dispensationalism

Hello,

I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!

We have been sharing of late on the subject of dispensations. There are those in the Christian Church (and those who would not consider themselves part of the Church), who reject out of hand the notion of dispensational theology. I understand that, and I certainly would never divide with my brethren over this issue. I do believe however that the study of dispensations is the most effective means of “rightly dividing” the Truth, and understanding the great plan of God for the ages.

The word, “dispensation” appears four times in the New Testament in the KJV – 1 Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, and Colossians 1:25. In all four of these references, the word translated, “dispensation” is the Greek, oikonomia. This is an “economy” you might say, and the pronunciation of the Greek word sounds a lot like “economy”, and is the origin of the English word. This is simply the administration of a household or estate. It is to manage the affairs of another. The study of Dispensations show us how God has dealt with mankind throughout the ages of time, and more importantly they define the basis upon which man has been responsible to God.

We have already looked at: The Dispensation of Innocence, The Dispensation of Conscience, The Dispensation of Human Government, and The Dispensation of Promise. We are now taking a look at The Dispensation of Law. God gave His Law, His instructions, to Moses at Mount Sinai, and His people Israel became responsible to Him on that basis. If you haven’t looked at the studies along this line we have already shared, I would invite you to do so as I don’t have the space to reiterate all of the material that has gone before.

I want to take a look this time at a concept you may have never thought of before, and that is, did Old Testament saints enjoy any New Testament blessings? Most would no doubt answer this question in the negative, just as I would have at one time. We know that God certainly extended His grace in the Old Testament. In fact, it would seem that grace was embedded in the Law.

A proper understanding of the Atonement of Christ shows us very clearly that Old Testament saints, living under the Law, did indeed enjoy many of the blessings of the New Testament. One might ask, “How can this be?” The answer is that the blood that Jesus shed for man’s redemption flowed two ways. It flowed back to cover the sins of people before Calvary, and it flowed forward to cover people’s sins since Calvary. It was symbolized as far back as the skins of innocent animals that covered the nakedness (sin) of Adam and Eve in the Garden after the Fall (Gen. 3:21), and continued through each Dispensation symbolized by the offerings of burnt sacrifice (See Gen. 4:4; 8:20; 22:13; Ex. 29:18; etc.).

We appropriate the benefits of Calvary, during this Dispensation of Grace, by faith in the finished work of Christ, in the same way the Old Testament saints claimed them by faith in the promises of the coming Redeemer. If Christ had not died, shed His precious blood, and been raised from the dead for our justification; neither the Old Testament saints nor the New Testament saints (including you and me), would have been redeemed. That is how eternally important the price that Jesus paid was. Listen to the scriptures:

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” [Heb. 9:11 – 15 emphasis added]

There is some very heavy, and deep truth here my friends. I don’t think it could be stated more clearly, that the redemptive work of Christ purchased the same blessings of the Old Testament saints as well as the New Testament Church! The blood of bulls and goats under the sacrificial system offered before the Cross could not take away sins anymore than it can today. But the obedience of the Old Testament saints, mixed with their faith in the coming Redeemer, of which the sacrifice was a type, did take away their sins. (See Heb. 10:10 – 18)

Old Testament saints received by faith virtually all of the spiritual blessings available to any child of God who believes. Perhaps you have never thought of this or heard it before. I will present the scriptures for you to prayerfully consider.

  1. THEY WERE BORN-AGAIN:

Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you.” [Deut. 32:18 emphasis added] The Hebrew here translated, “begot” (“begat” KJV), is the Hebrew verb, yalad. It appears some 497 times in the Hebrew Bible, and is translated variously; to beget, act as a midwife, to bear, birth, etc. They weren’t born naturally speaking of the “Rock” were they? No, they had a human lineage of their earthly parents as far as their natural birth was concerned. And yet, the Father says that the “Rock” begot them. I submit to you this phrase is used here of a spiritual birth. They were “born” spiritually of the “Rock” in the wilderness. I wonder who the “Rock” was? The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us the “Rock’s” identity in 1 Corinthians 10:4,

and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. [1 Cor. 10:4 emphasis added] Consider also,

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” [Gal. 3:8 emphasis added] Notice the word, “beforehand” in this verse. It is the compound Greek word, proeuaggelizomai – to announce good news or glad tidings in advance, and Galatians 3:8 is the only place in the New Testament this particular word is found. What is Paul’s meaning here? I believe it is two-fold: 1) He is letting the Judaizers who had come into the Galatian assembly to corrupt the gospel know that Abraham was justified before receiving the sign of circumcision, by simply trusting God. 2) By implication he is giving revelation of the fact that the gospel, the Good News, was preached to Abraham in advance. In other words, ahead of time, if you will.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” [Rom. 1:16 emphasis added]

Many other scriptures teach that the Old Testament saints received all of the benefits of the New Birth, including forgiveness, justification, and sanctification (See Ex. 31:13; Lev. 4:26; Ps. 19:7; 34:22; 51:2; Isa. 45:25; Rom. 4:1 – 8; Gal. 3:6 – 14, etc.).

