Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 March 2016
I live in Sydney, a beautiful city, what a pleasure to show friends from overseas around the harbour, the beaches and the mountains.
And yet, like all believers, my home is the eternal city which is above.
The writer of the Hebrews reminds his readers “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). The whole book of Revelation is focussed on the future city, where there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). The apostle Paul alludes to Isaiah when he speaks of our future hope, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
We live in these two realties, the city below which is very real and yet will fade away, and the city above, which is not so real and yet is eternally lasting and will be our eternal home. We live under two authorities, we live under rulers, governments who are to be respected because they are established by God (Romans 13:1, 2, 4) and are God’s servants, and yet, we realise their authority has been delegated by Him. Their rule is passing like the city to which they belong. They are a superior authority and so they bear the sword (Romans 13:4) and rule, and so we are to respectfully submit to them (Romans 13:1, 5) and yet we know that God is the supreme authority and we owe Him our ultimate allegiance.
The Lord Jesus referred to these two worlds as two sides of a coin “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”, he said (Mark 12:17). Moses’ mother, the midwives of Egypt, the prophet Daniel, the apostle Peter are all examples of those who said no to the superior authority because of their recognition of the supreme authority.
Our attitude to government, whoever is in power (remember Paul wrote Romans 13 when Nero was Emperor of Rome), is one of respectful submission, but it is not unquestioning obedience. Superior authorities require submission, to which there is a voluntary element, whereby I order myself under the authority.
However, the supreme authority, God above, requires intelligent obedience, rightly understood, we bow the knee to His Word, whether we like it or not.
This issue may come to a head very soon, if a Federal Government seeks to change the Marriage Act under which Presbyterian Ministers are licensed by the State to perform marriages. Will we continue to submit and perform marriages under an Act that no longer is consistent with the creation ordinance of God (Genesis 2:24) or will we recognise that the delegation is now inconsistent with the delegator and make clear that we owe our obedience to Him?
These are never easy issues, but this decision will be made after an open and God-honouring exchange of our views and then we will act in solidarity as the body of Christ in the way in which we believe our head, Jesus Christ, directs us.
Meanwhile, let us think clearly and live carefully, mindful of the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’”. (Hebrews 12:28-29)
Rt Rev David Cook