Dispensationalism I - Lesson 6

  1. DEFINITION OF DISPENSATIONALISM
    1. Basic Definition of Dispensation
      1. Comes from Latin word dispensatio which means management or charge (as in responsibility or duty; care or supervision over someone or something); “distribution of money or property, management, stewardship, regulation, economy” – OED.
      2. The early church writers and theologians referred to the system whereby we are saved through the death of Christ on the cross as the dispensation of grace “in opposition to the Law or system of works” – OED.
      3. Related to the verb dispense and refers to a dispensing or a distribution; a giving out of something.  By an expansion of meaning, it refers to the system by which anything is administered or managed.
      4. From Oxford English Dictionary (OED): “A religious order or system, conceived as divinely instituted, or as a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time, as the patriarchal, Mosaic (or Jewish) dispensation, the Christian dispensation; also, the age or period during which such system has prevailed…An extension of the patristic [referring to early church theologians] use of the word…This use became common in the theology of the 17th century.”
        1. Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-47) – “There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.”
        2. Title of book by William Cave (1675) – Antiquitates Apostolicae…to which is added An Introductory Discourse concerning the three Great Dispensations of the Church, Patriarchal, Mosaical and Evangelical.
      5. Definition by C. I. Schofield (p. 5 of his reference Bible) – “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.”
      6. Definition by Charles Ryrie (p. 28 of Dispensationalism) – “A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.”
      7. Definition by Lewis Sperry Chafer (p. 40, Vol. I of Systematic Theology) – “As a time measurement, a dispensation is a period which is identified by its relation to some particular purpose of God—a purpose to be accomplished within that period.  The earlier dispensations, being so far removed in point of time from the present, are not as clearly defined as are the later dispensations.  For this reason, Bible expositors are not always agreed regarding the precise features of the more remote periods.”
    2. Biblical Usage of Dispensation
      1. A dispensation of the gospel
        1. 1 Corinthians 9:16 – “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”
        2. Refers to Paul’s personal responsibility in overseeing the distribution of the gospel.  He was the primary messenger of the dispensation of grace.
          1. The apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:7-8; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11)
          2. Received the gospel of the grace of God by revelation from God (Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-9)
      2. The dispensation of the grace of God
        1. Ephesians 3:2 – “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward”
        2. Gives a name to the dispensation administered by Paul (the dispensation of the grace of God) and declares that this dispensation is given to others as well and so continues beyond Paul.
      3. The dispensation of God which is given to me
        1. Colossians 1:25-27 – “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: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”
        2. Describes some characteristics of this dispensation: 1) it comes by special revelation; 2) it brings the Gentiles into special relationship with God; 3) it works through the indwelling of Christ.
      4. The dispensation of the fullness of times
        1. Ephesians 1:10 – “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”
        2. Refers to a dispensation beyond the commonly named ones that deal with time as we know it.  This dispensation refers to the spiritual economy of eternity and is, in effect, the eighth dispensation.
    3. The Seven Dispensations (in their most common form)
      1. Innocence – Adam in the Garden of Eden
      2. Conscience – from the Fall to the Flood
      3. Human Government – from the Flood to the Call of Abram
      4. Promise or Patriarchs – from the Call of Abram to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai
      5. Law – from the Law of Moses to the Coming of Christ
      6. Grace Age (sometimes called Church Age) – from the Coming of Christ to the Rapture
      7. Kingdom – the thousand year reign of Christ on earth
      8. To which may be added, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times (Ephesians 1:10)
    4. Characteristics of the Dispensations
      1. They are revelatory
        1. They are based on special revelations [often covenants or commissions]
        2. Genesis 9:1-7; Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 16:25-26
      2. They are probationary
        1. They include a test or tests of obedience for man (Genesis 2:15-17; Exodus 24:3-8; Romans 11:21-25; Revelation 20:6-9)
        2. They prove man’s inability to obey or to please God
        3. They close with God giving man up to his own way
        4. They end with world-wide destruction or judgment
      3. They are progressive
        1. They move toward the fullness of time
        2. They grow in the accumulated revelation of God and His will (Acts 17:30; Galatians 3:21-26)
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 22:27

If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?