Fourth Dispensation: The Age of Promise
This Age has also been called the Abrahamic Covenant. It began with Abram and ended at Mount Sinai, Gen. 12 – Ex. 19. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were prominent characters and stewards during this time.
God in sovereign grace spoke to Abram who was an idolater. “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from they father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed…So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken…Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son…they went forth…into the land of Canaan…And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD…” Gen. 12:1-7. Read also Gen. 17:1-8; Josh. 24:2-3; Neh. 9:7-8 and Heb. 11:8-19. God called Abram out and made a special people of him and his descendents.
God’s promises to Abram were completely unconditional. We find the basis of God’s promise to him is the sacrifice (Gen. 15:7-10,18). All of the sacrifice speaks of Christ on the cross. The Heifer speaks of the fruitfulness of Christ, “in bringing many sons unto glory” – Heb. 2:10. The goat is used for a sin offering and speaks of the substitutionary offering of Christ for the sinner; “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” – Heb. 2:9. The Ram speaks of the consecration of the Lord Jesus and the aggressiveness of Him to do His Father’s will; “Then said He, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” – Heb. 10:9. The birds speak of His heavenly nature; “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” – Jn. 16:28. The dove of His gentleness and humbleness, dwelling among sinners. Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5:31-32. The pigeon also speaks of poverty; “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” – II Cor. 8:9. All of these speak of the essence of our Savior.
The Apostle Paul pointed to Abraham as an example of the grace plan of salvation in Romans the forth chapter. He points out that to Abraham was given the special promise regarding Christ. For he is the fruitful Seed through whom all nations were to be blessed. If any man had whereof to boast of God’s wonderful sovereign dealings it would be Abraham. On what ground was he justified? He was not justified by his works, or he would be able to boast; “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” V. 3. Then is added, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” V. 5. Abraham was “”justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In fact, there was no law given to Abraham. He lived four hundred and thirty years before the law was given, Gal. 3:17.
God simply told Abraham that He would bless him and make him a blessing. The only thing Abraham did was to believe God, that He could and would do as He had said. That was all there was to his justification. His inheritance in Canaan was obtained in the same manner. God said take possession of it and Abraham did. He entered in and enjoyed his inheritance by faith. It was also by faith that Abraham became the father of Isaac, and through him the father of many nations. In this he became like God who, through his Seed which is Christ, will become the Father of many sons. God never had any other way of salvation than that of grace and faith. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” Rom. 4:16.
Romans. 4:23-25, “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed (the same righteousness), if we believe (have the same kind of faith) on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences (our Substitute), and was raised again for our justification.” That we may stand in Him perfect and upright. Christ’s resurrection if proof that His sacrifice was acceptable to God and is sufficient. The blood atones for all sin. We simply accept God’s mercy, which was extended to us in the gift of His Son. May we rejoice in God’s salvation to man by the channel of faith, accepting His Word, and enjoy His grace. The fact that Abraham was justified while uncircumcised, opens the door of justification to the Gentiles. They also may claim Him as their father on the ground of faith in Jesus Christ.
Man’s responsibility in this Age was to dwell in Canaan. Yes, Abraham’s descendants were strangers in Egypt 400 years and then came out in the fifth generation to the land. Man’’s failure was leaving Canaan to live in Egypt. It was a judgment that they came to be in bondage in Egypt, yet God preserved them there and brought them forth. This Age also ended with God’s judgment on the Egyptians at the Red Sea.
Next issue: The Age of Law.