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Bible Gem 148 - Paul's Rhetorical Questions (Rom 3:1-9)

March 19, 2019

 

Rom 3:1  Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? 

Rom 3:2  Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

Rom 3:3  True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?

Rom 3:4  Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about Him, "You will be proved right in what you say, and You will win Your case in court." 

Rom 3:5  "But," some might say, "our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn't it unfair, then, for Him to punish us?" (This is merely a human point of view.) 

Rom 3:6  Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would He be qualified to judge the world?

Rom 3:7  "But," someone might still argue, "how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights His truthfulness and brings Him more glory?

Rom 3:8  And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, "The more we sin, the better it is!" Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. 

Rom 3:9  Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin.

 

I have repeated this section in order to get you to take note of one of Paul’s major methods of getting his point across. Notice the highlighted sections. They are a series of rhetorical questions. Many people use rhetorical questions to drive their point home in teaching or in an argument or in chastising someone. I learned that early from my mother but I didn’t know to call them rhetorical questions back then.  Paul uses rhetorical questions like a lawyer to give his argument structure. Pay attention to them and you will solve the puzzle of what Paul is on about. 


Allow me to illustrate what I am talking about and how rhetorical questions can be used to make a point. Rhetorical questions do not require an answer; they are merely used to emphasize the point being made. When I was a little boy, one day I emptied the cornflake packet on the floor in the kitchen and proceeded to stomp on them in my gumboots. I must have liked the crunch they made. [I can’t think of any other reason why I would have done that.] My mother came in and caught me in the act and used three rhetorical questions in her escalating anger. 

 

1. Ian Warren Vail, what are you doing? (she always used my full name when she was mad with me)

2. Ian Warren Vail, what do you think you’re doing?

3. Ian Warren Vail, what on earth do you think you are doing?

 

None of these questions need answering and in fact I couldn’t have answered some of them if I tried. 

The first one my mother knew the answer to very well. I guess I could have said “I am stomping on the cornflakes in my gumboots.” But she could see that for herself. She didn’t need me to tell her. 

Maybe the second one was a psychological question it seemed. What do you think you’re doing? Well mum, I thought I was stomping on the cornflakes but tell me is there something more to this that I don’t know?

Perhaps the third one was an existential question. What are you on this earth for Ian? Well mum I am not sure why I am on the earth but at the moment I am stomping cornflakes. Am i destined for higher things?

 

No, there was no deeper meaning to the questions. My mother was merely grabbing my attention in the midst of her increasing anger. 

Paul is not angry but he is grabbing your attention with his rhetorical questions. Watch carefully for these kinds of questions throughout the book of Romans they are important.  

 

Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any advantage? Is there any point to this God stuff?

Does that mean God will be unfaithful? Is God letting the side down?

Isn't it unfair, then, for Him to punish us?  Isn’t God being unfair then? 

How can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights His truthfulness and brings Him more glory?" surely my sin is a help to him, is it not?

Should we conclude that we Jews are better than others – leading to his major point. We are all in the same boat. 

 

Paul is very good at predicting how his audience is going to think, react and argue. Follow his rhetorical questions and you will follow the thread of his argument. That is always the way to approach Paul's rhetoric. 

 

 

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  JK Rowling

 

 

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