The Door-Step Evangel

Second Thoughts on Strict Dispensationalism
Dr. Ronald L. Tottingham

It used to be in the 1960's that the doctrinal position of Dispensationalism was how you interpreted historical aspects of the Bible from start to finish. So we will have a little knowledge of it here, as a general overview. "Dispensationalism wrongly dividing of the Word of truth."

Second Timothy 2:15 tells us, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The word "study" (studiosan) is an earnest, exerting type word. Get busy and exert ourselves in the area of approval, finding what God approves of. It is the word "to be studious" or diligently, earnest about your reading. Being intent at it. The word "workman" is a compound of "toil" and "labor" and it means just that. A working man; a person who works hard, "that needeth not to be ashamed." By the way, he who is lazy about spiritual things will end up being ashamed at Christ's coming (I John 2:28). If we want to get rewards in Heaven and be found faithful, we are going to have to be a "toiler," a laborious worker in the things of God here. Otherwise, there will be shame. And we all will meet God - either as our Heavenly Father, or as our Judge. So the business about approval or shame is going to hit us, one way or the other.

"Rightly dividing," is a seamstress word. We are in a sewing factory, and have a big piece of cloth laying down and we've laid our pattern out, marked off the pattern, and then we take the scissors to do the cutting on the pattern. The Apostle John here is talking about being honest with the pattern, and exact. It means to "guide the word of truth along a straight path." It means exactness.

That is what we are talking about in "dispensations." Cutting the times and God's program for the ages and dividing it correctly. Dispensationalism was popularized and promoted by Rev. C. I. Scofield, in his Scofield Reference Bible. The Bible, if it is the King James Version, is alright, but his notes never have been alright. (Scofield was a twice married man who left his first family in Kansas, never visiting or supporting them.)

The declared definition of dispensationalism is, "A dispensation is begun when God projects Himself into the historical process and initiates a covenant of His own making with some part of the human race. It ends when He intervenes in judgment due to human failure. God will start a dispensation by making a covenant with someone, then injects Himself into that period of time, and whenever man fails to live up to His covenant, then God judges him." However, the Bible doesn't really bear this out. That is what dispensationalism says, but that is not actually what the Bible teaches. Dispensationalism rose out of the Brethren Church movement, of which Scofield was a member, along with J. N. Darby, a notable leader of its interpretation. Dispensationalism is sometimes called "Darbyism." It is the partitioning of the Scriptures.

There are hyper-dispensationalists, such as the Bullinger, Stam, and Berean Movements. They have the Bible divided into many little parts. These have the New Testament especially cut up into several parts. The area of dividing the scriptures is so widely held, to the point of "basic" dispensations, that the average Christian in many circles takes it for granted that the dispensational interpretation is the only right one. However, today there is a doing away with much of the teachings on dispensations. The distinction of dispensations are often forced distinctions and are arbitrary and somewhat unclear and overlapping. And dispensationalism is a forced definition, of terms which are taught to apply to each period equally.

So the dispensationalists have compartmentalized the Bible until we don't even listen to its truths. I had a man once say to me, "You know, I went over here in the Bible that is supposed to be by the dispensations for a different era, and I found a promise. I claimed it, and God blessed it. I stole a promise from a different dispensation, jerked it over to this dispensation I'm living in, and God blessed it." There are a lot of promises in the Bible that a Christian won't claim because they think it was written to another dispensation, or time is separately applied.

The supposed dispensations are as follows: 1) Innocence; 2) Conscience; 3) Human government; 4) Promise; 5) Law; and 6) Grace, with the seventh and final dispensation being the milennium.

INNOCENCE: The first dispensation, innocence, is the time before Adam fell into sin. But the problem is, Romans 7:9 tells us, For I was alive, without the law (or outside the law) once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. By the way, this verse also teaches you that babies go to Heaven when they die. Here is what it is saying. "For I was alive without or outside of the law once." That means one time Paul was outside the power of the law and he was alive. But the Bible says we were all born dead. So, when was Paul considered alive? Before he was old enough to be held accountable for his actions, and when we know that we've done something wrong, and we are being held accountable from that point on, sin revived and we died. "But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." The term "revived" is generate Whenever in me was generated knowledge of the commandments, then came the responsibility to obey the commandment. When that time came that I was mentally mature enough to understand that I was to obey the law of God, and I had the right to choose, from that point on, God held me accountable for all that the law said. The period of innocence is not relegated just to the time before Adam fell into sin. God still allows innocent children to live in what would be a dispensation of innocence. So innocence is not just one certain period of time. It is still in operation today. This "Dispensation" still exists, it seems. So God didn't relegate all innocency into just one period of time. Everyone is living in the age of innocence until they get to the age of accountability.

