What does it mean when God says you are dead to sin?


  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published October 15, 2023
  • Word count 1,497


You Are Dead to Sin

Did you know that there was a time when someone who was pronounced dead really wasn’t? And because of such, after the person was buried, certain accommodations were made so that if they returned to life, they could make contact with others from outside the grave. Here’s an article for you to read that pertains to such. And by the way, the state where this story originated from is Ohio.


NEW MATAMORAS - Most people wouldn’t give [a] second thought to a bell ringing. But in the 19th century, a ringing bell could mean the dead weren’t. Someone unintentionally buried alive would pull the string in the coffin to ring a bell at topside.

“The bell’s purpose was if they (unintentionally) buried you alive, you were supposed to feel around the coffin…for a string,” John Miller, president of the Matamoras Historical Society, said. “You were supposed to ring that [bell. Grave bells were believed to have been used at the Cooper Cemetery near the Monroe County line on Rinard Mills Road. It could be the origins behind the saying of saved by the bell,”] he said.

Miller said usually a pipe led down through the ground and into the coffin. A string ran from the coffin and outside to the bell. People watched the cemetery just in case a bell was rung, then the person who had been buried alive would be rescued.

He said without more modern technology some people with very low pulse rates and breathing rates [could be] buried alive. There was also no embalming. “Often people were pronounced dead and they weren’t really,” Miller said. “You would wake up and [you’re] in your grave. It makes the hair on your neck stand up.”

The story of the Cooper Cemetery bell has circulated for years between nearby residents. The evidence of a bell was reported to be a pipe sticking up from the ground next to one of the headstones in the [back-left] corner of the cemetery. While the evidence of this pipe is no longer visible, its story lingers.

According to Miller, Cooper Cemetery was established in 1821 with its first burial of Nancy Pugh. “There were no burials until [thirty] years later in 1851,” he said. “All three of them were late in the fall and this is where they got the name Cooper Cemetery.” The next three burials were of Elisha Cooper, 60 at his death, Mary Cooper, 8, and John Cooper, 2. The most recent burial was of Perley McKnight in November 2012.

Though Cooper Cemetery’s bell has long since disappeared without a trace, its legacy continues to live on. Jim Moore, 61, of Little Hocking used to live near Cooper Cemetery in his youth. Though he hasn’t been around the cemetery for years, he still remembers hearing about and looking for the bell. “I remember when I was a kid talking with dad,” Moore said. “He told me about it. The grave was kind of sunken in the [back-left] corner of the cemetery. There was definitely something there my dad pointed out. It was like a hole with a pipe type of deal.”

Moore said the story of the cemetery’s bell has had a lasting effect. “You know how when you’re a kid, it’s all kind of spooky,” Moore said. “It was always something I remembered. It’s kind of surprising and it’s just one of those things that’s just stuck in my mind.”116

Can you imagine someone who has been buried alive, was able to ring the bell, and heard a faint voice from outside letting them know that they’ll get them out. And after a while hearing what appears to be digging taking place above with the anticipation of being rescued. As the coffin was brought up and opened, I’m sure they crawled out with surprise and thankfulness wondering how they got there in the first place.

Their next response might be, I can’t wait to get home. Can someone please take me home? And when they got to the front door and knocked what surprise and shock awaited whosoever opened it.

Well, I think a similar response takes place from fellow believers when they hear the news about the next blessing that has been received by each of them at salvation. It’s one of those benefits that many won’t accept. Please turn to the book of Romans and we’ll find out what this is about.

Romans 6:1-2

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

The Apostle Paul was instructing the Christians in Rome concerning sin and grace. He asked them, should we continue to sin habitually, so that grace (the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life117) may abound (shall increase)? In other words, should believers sin all the more so that the elements of character of the Spirit will increasingly develop?

2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

His response was God forbid, i.e., no, just the opposite. Grace doesn’t expand the more a believer sins. Sin inhibits the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What this revealed was either a lack of clear teaching about grace or the grace taught wasn’t being appropriated. So, what does grace teach us in regard to sin? This is found in the book of Titus.

Titus 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.

Another thing that Paul reminded them of was that at salvation, another spiritual reality had taken place in their life, which is that they were dead to sin. This can be restated in a few different ways. It can mean to be separated from sin’s power, not the extinction of sin;118 that sin has lost its influence; death to the old life in sin;119 or to be separated once and for all from the sinful nature.120

And if this is the case, and it is, then Paul goes on to say, how shall we live any longer therein? What he means is, as to our position in Christ, we can’t continue to live in sin because we’re dead to it. So, accept this new reality about yourself.

This isn’t saying that a believer can’t sin, but in our standing in Christ, we’re dead to it. Why is this truth so important to understand? It’s because as we’ve already discussed earlier in this study, there are teachings which claim that if a believer commits habitual sin, then they’ll lose their salvation, or their sinful life will indicate that they were never born again in the first place. This is of such paramount importance to the new person you’ve become and whether sin could impact it that we took an in depth look at this earlier in chapter 4. So, if you need refreshing as to whether sin could impact salvation in either perspective, then I’d recommend going back there and rereading this section over again.

As far as whether it’s possible for a believer to continually commit sin after they’re saved, the verb continue from the prior verse will provide for us an answer to such. The word continue in Koine Greek is in the form of a present active subjunctive. This tells us that a believer can choose to continually live in sin. However, in their position they’re dead to it. Their seating in Christ remains, although in their experience their conduct acts in contradiction to their new state. Their salvation is still there but there’s no witness of such.

So, what you’ve learned is that nothing can change this new reality in your life, i.e., you’re dead to sin because you’re in Christ. And because of such, sin has lost its influence [over you; you’re] not subject to it; [you’re] in regard to that, as the [person] in the grave is to the busy scenes and cares of this life.121 And as you’ve been made aware how to address sin, which is by means of a process called sanctification, this positional reality will be worked out in your life and become increasingly evident to you.

Another favor that we’ll look at has to do with a blessing that I’d say most people in this world desire. Any guesses what this could be?


116“Grave bells indicated ‘the deceased’ were alive,” The Parkersburg News & Sentinel 4 December 2022


117New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc; 25 November 2022


118Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament.

119IVP Bible Background Commentary.

120Wuest’s Word Studies.

121Barnes’ Notes.

My name is James Rondinone. I am a husband, father, and spiritual leader.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership Course of Study and graduated as valedictorian (Summa Cum Laude).

Studying and teaching the Word of God has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

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