What is a Dispensation? (2)…
Many Christians seem to have a confused idea of the meaning of the word “dispensation” as it is used in the Scriptures. Many take the word to mean “a period of time” but time is not the primary meaning of the word.
We are familiar with the local (dispensing) chemist, and when we take a doctor’s prescription to him he dispenses it for us. We certainly waited for the medicine, but time is not what is handed over the counter. It is the contents of the package, or whatever we receive, which is the dispensation.
Just so in The Word of God. It is important to know when a dispensation starts and finishes, but it is the nature, or character of it which is so vital. Is it about us or Israel for example?
The translators of the New Testament used the word dispensation when they translated the Greek word oikonomia. This Greek word means stewardship, and our friend the chemist is acting as steward when he dispenses our prescription for us.
Some of Those Who Have Dispensed
Similarly, God has used people down through the ages to dispense the things He has wanted done and made known. The story of Joseph being entrusted to Pharaoh to faithfully distribute corn during the seven year famine gives us a picture of dispensing as a faithful steward should. Moses was used by the Lord to dispense the Law to Israel.
There is no change of dispensation between Malachi and Matthew because even though we know the Lord Jesus is the Saviour of the world, yet we are clearly told that:
“Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers”. (Romans 15:8)
Likewise Peter dispensed to Israel the things concerning their Messiah, the One they had recently crucified (Acts 2:36).
Paul was the one apostle specially chosen by the risen Lord to dispense to Gentiles special phases of God’s plan. He said in the book of Romans:
“I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13)
Paul was given a dispensation which operated during the Acts period. The Acts period ran from the crucifixion to Paul’s last plea to the Jews in Rome which you can read about in Acts 28.
“A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1 Corinthians 9:17) said Paul, which dispensation was dealt out during this earlier ministry. After Israel were put aside at the end of the book of Acts, Paul revealed that he had been entrusted with another dispensation called:
The dispensation of the grace of God
The Mystery (Ephesians 3:1,2)
In Ephesians 3:9 he said his mission was to make all men see what it is, i.e., to shed light on its character. The Mystery is the dispensation which is in operation now. Do you understand, dear reader?
In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul gives the doctrine concerning this wonderful dispensation in chapters 1, 2 & 3. Then the regulations of it in chapters 4, 5 & 6. This letter is balanced by doctrine and practice, which should also be the case in our own lives.
Unfortunately, many denominations want to imitate or claim the things which belong to Israel. “We should all possess supernatural gifts”, or “we are now the true Israel” they suggest. “God has finished with that nation, and the promises made to them are now ours”. This is confusion.
The Salvation which is in Christ Jesus is available to us, but the promises God made to Israel will be fulfilled to and for them when God is ready.
Just as it is unwise to take medicine dispensed for someone else, so it is spiritually unwise to take promises and commands which belong in other dispensations. We must not expect God to keep promises which were never made to us.
Many Christians have been disappointed because God has not kept promises they have “claimed”. Neither does He expect us to keep commands not for us.
We need to study The Word and find which dispensation is current. Redemption by the blood does not change, but God’s administrations, or dispensations, do. We must rightly divide the Word if we wish to be unashamed.
The dispensation which is in operation today is called …