CONSCIENCE: The second so-called dispensation is that of Conscience. The fall to the flood. Man operated on his own conscience. but the Bible says man can be defiled. His conscience can be seared as with a hot iron. Every little child is born with an undefiled conscience. You have to be trained to be void of all character of life. It seems that from training one curses God. Little children are born totally sinfully depraved but with a natural acknowledgement of God. But let them go naturally, and they will believe their parents, and believe what they are taught. So, when they are at that critical age of believing everything they are taught, that is the time they are either taught to ridicule or trust. Put them in church and they have no problem believing the Bible is true. If you take them and put them in a home where they live on television, cursing, no God, and no church, that child grows up having been trained to believe what those who they thought were authorative, to believe what they say. I was talking to a fourteen year old who had never been to church. (It is hard for me to understand that. Fourteen years old and never had been to church. What do you do with your life when God doesn't have any say in it? Just live for pleasure and the world? And the world is an empty place.) Here this girl was, standing in a door and we started talking to her about Christ. If it hadn't been for some things in her house, we could have gone in to talk to her; she would have talked to us about the Gospel right there on the spot. She had never heard anyone talk to her about being born again. But she did know. Her conscience troubled her about all kinds of things. But never in fourteen years had she gone anywhere for anyone to help her understand why her conscience bothered her about the way she was. No one had ever tried to help her understand what really was going on. But her conscience troubled her. She grew up that way. You know you have to go to universities to become a professional atheist? In all my life I never ran into an atheist who wasn't schooled to be one.

So it is our responsibility to be sure we "train up a child in the way he should go..." (Proverbs 22:6). This "Dispensation" still exists also. The dispensation of conscience is where there is no guide, rule, law, except man's own conscience. That area was from the fall to after the flood. But Romans 2:14-15 says, For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. They who observe the law, without a law. They become a law within themselves, which proves a law in their heart. their conscience is still controlled by a law, therefore, conscience still applies. When a child is young, his conscience is very tender toward right. And they have to be trained against God and right. When a child is just born, if you just teach him the truth, he accepts it. And a little child will believe what an older person will tell them. So an older brother comes up and says, "Don't go in that room, or the boogy man will come out and eat you up." Then the child comes running to Mom and Dad, and has to be told that the brother was teasing him. They will believe what you say.

A child's mind is gullible (simple). He will believe what he is told. For instance, a three year old child was dressing one morning by herself and putting on her stockings. Her daddy, jokingly said, "That sock goes on the other foot," and she very dutifully took off the sock and put it on the other foot. Why? She believed what her daddy told her. By the way, when a preacher gets up and says that God is real and sin is real, the child believes every word of it. "You must be born again." A child will believe it. You have to be schooled into NOT believing in God. You have to be put in the position where people will tell you God won't punish you. "God is a God of love, and if we all live good lives, He'll take us all to Heaven." Yes God is a God of love, but He's also a jealous God, and a consuming fire. So it is imperative that we keep our children in the environment so that all they hear is the Gospel, and God is real, and He does punish sin, rather than have them go somewhere where they are schooled to not believe God any longer. The Bible says that our conscience can become seared (I Timothy 4:2). But it doesn't say it is born seared. You have to school the conscience against God. An atheist is someone who had to go to school to learn that. No one is born an atheist.

HUMAN GOVERNMENT: The third so called dispensation is human government. Men after the flood operated under human government. However, the Bible says in Romans 13:3 & 4 that human governments had always existed. And by the way, they still do today. Romans 13:3 & 4 says, For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. You and I have trouble with this today, because if you live in an age where government is not doing the right things, then when we read this and God implies that the government at that time was always good (which it wasn't by the way), and we forget that we have to go back to Acts and when the government stands totally against God, we obey God - period.

But God did institute government to be a minister of God to good. So governments were to praise the right and punish the evil. By the way, this also vindicates God's approval on capitol punishment, even today. Is there then an "age" of human government? No, there is no age relegated to that form of power in just that one era. God has worked through human governments even through the days of Cain, through the days of Roman government, up to today. So there was no age left just to that kind of power. And God has never said to have a global government. It is always locally controlled. Because the local people will know who Free Loaders are - who are bad, etc. People out of town do not know who is the good and bad in your local community. But if you let a local people have total control, they know who are the bad teachers, bad characters, etc. Let the local realm of rule have control, they know who are the good and bad people. But whenever you let control go to a federal level, they have rules, which are generically applied, because they do not know who is the good and who is bad. That society ends up with corruption. Human government is still here.

