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Christ Plays on Every Station: Common Grace and the Law Written on Man’s Heart

If God does not confront man everywhere, he cannot confront him anywhere. That’s a paraphrase. That’s also inherent in the concept of common grace and the law written on the heart of man.

In an essay in his book Common Grace and the Gospel, Cornelius Van Til uses this analogy to describe Paul’s teaching in Romans 1-2:

The main point is that if man could look anywhere and not be confronted with the revelation of God then he could not sin in the biblical sense of the term. Sin is the breaking of the law of God. God confronts man everywhere. He cannot in the nature of the case confront man anywhere if he does not confront him everywhere. God is one; the law is one. If man could press one button on the radio of his experience and not hear the voice of God then he would always press that button and not the others. But man cannot even press the button of his own self-consciousness without hearing the requirement of God (p. 203).

This is our attempt to suppress the truth, Romans 1-style.

Christians often do the opposite. Doug Wilson made this point in a blog post years ago. He said something to the effect that Christians think they’ve found the right station. So they keep the dial tuned in to that station and that station alone. Which sounds great. Until your wife (or you) gets tired of K-Love.

A major point of our book is going to be that Romans 1 applies to Christians too. For instance, Romans 1:23 describes truth-suppressing, idol-worshiping man like this:

“[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon that pointed out the fact that this is an obvious allusion to Psalm 106:20:

“They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

To whom is Psalm 106 referring? It’s talking about Israel. It’s talking about religious people.

Van Til makes the point that if God is to confront man anywhere, he must confront him everywhere. Christians and non-Christians alike are bent toward suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. One way we do this, as Christians, is by not looking for God’s glory everywhere. We convince ourselves that he’s not speaking on every radio station. But he is. He’s there, confronting us with his law and his gospel. Yes, even in secular culture. Not just in sunsets and the ocean.

Charles Spurgeon (see HERE) sometimes quoted the hymn Say Not, My Soul. I’ve never heard the hymn in church. You probably haven’t either. But here’s the first stanza:

Say not, my soul, ‘From whence
Can God relieve my care’
Remember that Omnipotence
Hath servants everywhere.

Omnipotence has servants everywhere. This is why (in the quote linked above) Spurgeon said God’s truth is “viral.” Gerard Manly Hopkins put it this way: “Christ plays in ten thousand places.” Here, it’s more like ‘Christ plays on every channel.’ He plays everywhere, always. But we have to have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Hosea 13 and Romans 15: Jesus Changes Everything

Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not!Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion! (Hosea 13:14 NET Bible).

The Apostle likely references this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57:

“O death, where is your victory?
 O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

How did Hosea 13:14 go from what it was to what it became in 1 Corinthians 15? Is the Apostle Paul working from a strange translation (as we often are)? Is it a misquote?

No. Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead. In his life he fulfilled the law, robbing death of its power. In dying he took the sting of sin, robbing death of its great weapon – eternal judgement. In rising, he demonstrated that the monster of death had been defeated entirely.

At the cross God unleashed hell on his Son, our Lord: Will I deliver him? No, I will not! Will I redeem him? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion!

And because Jesus took this sting, we can say, O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Death has no dart with which to wound us except sin, since death proceeds from the anger of God. Now it is only with our sins that God is angry. Take away sin, therefore, and death will no more be able to harm us (John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15).