In recent years Bible teachers have talked much of “dispensationalism”, “studying the Bible dispensationally.” All Bible teachers, who are attempting to teach the Bible dispensationally, are sure that they are instructed to employ their method of teaching in II Timothy 2:15, “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” In this verse, “rightly dividing” is translated from the Greek “orthotomeo”, which means, “to cut right,” “to properly dissect.”
The word “dispensational” is used for the want of a better word. Before we consider the Greek word translated “dispensation” several times in the Bible, let us read concerning.
THIS PRESENT EVIL AGE
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from THIS PRESENT EVIL AGE, according to the will of God and our Father.” Galatians 1:3 and 4. Believers are delivered from “this present evil age” by the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the will of God.
In II Timothy 4:10 we read, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present age.” In II Corinthians 4:4, we read that Satan is, “the god of this age.” Then note II Thessalonians 2:7 to 9. The mystery of lawlessness is working and the culmination of this evil age will be the reign of the lawless one, the man of sin, the servant of the god of this age.
GRACE MORE ABOUNDING
In this present evil age, with the mystery of lawlessness at work, sin is abounding. “But where sin abounded grace did much more over-abound.” Romans 5:20. God’s overabounding grace is sufficient for the salvation of the vilest sinner on the earth.
Certainly then if this age is called “this present evil age”, because of abounding sin and the power of the god of this age, it should also be called “the age of grace”, because of the grace more abounding than the abounding sin. We do know that after God has finished His purpose in this age, the “kingdom age” will follow. Then there will be other ages after the coming “kingdom age.”
“That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:7.
Then note Colossians 1:26:
“Even the mystery which hath been HID FROM AGES and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.”
Here we learn that the risen Christ revealed Divine truth which God did not make known to the sons of men in other ages. “Which IN OTHER AGES was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs (joint-heirs) and of the same Body (Joint-Body), and partakers (joint-sharers) of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” Ephesians 3:5 and 6.
Noah’s ancestors lived before the flood. We have the right to speak of that period (1656 years) as “the antediluvian age.” “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” II Peter 3:6.
We have the Scriptural right to speak of “the dispensation of the law”. “the economy of law”, “the reign of law”, from the day that Moses was on Mount Sinai, about 1500 B.C. until after the death and resurrection of Christ. But we might not speak scripturally correct, if we speak of “the law age.” However, there was a definite period of time when God governed His people, according to the law, under the reign of law. It is not difficult to mark when the “law dispensation” began in Exodus 20, but it is not any simple matter to mark when in the “Acts” period the reign of law ceased. Acts 10:28.
In Matthew 12:32 the Lord Jesus, on earth, spoke of the age in which He lived under the law as, “this age”. Although we say that we are living in 1941 A.D., or 1941 years after the Lord Jesus was born, this present “age of grace” did not begin with the birth of Christ. It began after the resurrection of Christ, after the call of the Apostle Paul.
THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE
“FOR THIS CAUSE I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES, IF YE HAVE HEARD OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN ME TO YOU-WARD; HOW THAT BY REVELATION HE MADE KNOWN UNTO ME THE MYSTERY; AS I WROTE AFORE IN FEW WORDS.” Ephesians 3:1 to 3.
The Lord Jesus Christ committed unto Paul “the dispensation of the grace of God.” Note Paul’s testimony, in I Corinthians 9:17.
“For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, A DISPENSATION” is committed unto me.” Note again Paul’s testimony, in Colossians 1:25 and 26.
“WHEREOF I AM MADE A MINISTER, ACCORDING TO THE DISPENSATION OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN TO ME FOR YOU, TO FULFIL THE WORD OF GOD; EVEN THE MYSTERY WHICH HATH BEEN HID FROM AGES AND FROM GENERATIONS, BUT NOW IS MADE MANIFEST TO HIS SAINTS.”
The Greek word translated, “dispensation” is “oikonomia”. This literally means “houselaw”. This word is translated “stewardship”, in Luke 16:2, 3 and 4.