PROMISE: The supposed age or dispensation of promise was supposed to start when God promised Abraham that he would be a great nation and all nations would be blessed through him. The whole world lived under the idea that God had promised something to Abraham. But there were many people in the world on which that promise had no effect. Because you don't have the world being brought under the domination of Israel's God until you have them going into the land and becoming so well known that the whole world knew about them. The promise basically meant that God promised to Abraham a faith - Salvation - coming by faith. But in Romans 4:3, it says, For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. And verse 13 says, For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. And verses 23 & 24 say then, 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, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead... So the promise still applies to us. God said to Abraham, "If you will believe me, I'm going to save you through the Messiah, who is going to be born of your loins." Well, God still talks to us about the Messiah and having to put our faith in the Messiah. So there is no specific age where everyone lives under promise of a Messiah, then leave that age and go to a different method of God dealing with man. God always deals with man as trusting Christ as their personal Saviour. Promise will be around until Christ comes.

THE LAW: The fifth so-called dispensation is called the law. That is when God dealt through the exodus, took His people out of Egypt, gave the law to Israel to keep until the time of the cross of Calvary. But Romans 10:4 says, For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Realize this, that everyone has always been under the law. Do you know we are obligated to obey every edict in the law of God, or go to Hell? "But preacher, I thought you said we can't obey the law?" That is right. We can't obey the law. But if we wanted to get to Heaven, we have to obey all the law. "But, we say we can't obey the law." I know. "I thought we got saved by putting our faith in Christ." Ah, Yes! Listen. We still have to obey the law. Romans 10:4 says, Christ is the end of the law... we either obey it for ourselves, which we cannot do, or we go over to someone who did. And then, in Christ, He obeyed the law for us. Jesus obeyed it and writes His obedience on our account when we receive Him into our heart as personal Saviour. But when the accounts are read, every man must fulfill every letter of the law. Since wecan't fulfill it for ourselves, the only way to get to Heaven is have Him, Who could, check ours off for us. The law will be fulfilled!!

The world thinks it can obey the law of righteousness for themselves. So the scriptures says in Romans 4:2, For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness (which, by the way is very demanding) and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. So you see, He is the end of righteousness. No man can fulfill the absolute, perfect "right actingness" that God demands. But everyone has to, in order to get to Heaven. Christ Jesus alone fulfilled it for us.

So, are we still under the age, or "dispensation" of the law? Yes. Abraham was, for that matter. Adam was, for that matter. God gave him a law to obey and he disobeyed. And we are in the age of obeying the law. If we disobey the law, we go to Hell, unless we fall under the One who obeyed it for us. Every man who ever lived was told he couldn't obey it, and that there was a substitute for him. So that was not for just a little period of time. That "dispensation" stretches from beginning to the end. Law is still over all mankind.

GRACE: The sixth supposed "dispensation" is grace; the period of time from Christ to the Rapture. Of course, the "universal" church people ( Scofield very strongly taught this) say it was from the cross to the "rapture of the church". (If one believes in the universal invisible church theory, I do not. The "local" congregation (church) is in God's Word.) But again, romans 4:3-4 tells us, For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. You see, the reward of eternal life, being reckoned unto us by grace has always been. God has always saved men by grace, never by works. It doesn't matter what age, "dispensation," or period of time you live in. You never get to Heaven, but by the grace of God. So from Adam to the end time, it will always be salvation, due to the grace of God. We are lost, under the law of God. Those who receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour and put their trust in His promise, are put under the grace of God. And that is for every age. So, there is no specific age of grace. The age we are living in now is the age of the New Testament Baptist churches. God's whole message to the world comes through the local New Testament Baptist churches.

THE MILLENNIUM: The last dispensation is that of the millennium. That is the only correct distinct age that we will have. That is the time when Jesus will be King.

The true dispensations would be:

1) Adam.
2) Time of the Gentiles - God dealt in a specific time to just the Gentiles in general.
3) Israel - Started developing through Abraham.
4) New Testament Baptist Church - Today God deals with the whole world through the New Testament Baptist churches. In the Old Testament age immediately prior to the churches He dealt with the whole world through the Jewish people, and how they reacted to the Promised Jewish Messiah. Now He deals with the world through the New Testament Churches and how they react to the Gospel of christ.
5) The Millennium - In Christ Jesus, when He will be the King of kings and Lord of lords.

I trust you will be ready for that final day when Jesus Christ comes back and reigns supremely, even beyond the Millennium forever and ever. If you are not sure you will go to Heaven, just simply:

1. Admit you are a sinner - Romans 3:23.
2. Realize God has placed a penalty upon sin - Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15.
3. Believe that Jesus Christ took your punishment for you - Romans 5:8.
4. Put your faith in Jesus Christ by receiving Him into your heart in repentance and confess Him as your Lord and Saviour. Romans 10:9 &10; Romans 10:13.

The Door-Step Evangel is published in the interests of Evangelism and information as a Church paper, sincerely devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are in favor of everything that is right and opposed to everything that is wrong.

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