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Bible:  What is the Dispensation of Grace?

Gary Googe Dec 09

To dispense means to hand out, to pass out, or to distribute.  In this case we’re talking about something God dispensed.  In the Bible, it represents that which God dispenses as a manner of life for His people in a certain period.  We find this very important phrase, The Dispensation of the Grace of God, in the writings of the apostle Paul.

Ephesians 3:2

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [Emphasis added]

One of the first things you need to understand about this term is that it is not used in many of the Bible translations.  Here are some examples from this passage of Scripture I’ve just cited from the King James Version (KJV).

New International Version (NIV)

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, [Emphasis added]

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, [Emphasis added]

New American Standard (NASB)

if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; [Emphasis added]

The sad part about this is that there are people who not only dislike a dispensational approach to understanding the Bible, they detest it.  And because of that, they have eliminated the word from the Bible and like to tell people the word dispensation isn’t even in the “best” translations of the Bible.  Again, that’s sad because this attitude represents their antagonism toward the truth that relates to this subject.  It also represents a defense of certain beliefs that simply aren’t true.  But all that is a subject for another day.

The Greek word that is translated dispensation is OIKONOMIA.  This is a compound noun that is derived from OIKOS, meaning house, and NOMOS, meaning law.  Therefore, OIKONOMIA means, literally, the law of a household, or we could say the principles by which a home is governed.  OIKONOMIA is also where we get the English word economy.  Webster defines economy as “the management, regulation and government of a household.”  The apostle Paul used the term for God’s management of His spiritual household of believers.  Therefore, a dispensation is simply a set of instructions that God “dispenses” [or gives] to mankind, or to a section of mankind, for him to apply during a particular timeframe.  In the study of the Bible, we find that God has changed His instructions [or policies] for His people at different times.  Understanding and accepting those changes is called rightly dividing the Scriptures.

II 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]

Here are a few examples of this.

Genesis 1:29

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat [food]. [Emphasis added]

This tells us that in the first dispensation, The Dispensation of Innocence, man was only allowed to eat fruits and vegetables.  But in the next dispensation, The Dispensation of Conscience, meat was added.

Genesis 9:3

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat [food]  for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. [Emphasis added]

Then another change is made for God’s people in The Dispensation of Law.  In this case, we find that only certain meats were taken off this list of acceptable foods for consumption.

Leviticus 11:2-4

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.

Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.

Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. [Emphasis added]

Then many years later still another change is made for our present Dispensation of Grace where we are given the liberty to eat anything consumable.

I Timothy 4:4-5

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. [Emphasis added]

Colossians 2:20-21

2Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

When people don’t learn about dispensational truth, it is easy to see why they think the Bible is filled with contradictions.  It has been man’s often erroneous work in sorting these changes out that has resulted in so much division [as with denominationalism] among God’s people.

There are eight dispensations discussed in the Bible.

With each of these it is difficult to find just a verse or two that represent that period.  What is very important for you to understand is that from time-to-time God changed up the manner in which He dealt with mankind.The study of dispensations is a study of God’s policies for man in those times.  In each of these periods there were policies or instructions He dispensed for His people to obey.  A variety of titles have been given to each of these periods, these Dispensations.

  1. Innocence
  2. Conscience
  3. Human Government
  4. Promise
  5. Law
  6. Grace
  7. Kingdom
  8. Fulness of Times

It is in this manner that history is divided into sections.  One might call this the divine outline of human history.  Most of the periods on this list are now history.  We are today in this sixth period spoken of as The Dispensation of the Grace of God.

Ephesians 3:2

 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me [the apostle Paul] to you-ward: [Emphasis added]

Despite all the false predictions that have been made, the reality is that no one has any correct idea about how long it will last because, for one thing, no prophecy was given for us to know that.  The fact that this period we live in today would occur was a mystery, that is, a secret held in the mind of God until it was first disclosed through the apostle Paul.  The prophets of old knew nothing, not even one thing about it and wrote nothing about it.

Romans 16:25

25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [Emphasis added]

All we have are some general trends given through the apostle Paul to let us know that overall man’s conduct through the years of this period won’t get better, only worse.

