5. The Dispensations

In a sense, all Christians are “Dispensationalists” or we would bring a lamb to sacrifice each week! Too often Dispensationalism is misrepresented by what it is NOT. Dispensations are detailed below, but in practical reality, they are simply time periods when the same Triune God governed man in a different form of administration—the garden vs the Law vs grace. These are periods of time when God gave man a specific way to interact with Him, NOT different roads to salvation or justification as critics so often imply. Only one road to justification has been presented by God: that is through Christ alone. (John 14:6)

The dispensations are simply stewardships or “ways of governing” by which God administers His purpose on the earth through man under varying responsibilities. I believe that the changes in the dispensational dealings of God with man relate to changed conditions or situations in which man is successively found with relation to God, and that these changes are the result of the failures of man and the judgments of God. Different administrative responsibilities of this character are manifest in the biblical record; they span the entire history of mankind, and each ends in the failure of man under the respective test and in an ensuing judgment from God. I believe that three of these dispensations or rules of life are the subject of extended revelation in the Scriptures: the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, the present dispensation of grace, and the future dispensation of the millennial kingdom. These are distinct and are not to be intermingled or confused, as they are chronologically successive for many reasons—most significantly for man to see his great need for a Savior.

Each of the dispensations are not in themselves dependent on covenant relationships, but are ways of life and responsibility to God which test the submission of man to His revealed will during a particular time. I believe that if man does trust in his own efforts to gain the favor of God or salvation under any dispensational test, his failure to fully satisfy the just requirements of God is inevitable and his condemnation sure because of inherent sin. (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2,9,11)

I have always believed that “without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6), and that the principle of faith was prevalent in the lives of all the Old Testament saints. However, I believe that it was historically impossible that they should have had as the conscious object of their faith the incarnate, crucified Son, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and that it is evident that they did not comprehend as we do that the sacrifices depicted the person and work of Christ. They did not understand the details of the redemptive significance nor the prophecies or types concerning the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 1:10–12); therefore, I believe that their faith toward God was manifested in other ways as is shown by the long record in Hebrews 11:1–40. Their faith thus manifested was counted unto them for righteousness. (cf. Rom. 4:3 with Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5–8; Heb. 11:7)