To understand the dispensations is very important that we may be able to rightly divide the Word of God. The word dispensations comes from a compound Greek word which together means “law of the house” or “law of arrangement,” or “to set things in order.” It is someone who has the management of a household, not the owner, but manger, to administer the affairs of another. It is rendered 5 times as “steward” or “stewardship” Lk. 12 & 16.
The word “dispensations” is found 4 times: I Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; Eph. 3:2; and Col. 1:25. In I Cor. 9:16-19 Paul speaks of the stewardship of the gospel which was laid upon him. If I do it willingly I have a reward. Paul didn’t charge the people, for God was going to be his reward and it would come at a different time; I have made myself servant unto all to gain them for the Lord. God placed Paul as a steward of this house, the Church Age or dispensation. More than one person are stewards in this Church Age. Read Gal. 6:10.
Col. 1:24-27: In Paul’s stewardship he filled-up the Word of God. This caused affliction in his life, he poured out his life daily for this gospel (I Cor. 15:31). He did this as a good steward before the Lord. God revealed to Paul a mystery that had been hid from ages and generations. The word “ages” has the thought of a period of time marked out. The Greek “generations” means, to be born or brought into existence. So these generations are a period of time that God dealt with certain classes of people. When we talk about generations, we are talking about people, about ages, about time. In past time all these things were hidden, but now they are all brought out in the open and given to us. We have riches, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory. We can rejoice in what God has done for us and doing in us.
Eph. 3:1-8: Paul calls this Church Age the dispensation of the grace of God. In every Age, God manifested His grace, even in the Law Age. But in this particular Age, God has manifest His grace more than any other time, because Jesus is the grace of God that appeared unto all men. – Titus 2:11-12. When we receive Him we receive the grace of God. It is in us and lives in us and becomes a part of our being. This grace of God changes our life to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and live honestly and soberly in this present age. Paul received this dispensation of the grace of God by revelation, “that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs and of the same body and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”
Jew and Gentile have been made one in Christ during this Age. Peter, James and John had not knows this message of grace, it was especially given unto Paul. Jesus came unto His own, He ministered to the Jews. The Gentiles had a lesser place at that time. In Romans 15:16, Paul called himself the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
In Eph. 1:10 we read of the dispensation of the fulness of times. Times is plural, more than one time. The Greek word for times refers to previous durations. When the fulness of all these times were come, there will be no more time, time will be full. Before God created anything, there was eternity, there was no such thing as time. Time has to do with rotation. Time is a big parenthesis in eternity. What is God doing in the dispensation of the fulness of times? “Gather together in one all things in Christ.” All believer from Adam until that time gathered together in one, both which are in heaven, and on earth, even in him. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory. God is going to have a people like Him, a New Creation that was predestined before the foundation of the world.
God has divided time into seven dispensations or ages. In each of these periods of time God tested man in a different way. God also revealed Himself in a different way in each one. In every dispensation man failed and each one ends in judgment. Five dispensations are past, one is present, and one is future.
PAST: The Age of Innocence – Gen. 2 & 3
The Age of Conscience – Gen. 4-7
The Age of Human Government – Gen. 8-11
The Age of Promise – Gen. 12 to Ex. 20
The Age of Law – Ex. 20 to the Cross
PRESENT: The Age of Grace – the Cross to Christ’s second coming
FUTURE: The Kingdom Age – second coming to eternity
Next issue: The Age of Innocence