I Timothy 4:1-3

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times [this period called The Dispensation of the Grace of God] some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [Emphasis added]

When this period ends with what is called the Rapture, what is often referred to as the prophetic program, The Dispensation of Law will resume right where it left off with a period generally spoken of as The Tribulation.  That seven-year period is the remaining short portion of that fifth period called The Dispensation of Law.

Everything outside the apostle Paul’s epistles relates directly to the other dispensations, not ours of today.  Of course, there are many general things that overlap into other periods.  But one very important thing to know is that all the prophesies of the Old Testament times, including those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, plus everything in other non-Pauline epistles, including Revelation, relate directly to other time periods.  The whole book of Revelation is said to be prophecy related to still future times.

Revelation 1:3

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. [Emphasis added]

This means even the seven “churches” of Revelation 2 & 3 are simply assemblies of believing Jews that will live during a seven-year period of tribulation that comes after this present period of grace has ended.  All this means [contrary to popular opinion] is that we have practically nothing to go on that tells us how much longer this present Dispensation of Grace will last.

The Dispensation of Grace began with the salvation [Acts 9] of a man named Saul who was later called Paul.

I Timothy 1:15-16

15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

The word “chief” tells us he is the first, the primary one, and the head of the line.

16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me[Paul]first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]

It is the apostle Paul, not John, not James, and not even Peter who is said to be our apostle for our times.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]

Much as God used Moses to introduce The Dispensation of Law, Paul was the man God used to reveal His program and doctrine for our time today.

Galatians 1:11-12

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added]

This tells us plainly that the twelve apostles had nothing to do with instructing Paul in his teaching, for they knew nothing about it.  It was even Paul who completed the writings of the Bible, not the apostle John as is often taught.

Colossians 1:25-26

25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [PLEROO—to complete] the word of God;

26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: [Emphasis added]

Ephesians 3:8-9

Unto me[Paul], who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ [blessings you can’t find even a trace of outside his writings];

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]

These things that were once hidden, the Holy Spirit has written in Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon.  By studying these books of the Bible, people can learn this once held secret that is now fully disclosed information.  It is upon the foundation laid through these truths that we are to build our ministry today.

I Corinthians 3:10-15

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me [Paul], as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We will even be rewarded in eternity for the way we build on the foundation of these truths that were first disclosed to Paul.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. [Emphasis added]

So, what God was doing through Israel in the past, He’s now doing almost entirely through Gentiles.

Ephesians 2:11-13

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [Emphasis added]

Contrary to what most people think, to follow Christ today in this present dispensation, one must follow the teachings of the apostle Paul.

I Corinthians 14:37-38

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I [Paul] write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. [Emphasis added]

Today we cannot follow much of what Jesus said in the four Gospels because that was God’s message to the nation Israel.  Christ clearly states that His teaching and that of the twelve apostles was not to the Gentiles.

Matthew 10:5-6

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Emphasis added]

Matthew 15:24

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Emphasis added]

These are words of Christ during His earthly ministry people today should notice and apply.  Even Paul tells us to give this matter our attention.

Romans 15:8

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [not the Gentiles, the uncircumcision] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers [speaking of Israel]: [Emphasis added]

These are important statements that typically get completely ignored as to their meaning and what they tell us about whose teaching we’re to follow today.  There are many Christians, even pastors, who willfully ignore or pay little attention to Paul’s apostleship and message, but the Bible is clear that if someone is “spiritual” [led by God’s Spirit] and a “prophet” [speaking on behalf of God], he will acknowledge that Paul’s writings are the words of Jesus Christ to us Gentiles today.  Just as Jesus spoke God’s message to Israel in the four gospels, God’s message to us Gentiles [non-Jews] is contained in Paul’s 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon.  Even in the very last recorded words we have from the apostle Peter, he refers us to these teachings of the apostle Paul for our understanding of God’s policy for us in our time.

II Peter 3:15-16

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [Emphasis added]

Paul’s gospel is not to be confused with the gospel of the kingdom or the gospel of the circumcision.  They differ in many ways.  You can go to our website and find an article that fully addresses this— 4Us2UsMinistries.com  The name of the article is— Gospels:  Did Peter & Paul preach the same gospel? There you’ll see a long list of differences in the messages these great men presented.  You’ll see there that they were clearly not the same.