  1. THEY RECEIVED DIVINE HEALING:

So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children…”. [Gen. 20:17]

…For I am the LORD who heals you.” [Ex. 15:26b] God revealed His Covenant Name of Yehovah-Ropheka after the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases…” [Ps. 103:2, 3]

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” [Ps. 107:20] Pay special attention to the word, “word” here. “Word” is translated from the Hebrew word, dabar. In the verb form it means, “to speak”, in the noun form it simply means, “word”. It is in the noun form here in Psalm 107:20. Here is where this gets interesting. This Hebrew word, dabar (or, debarim), corresponds to the Greek, logos, as translated “Word” in John 1:1, 2, 14. Of course we know that the “Word” was and is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who became flesh and dwelt among us.

This Hebrew word, dabar, also corresponds to the Aramaic word, memra. The memra is understood in Jewish or Hebraic literature to be “The Word” of the Lord. It is a term used, especially in the various Targums, as a substitute for “the Lord.” The study of the memra is a fascinating study all its own that I will not take the space to cover now. Suffice it to say that the scripture teaches that God sent His “Word” and spoke to the Prophets of Old, guided and directed their lives, and healed them. We see many Old Testament examples of Old Testament saints having direct interaction with the person we know in the New Testament as the Lord Jesus Christ, the dabar, logos, the memra!

Many other individuals are recorded as receiving healing through obedience and prayer (See Num. 12:13; 21:9; 1 Kings 17:17 – 24; 2 Kings 5:14, etc.).

  1. THEY EXPERIENCED THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…” [Ex. 31:3 emphasis added]

But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD…” [Micah 3:8a]

And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” [Gen. 41:38 emphasis added]

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. [1 Samuel 16:13 emphasis added]

The point is many received in the Old Testament various measures of the Holy Spirit, although none were baptized in the Holy Spirit, as we understand such in the New Testament, until after Pentecost (See also Judges 3:10; 2 Kings 2:9; Daniel 4:18; John 7:37 – 39, etc.)

  1. THEY HAD THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT:
  • Love (Deut. 6:5; 2 Sam. 1:26, etc.)
  • Joy (1 Chron. 12:40; Ezra 3:13; Job 33:26, etc.)
  • Peace (Num. 6:26; Ps. 4:8; Isa. 26:3, etc.)
  • Long-suffering ( Ps. 40:1; Eccl. 7:8, etc.)
  • Gentleness (2 Sam. 18:5; 22:36, etc.)
  • Goodness (2 Chron. 32:32; Ps. 107:9, etc.)
  • Faith (Hab. 2:4; Neh. 7:2; Heb. 11:1 – 40, etc.)
  • Meekness (Num. 12:3; Ps. 22:26, etc.)
  • Temperance (1 Kings 22:6; Jer. 20:9, etc.)
  1. THEY HAD THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT:
  • The Word of Wisdom (Ex. 28:3; 36:1; 2 Sam. 14:20, etc.)
  • The Word of Knowledge (Jer. 11:18; Dan. 1:17, etc.)
  • Faith (Rom. 4:1 – 25; Heb. 11:1 – 40, etc.)
  • Gifts of Healings (Gen. 20:17; Num. 12:13, etc.)
  • Working of Miracles (Ex. 14:21, 22; 2 Kings 6:5 – 7, etc.)
  • Gift of prophecy (Num. 11:25; 1 Sam. 10:10, etc.)
  • Discerning of spirits (1 Kings 3:16 – 27; 2 Kings 5:25 – 27, etc.)

In fact, the only gifts of the nine manifestations of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 that are not seen in the Old Testament would be tongues and interpretation of tongues, which are unique to this Dispensation and were not given until Pentecost. (See Acts 2:4) They did however have interpretations of dreams, visions, etc. (Dan. 1:17; 5:25, etc.)

We can see that God demonstrated His grace in marvelous ways under the Dispensation of Law. In fact, many of the Old Testament saints far exceeded modern believers in yielding to God and being used by the Spirit. Because we live under the Dispensation of Grace, which is a “better Covenant…established on better Promises” (Heb. 8:6), we stand without excuse if we are not believing God for His miraculous power in the Church today.

Next time I want to take up the controversial topic of Law and the Church. Are believers in any way responsible to keep the Law of God in this Dispensation? Do New Covenant believers have any relationship to the Law, or is the Law “passed away?” Lord willing, we will look at this and more next time.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Kevin E. Johnson

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