In I Corinthians 4:1 and 2, we are told that ministers of Christ are “stewards” of the mysteries of God,. and that they should be faithful stewards. The word stewards is, “oikonomos” This word, in Galatians 4:2, is translated, “governors”. Our English for “oikonomia” is “economy”.
To Paul was committed a Divine “economy.” Then note Ephesians 1:10 and 3:9: “THAT IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES HE MIGHT GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE ALL THINGS IN CHRIST, BOTH WHICH ARE IN HEAVEN, AND WHICH ARE ON EARTH; EVEN IN HIM.”
“AND TO MAKE ALL MEN SEE WHAT IS THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY, WHICH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD HATH BEEN HID IN GOD, WHO CREATED ALL THINGS BY JESUS CHRIST.”
A DISPENSATION NOT NECESSARILY AN AGE
We see that a dispensation is not necessarily an age. As we might correctly speak of “the law period,” “the dispensation of law,” and mean by either expression, the reign of law for more than 1500 years, we might use either the expression, “this age of grace” or “the present dispensation of grace.” But in I Corinthians 9:17, when Paul said, “a dispensation is committed unto me”, he was not saying, “an age is committed unto me.”
The dispensation, of Colossians 1:24 to 26, committed unto Paul, the faithful steward, was a specific task, “to complete the Word of God with the Mystery.”
God wants all Christians to see “the dispensation of the mystery”; but when the Father of glory has made the truth known to His child, it is no longer a mystery, or a secret, so far as that particular child is concerned. “Having made known the mystery of His will.” Ephesians 1:9. What the Lord really wants the Christian to know is, when and to whom, and by whom, that secret was revealed, what is its breadth, and length, and depth, and height, what is God’s spiritual program for His children who are seated in the heavenlies with Christ. How can the members of Christ’s Body walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called (Ephesians 4:1 and 2), if they know not what their vocation is?
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Ephesians 3:10.
Think this over seriously and prayerfully.
DISPENSATIONAL BIBLE STUDY
Dispensational Bible students perhaps become confused at times and fail to clarify their teaching concerning “ages” and “dispensations”. God may have more than one dispensation for one age.
All Christians who have gone very far in obedience to II Timothy 2:15, “rightly dividing the Word of truth”, have learned that in the ministry of the twelve apostles, from the day Jesus of Nazareth called them (Matthew 10:5 to 8 and 10:23) until the day the same Jesus of Nazareth met Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1 to 15), and for some time thereafter, God was carrying on a two-fold program. He was not baptizing believing Jews and Gentiles into the same Body, according to Ephesians 3:6 and I Corinthians 12:13. God was very definitely presenting the Messianic kingdom to Israel and her rulers, while He was offering salvation to individual Israelites. But remember Matthew 10:5, Matthew 15:24 and Acts 10:28, that during those years the Lord’s ministry was not to Gentiles.
We rightly divide the Word of truth, when we speak of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ as “the days of the Son of man.” In preaching to Israel and to Cornelius note the Lord’s message.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; JESUS OF NAZARETH, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him IN THE MIDST OF YOU, as ye yourselves also know.” Acts 2:22.
“How God anointed JESUS OF NAZARETH with the Holy Spirit and with power; Who went about doing good. and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both IN THE LAND OF THE JEWS, and IN JERUSALEM; Whom they slew and hanged on a tree.” Acts 10:38 and 39.
It was concerning “JESUS OF NAZARETH.” Note Paul’s “henceforth” in II Corinthians 5:16.
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”
“The days of the Son of man” are coming again. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also “IN THE DAYS OF THE SON OF MAN.” Luke 17:26.
Unto Peter was given the commission of Matthew 10:5, the so-called “great commission” of Matthew 28:19 and 20, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” of Matthew 16:16 to 19, “the gospel of the circumcision” of Galatians 2:7. And for some reason he even addressed his Epistle to “the dispersed Israelites.” I Peter 1:1 to 3.
