Five Solas


Rousas John Rushdoony The Institutes of Biblical Law XIV. 1

Rousas John Rushdoony The Institutes of Biblical Law XIV. 1

XIV. The Church

Rousas John Rushdoony

The Institutes of Biblical Law: A Chalcedon Study, Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1973, pp.739-781

1. The Meaning of Eldership
2. The Office of Elder in the Church
3. The Christian Passover
4. Circumcision and Baptism
5. The Priesthood of All Believers
6. Discipline
7. Rebukes and Excommunication
8. Power and Authority
9. Peace


 Third, elders were rulers of synagogues, as Morris has indicated. Within the synagogue, the elder was the teacher, enforcer, and expert student of the law. (p.740)

 The fact that the elder ruled in church, state, and family in the Old Testament era did not make this office one institution. The fact of unity came not from the absorption of one institution into another, but in their common subordination to the law and their common use of the law. (p.740)

 The office of elder has, among its qualifications, the ability to teach, and the ability to rule (1 Tim. 3:2-5). Significantly, the tie to the origin of the office remains. The elder was originally and always a man who ruled a household; hence, in Israel, a ruler (and all rulers were in a real sense elders) had to be a married man, a man tested in authority and government. St. Paul restates this qualification as an inescapable fact, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5). The office of elder requires a family-centered society. (p.741)

 The government of the new Christian society was complicated by the fact of persecution. The offices of deacons and widows, created to function under the elders, had government as their function, the relief of the needy, ministering to the younger, education, etc. The elder as a teacher thus functioned in the early church in one sphere after another, in the church, in the family, in the area of welfare by delegation and supervision, in education, and, by their avoidance of civil courts, as a civil government. (p.741)

 Precisely because the Roman courts were “unjust” (1 Cor. 6:1), the elders served as a court to judge controversies among Christians (1 Cor. 6:1-3). If a church member refused to heed a correction (Matt. 18:15-17), then he could be treated as “an heathen man and a publican” and taken, if need be, to a civil court. Normally, the ungodly court is to be avoided even at a sacrifice (Matt. 5:40). No restriction against the use of courts exists in the Old Testament, because the courts there were either in the hands of the elders or reflected their influence. American courts, despite their corruption, have not lost their Christian character or Biblical law heritage. (p.741)

 Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:2, declares, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” Some, because of the reference to angels in verse 3, refer this judging to the world to come, but its true meaning is with reference to time and eternity. The word judge here has the Old Testament sense of govern. Moffatt translates it as manage. Manage does convey the meaning of a continuing government by the saints over the Kingdom of God, in time and in eternity. (p.741)