A dispensational view of the Bible is demanded for proper understanding of God’s word.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15
The word of truth is the Bible. There is a right way and wrong ways to interpret the Bible. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “. . . we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If you are born again of the Spirit of God, then you are Christ’s workman and this verse applies to you. It tells us to rightly divide or rightly interpret it. So let’s see what this “rightly dividing” is all about.
orthotomeo or-thot-om-eh’-o – to make a straight cut, i.e. (figuratively) to dissect (expound) correctly (the divine message):–rightly divide.
Nothing mysterious here. Rightly dividing is correctly interpreting. But if we are told to rightly divide God’s word, then we need to avoid pitfalls which will have us wrongly divide and misinterpret it.
WHAT IS A DISPENSATION?
oikonomia oy-kon-om-ee’-ah – administration (of a household or estate); specially, a (religious) “economy”:–dispensation, stewardship.
A big word, with a simple meaning. Simply stated, people being dealt with or tested differently at different times. When we were colonies under British rule, the king and the parliament told the colonist what they could do and not do. After the war for independence, a different type of government, with different people in positions of authority set and enforced a new set of rules. Thus we have examples of two dispensations. Note that the people under these different governments had responsibilities as well as the rulers, that is they had a stewardship. No one can deny that things were different in the Garden of Eden before and after the fall. Sin changed everything.
Like other words in language, “dispensation” can have a slightly different meaning depending on the context. Note these examples below where three of the four examples refer to stewardships given to Paul and the fourth, a period of time (the fullness of times).
1Corinthians 9:17 “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation <oikonomia> of the gospel is committed unto me.”
Ephesians 1:10 “That in the dispensation <oikonomia> of the fullness 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:”
Ephesians3:2 “If ye have heard of the dispensation <oikonomia> of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Colossians 1:25 “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation <oikonomia> of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;”
A dispensation is a period of time during which God deals in a particular way with man in respect to sin and to man’s responsibility. See: Ephesians 1:10; 3:5
A dispensation is a stewardship or administration.
A dispensation is a period of specific testing of man by God.
Nowhere in the Bible does the use of the word or concept of “dispensation” suggest or imply that men were saved in different ways at different times.
What a dispensation is not is a different way of salvation.
Salvation has always been by God’s grace through faith.
AGREEMENT AMONG THE BRETHREN?
Do all Christians agree that dispensations exist in God’s revealed Word?
The answer is NO! Why?
All Christians do not interpret the Bible in the same way and this leads to differing understandings of God’s plan, especially for today and the future. How does that happen? Inconsistency – interpreting some passages of Scripture one way and others differently.
THE INTERPRETATION OPTIONS
Grammatical/Historical – Literal, allowing for obvious figurative passages where they are clearly indicated (Jesus said, “I am the door . . .”. John 10:7, 9).
Allegorical – spiritualizing – attributing some other meaning to a passage other than what the language would allow. For example, Hell and the Lake of Fire are not real places prepared by God for the devil, but rather a state of mind. Get the idea. Can you see what this can lead to?
Combination of the above
THE CORRECT APPROACH
Only this approach takes sinful man’s hands off the Word and allows it to speak for itself as God intended. God is not the author of confusion, but man certainly is. “2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” God superintended over the writing of the Word so that it would be without error. And if it is without error, it says what it means, and means what it says.
GRAMMATICAL/HISTORICAL – LITERAL
The Scriptures were taught at every level of society in the early days of the Church. It wasn’t only the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees that read the Scriptures, but common folk like you and me. Timothy had the Word taught to him by his mother and grandmother. It was intended for the common folk, to be understood in the common sense. Therefore, every word should be understood at its common usage unless the context clearly shows otherwise. If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense. This does not mean that we reject figurative language, parables and other elements of language that are understood by common folk like you and me. Jesus interpreted the Scriptures literally when He referred to Adam, Noah and Jonah.
A literal interpretation reveals:
Israel distinct from the Church
Literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth
Pre-tribulation catching up of the Church into Glory
HOW MANY DISPENSATIONS?
Not all dispensationalist agree on the number of dispensations.
Some see 6, some 7, some 8.
The most commonly accepted number today is 7.