The first and most important thing for you to know about our dispensation, The Dispensation of the Grace of God, is the way people are saved today.  Probably the simplest statement about this is found in this one passage.  You won’t find a statement like this anywhere outside of Paul’s writings.

I Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

It is when a person believes this message that they will be saved today.  In the prior dispensations, people knew nothing about this.  There were words of prophecy about it, but they were not understood [like Isaiah 53 & Psalm 22].  Even the twelve apostles were completely surprised when Christ was crucified.  Yet it was to be through His death, burial, and resurrection that the world’s one way of salvation was being provided.  Not until later through the revelations our Lord gave to the apostle Paul was it revealed as to what God was providing through all that.

A second major feature of our present dispensation is the fact that God’s people are no longer under the teachings of the Mosaic Law.  The works demanded by the Law of Moses play no role at all in our salvation or in our daily life.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]

Even the work of water baptism is deleted.

I Corinthians 1:17

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. [Emphasis added]

We have only one baptism today and no water at all is involved in it.

Ephesians 4:5

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [Emphasis added]

Our one baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]

All this comes as a part of this policy of grace that God introduced to us for our time through the apostle Paul.

Romans 6:14-15

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [Emphasis added]

You’ll notice that Paul even repeats himself here to emphasize this.  That’s because this principle is challenged in every generation by some who may be well-meaning, sincere people, but they are wrong.  The fact is that Romans chapters 7 and 8 testify that our Christian lives operate on the basis of grace, not works-religion [rules, rituals, regulations, ordinances, et cetera).

A third feature of this present dispensation is that we are what is called the Body of Christ.  We are not what some call “spiritual Israel.”  We have no relation to Israel’s program whatsoever.  We are a totally separate entity.  In our time God takes believing Jews and Gentiles and places them in one mystical body.

Again, I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]

Up until the time when The Dispensation of Law was interrupted, God’s plan was to evangelize the entire world, including the Gentiles, with what is called The Gospel of The Kingdom.

Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. [Emphasis added]

After this time God will establish His long promised earthly kingdom.  That material, physical kingdom WILL occur, but not until after this period of grace we’re a part of today is completed and terminated with the Rapture.  Paul speaks of this interrupted period in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 11:11-12, 25

11 I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall [be utterly destroyed or eliminated]? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles [speaking of the salvation of Gentiles in this present Dispensation of Grace], for to provoke them to jealousy.

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world [the world being evangelized with Paul’s gospel of grace], and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness [speaking of the fruit of Israel’s work to evangelize the world during the time of the seven-year coming Tribulation]?

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery [this secret], lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel [meaning very few Jews are believers in our time], until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in [speaking of the completion of this present Dispensation of Grace]. [Emphasis added]

One of the main reasons this now is called The Dispensation of Grace is that instead of bringing deserved judgment upon the Earth when Christ was rejected by Israel after His resurrection, God “dispensed” grace instead.  We, today, are a part of that Dispensation of Grace when many are being saved despite Israel’s unbelief.

After this present dispensation has ended, the old program, The Dispensation of Law, will then continue and be completed in that seven-year period known as The Tribulation.  It is then that Christ will return to the Earth to establish His long promised earthly kingdom for believing Israel.  The events that will occur after our Dispensation of Grace then include the rise of a man called the Antichrist in a seven-year period of Tribulation, Jesus Christ’s return to the Earth [His Second Coming], His 1,000-year reign in the earthly Dispensation of the Kingdom, followed by The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times with the New Heaven and the New Earth [II Peter 3:13].

Ephesians 1:10

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: [Emphasis added]

We then have these words in John’s writing of Revelation.

Revelation 21:1-3

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [Emphasis added]


The apostle Paul’s epistles—Romans through Philemon—are entirely and exclusively addressed to us as members of the Body of Christ church.  Although we are to study the whole Bible, we must do so with the full realization that the whole Bible is not TO us or ABOUT us.  Only then can we learn and be confident about God’s will for us.  We are to avoid reaching into Israel’s Scriptures and trying to apply promises and commands that were not given to us.  It is primarily because of violations of this principle that there’s so much confusion and division among professed believers today.  To ignore and/or confuse the dispensational boundaries in Scripture is to contribute to this confusion and division in the lives of so many.  Let us resolve to always be diligent to fulfill the command to rightly divide the Word of God.

Again, II 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]

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