Dispensation: How is this defined in the Bible?
The Greek word from which this English word comes in the Bible is OIKONOMIA. That is what is called a compound noun, meaning that it is a word made up of two other nouns—OIKOS, meaning house and NOMOS, meaning law. Together it means the law of a household. As you know, every household should have certain laws or rules. In the Bible we learn that God has two different households, the house of Israel and what the apostle Paul calls the Body of Christ. Today, all believers [both Jews and Gentiles] are said to be members of this household that is called the Body of Christ. This consists of all people today who are heaven-bound because they have accepted God’s provision for their salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. These people are all said to be saved because they have been delivered from God’s condemnation.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [Emphasis added]
People become identified with Jesus Christ the moment they put their faith in Him alone as the basis for their salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [EUANGELION = good news] which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
The Bible tells us exactly what happened when Christ was on the cross to provide a way for salvation to be provided for anyone.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
As a wonderful expression of His love for us, Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for all our sins so that we would have the opportunity to be saved from God’s condemnation. All it takes is faith in Him and what He did to deliver us from this. It is when anyone believes this that they are joined to Christ to become a member of His body of people. It is then that believers also become responsible for choosing to live by the rules He made for that household. It is important to know that we have a different set of house rules than those He gave to the nation of Israel and some others before our time. The ones He gave to the Israelites are called “The Law” or the Law of Moses [the Mosaic Law]. Because God was going to introduce a new program for us today that had never been known, the new program was called a mystery, that is, a secret. None of the prophets of old knew anything about it and they, therefore, wrote nothing about it. Therefore, when it was made known through a series of revelations given to the apostle Paul, it was a complete surprise to everyone. Again, up until then it had been a mystery, that is, a secret held in the mind of God.
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; [MUSTERION = a secret](as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 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; [Emphasis added]
All this that was made known is wonderful information every believer needs to know. Satan has done a magnificent job keeping this information secret, even keeping the word “dispensation” out of most Bible translations. It is, therefore, no wonder that most churchgoers are not familiar with it.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world [speaking of Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. [Emphasis added]
There are seven dispensations found in the Bible. Here they are in the order in which they came about— 1 Innocence, 2 Conscience, 3 Human Government, and 4 Promise. Then after the giving of the Mosaic Law there was 5 The Dispensation of Law that lasted until the salvation of the man called Saul of Tarsus [who later came to be known as Paul] recorded in Acts 9. It was this man that God used to introduce our present dispensation [the sixth dispensation] which is typically called 6 The Dispensation of the Grace of God.
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me [Paul] to you-ward: [Emphasis added]
The seventh dispensation begins with the Second Coming of Christ when He returns to the Earth to establish His earthly kingdom. This is typically called the dispensation of 7 The Millennial Kingdom.
Throughout the ages God has made multiple changes in His manner of dealing with mankind. Understanding the nature of those changes is something we speak of as rightly dividing the Scriptures.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
Lack of having a correct understanding of the changes God has ordered has produced most of the division we now have in denominationalism.
We are quite fortunate today to have God’s complete revelation in what we speak of as the Bible. It was over many centuries that all the revelation contained therein was revealed and put in writing. Understanding this principle of right division makes the process of learning from it a challenging and very exciting adventure. When right-division is not understood and applied, it can all be very confusing and frustrating.
The Bible doctrine of dispensations represents the divine outline of all human history. Every believer needs to become familiar with each of the dispensations but especially the features and policies of this one in which we are a part today—The Dispensation of the Grace of God. Only then can one have a clear understanding of the means to one’s salvation and the manner in which we are to then live as God’s people.