we could be dead to sin’s dominance and live to do what is right for God’s glory (1 Peter 2:24).
Sin shall not have dominion over you when you offer your body “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). Before salvation, we lived under the law. Sin was our master because adhering to legalistic rules could not give us the power to resist sin. “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit” (Romans 8:3–4, NLT). The law merely served to reveal our weakness and failure. God’s amazing grace in the form of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the only thing sufficient to empower us to live according to the Holy Spirit’s control.
Walking in the truth of our salvation does not mean we will never sin again. We have the choice not to sin, and we have the grace of God empowering us not to sin, but we are still human and imperfect. The apostle John says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). When we fall short of the mark, we have an advocate or legal representative in Jesus Christ, “the one who is truly righteous,” who pleads our case before the Father (1 John 2:1, NLT). John explains, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God responds in grace and mercy toward our human weakness because Jesus Christ died for our sins to give us His righteousness.
Sin shall not have dominion over you as a Christian because the grace of God saves you and enables you to turn away from “godless living and sinful pleasures” and “live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God” (Titus 2:11–12, NLT).