Summary: This is the first of a series of sermons based on scriptures where a rhetorical question beginning with the phrase "Do you not know. . ." is asked. This sermon deals with the rhetorical question asked in Romans 6:3, "Do you not know that all of us who ha
Series: Do You Not Know?
Sermon: Baptism into Christ’s Death
Text: Romans 6:1-11
Do you know what a Rhetorical Question is? Of course you do. In fact, the question I just asked was a rhetorical question, wasn’t it? Oops! There I go again! A Rhetorical question is usually defined as any question asked for a purpose other than to obtain the information the question asks. There is a particular type of rhetorical question that I was unaware of until I began this study, but perhaps, if some of you have studied rhetoric or debate, you may be familiar with this term: anacoenosis (an’-a-ko-en-os’-is ). Anacoenosis is asking the opinion or judgment of the judges or audience, usually implying their common interest with the speaker in the matter. The Apostle Paul uses this rhetorical technique, using the phrase “Do you not know” 14 times in his epistles; 4 times in Romans and 10 times in 1 Corinthians.
In our text this today, Paul asks three rhetorical questions, or more properly, three anacoenosi (if that is indeed the plural form). Let’s dig in a little deeper.
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
This may sound like a silly question, but rhetorical questions often seem silly because the answer is so obvious. But perhaps it is not quite so silly as it seems. Paul has been arguing that we are not saved by works. We are saved by God’s grace. Logically following, a reasonable question might be, “What then is to be the Christian’s attitude towards sin?” That is a reasonable question. But Paul is trying to show how unreasonable it is to answer this question in any other way than the appropriate way. What Paul does is he takes what might seem like a reasonable answer, pushes it to the extreme and shows how unreasonable that answer really is.
What then is to be the Christian’s attitude to sin? What seems like a reasonable answer to this question is, “If we are saved by God’s grace, then sin is of no real concern to the Christian.” This answer seems reasonable, but how reasonable is it? If we sin, just once, after becoming a Christian, will God in his grace forgive us? That’s what grace is. Of course he will. And if I sin, just once, isn’t God being more gracious than if I never sinned again. Of course he is. So if I sin a billion more times, isn’t God’s grace abounding more and more? Of course it is. Then why not sin more and more so that God will be more and more gracious? This seemingly reasonable answer is ridiculous because before we can answer this question, we must answer another, “What then is to be the Christian’s attitude to grace? Before we can answer the question about subsequent sin, we must first ask the question about the previous grace and mercy. The Christian’s attitude, the proper attitude toward grace is gratitude. If we are truly grateful for the grace we have been given, can sin be of no real concern for those who have been forgiven? There I go again with another rhetorical question! Of course not! If we are truly grateful for the grace we have been given, we must avoid sin at all cost! Paul answers this question of “What is to be the Christian’s attitude to sin?” with the second rhetorical question.
How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?
A second rhetorical question with an obvious answer; you cannot live in sin if you died to sin. But wait a minute! Who died to sin? When did this happen? But before we go there, let’s pause a moment longer. When Paul speaks of being dead to sin, he’s using a figure of speech. He is not referring to literal physical death. What does he mean? He means that sin is off limits. How many of you who are married can remember your wedding vows? When you got married did you pledge to “forsake all others”? What does that mean? That you were now “off limits” to anyone other than the one you were marrying? That everyone else was now “off limits” to you except the one you were marrying? You were dead to them and they were dead to you. Is that what Paul is getting at here? Let’s look at that third rhetorical question.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Woah! Where did that come from? What does baptism have to do with this? Did you think that baptism was just some trivial ceremony? Did you think that baptism was just an outward sign of inward grace? What is Paul doing here? What is his point in bringing up baptism at this point in his argumentation about the Christian’s attitude toward sin? Paul is reminding his audience, his Christian audience, to look back to their baptism.