But read concerning the Lord’s commissions, revelations and messages given to Paul:
CHRIST AND PAUL
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Acts 13:2.
“Will send thee far hence to the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21.
“That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:16.
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20: 24.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11 and 12.
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.” Galatians 2:7. “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.” Romans 16:25.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” II Timothy 1:9.
“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” II Timothy 1:11.
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” Colossians 2: 16.
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19 and 20.
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given td me for you, to fulfil the Word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.” Colossians 1: 25 and 26.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.” Ephesians 3: and 2.
God instructs His children to test things that differ. Philippians 1:10. Even the superficial student of the Scriptures claims to know the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament; but even the great majority of these teach that the Old Testament began with Adam instead of with Moses, and that the New Testament began with the birth of Jesus Christ instead of after His death and resurrection. All “grace” preachers contend earnestly for the difference between “the dispensation of law” and “the dispensation of grace”, and they even attempt to show the difference between “the kingdom age” and the dispensation of the grace of God. Most of them have followed the faulty dispensationalism of the Plymouth Brethren, the Scofield Bible, and the outstanding Bible Schools of America by ignoring Paul’s positive statements, in Ephesians 3:1 to 9, and erroneously teaching that God inaugurated “the dispensation of the mystery” on the day of Pentecost, and began on that Jewish feast day to baptize members into the Joint-Body of Ephesians 3:6, “the Church of the Mystery”.
PENTECOST AND THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE
Of course they do not know what to do with the Pentecostal message of Acts 2:38 and Acts 22:16, baptism as a washing and for the remission of sins. They do not sell their houses and lots, put their money in the common treasury, as all of the disciples did during that Pentecostal period. Acts 2:44 and 45 and Acts 4:34. Secretly, of, course, many of them are troubled about the signs, of Mark 16:16 to 18, because they know they are twisting and corrupting the Scriptures when they change the order and preach “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized”, and “forget the signs”. They do not know what to do with those people in Samaria who received water baptism several days before they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:5 to 15. They do not know what has become of the signgifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, but they get such a blessing putting people under the water they just forget them. They know they have no visitations from angels, no miraculous jail deliverances by angels or earthquakes, no blessed handkerchiefs, or aprons, but they have settled down complacently to these inconsistencies, and they are banded together with a grim determination that no fellow-saint shall proclaim Divine truth that will deliver the Church from such confusion. They boycott, persecute, and disfellowship. They cry “Bullingerism” “hyperdispensationalism”, “ultradispensationalism”.
In the meantime, the Pentecostalists are capitalizing on the faulty dispensationalism of the “grace” preachers, and they are possessing much land. The “grace” preachers, who begin this present economy on the day of Pentecost, have no Scriptural answer to the Pentecostalists and other healing fanatics.
One leader among the Fundamentalists has been very bitter against Pauline truth. He slams and slanders any brethren who have tried to straighten out the saints that he has led into confusion by mixing Peter’s kingdom circumcision message with the Pauline gospel and truth concerning the Church of the Mystery. This man of God was formerly pastor of a large denominational church. He chuckled with delight when he led several hundred of those members out of that denominational organization. He had the right to be delighted when he led them from “under the law”. But he led them from “under the law” to “under the water”. He got them partly into the dispensation of grace. But how he did scold, and fuss, and fume, and fight when another servant of the Lord led them from “under the water” into the full sunlight of God’s grace.
Then he joined in the cry against the rebels, “mark them that cause division”, “Bullingerites”, “hyperdispensationalism”. And so goes the battle. Thank God for the victories thus far. Many saints are now obeying Ephesians 3:9 who knew nothing of it a few years or a few months ago. What are you doing about it?
“AND TO MAKE ALL MEN SEE WHAT IS THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY, WHICH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD HATH BEEN HID IN GOO, WHO CREATED ALL THINGS BY JESUS CHRIST.” Ephesians 3: 9.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.