The Dispensation of Grace:
Based on Paul’s Mission and Message
Ephesians Lesson #086
October 4, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are thankful that we have Your Word, that it illuminates our thinking to the realities of life. Fundamentally, it helps us to understand who we are as sinners: alienated from Your life, walking in darkness, walking in the lie. But we know from Your grace, that You have illuminated us through Your Word to the truth, that as sinners we are not inevitably lost or inevitably doomed to perish.
“But we have hope, and that hope is in the gospel. That hope is based on an objective event in history—when You sent Your Son to enter into history to become a human being to add to His deity humanity, that He might go to the cross and there die as our substitute paying the penalty for our sin—that by simply trusting in Him we will have everlasting life.
“Father, that that is not the end; that is the beginning. The goal is not eternal life, the goal is to have everlasting life. As Jesus said, He didn’t come like the thief to steal and destroy, but to give life and to give it abundantly. And we have that abundant life only as we grow and mature and walk with You in our life.
“Father, as we continue this study in Ephesians, which focuses on the wealth that we have in Christ, which is the foundation for our walk and our warfare, we pray that we might be challenged, motivated, encouraged and strengthened as we study these things in Your Word that we might understand Your plan and Your will more fully. In Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 3. Last lesson we covered Ephesians 3:1-8 primarily to get the context and to understand how this second verse should be understood. Today we’re going to focus on one aspect, one phrase of that: “the dispensation of grace,” as it is stated in Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you.”
Pointing that out in this passage, which is often used by dispensationalists to name the Church Age the “Dispensation of Grace,” that isn’t what this passage is talking about. This isn’t a good place to go to come up with that nomenclature. However, once we understood it, we saw that nevertheless, it still is emphasizing this distinctive.
It is to be understood as the grace that was given to Paul, which was his apostolic mission and message: that the Church is a new entity in history, where Jew and Gentile are now joined together as one new man, one new body. He is building a new temple, all of which is important because that is the foundation for understanding the Church Age.
In review, Paul begins Ephesians 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner Christ Jesus for you Gentiles”—then he stops, an abrupt stop, indicated by the em dash (—). We have to understand the structure here, which I think is so important.
He starts off saying, “For this reason,” then he interrupts himself, and he goes through this secondary discussion that extends through Ephesians 3:1. We know that because it starts off with the same phrase in Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason.”
In Ephesians 3:13 he comes to his conclusion of this section, which is, “Therefore, I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations.”
He is giving a rationale for why we should not get discouraged no matter what the circumstances are. No matter what blindsides, us no matter what comes into our life that is different from what we had hoped and planned and wished for which seems like it is a setback.
But there’s not really a setback in the plan of God; it is just another opportunity for us to engage in ministry, to demonstrate God’s grace to those around us, and is an opportunity to explain the gospel.
We are reminded that Paul’s mission was to the Gentiles. It didn’t exclude ministry to the Jews, but he was primarily called and commissioned to be the apostle to the Gentiles. As he states in Acts 22:21, God told him at the time of his salvation, “I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.”
We looked at other passages as well, like Romans 11:13, where he specifically states, “I am an apostle to the Gentiles.” He was that specifically, so we have to understand that in light of what he is doing here in explaining the distinct circumstances of the gospel for Gentiles now, that never before had happened in history that had not been revealed in the Old Testament. It wasn’t anticipated, it wasn’t hinted at. It was kept by the secret counsel of God that he did not make known until the Church Age.
As he introduces this in Ephesians 3:2, what seems to be a distraction, is really integral to understanding why they should not be discouraged. “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation—and notice I have italicized that whole phrase—of the grace of God which was given to me …”
That is taken together. It’s not “the dispensation of grace, which was given to me” because that would mean that the “dispensation of grace” or the Church Age was given to Paul, and that just doesn’t make sense at all. It has to be understood this way, and I’ll go through the reasons for that. It is understanding that message.
We see that “the grace of God which is given to” him is a term used frequently by Paul to reference God’s calling him to be an apostle. And that for him, “I am the least of the saints.” He looks at all of the sins he’s committed before: his legalism, his hostility to the body of Christ, his hostility to Christians, his desire to murder and imprison all of them, and just put out this whole fire that’s been lit from the Day of Pentecost.
He is amazed that God in His grace not only saves him but has commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. That’s the grace that was given to him—that commission to be an apostle—that is combined with his message as an apostle.
Understanding that is what he’s getting at in Ephesians 3:13, “Therefore—that is, on the basis of understanding my mission to preach the Mystery Doctrine of the Church Age, which is part of the gospel—Therefore, I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you.”
This is not a rationale that has occurred to most of us when we’re facing difficult times; we think of other rationales in the Scripture:
The essence of God rationale: we know that when something happens in our life that is unexpected, that it’s not outside of the omniscience of God. He always knew that was going to happen to us. It’s not outside of His omnipotence to handle because God can handle everything, and it is not outside of His plan for us.
So, we go through the essence of God, and think about how those attributes apply to our circumstances. There are some other rationales that I have covered in the past, but this is a new one, which I’m going to call “the Mystery Doctrine rationale.”
The whole point of this intervening section from Ephesians 3:2–12 is to state that if the Ephesians, and by application if we, fully understood God’s mission for Paul— which mission is still true, it reverberates down through the centuries as the fundamental foundation of the Church Age and for the Church Age believer.
If we understood that mission and message then we would not be discouraged by anything. As a result, we would not be knocked off balance as a result of negative circumstances.
Summary of this Mystery Doctrine rationale for you. I will eventually simplify and compress it; get it simple, if possible, but for now I’m summarizing it in four points.
1. The Mystery Doctrine describes the new revelation that has been given to Paul and the other apostles. But he’s the one who has the responsibility for articulating it in the epistles, and as the apostle to the Gentiles, it was a primary emphasis in his message.
The Mystery Doctrine describes this new revelation, never before hinted at or revealed in history. It was “given to Paul and the other apostles regarding the new dispensation of the Church Age.”
It is the distinctive of this Church Age dispensation that there’s no longer distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that now they are one in the body of Christ.
2. In this new dispensation God is building a new temple of believers. He is indwelling that temple both in the church corporately, as well as individually in each Church Age believer. He is building a new temple composed of Jew and Gentile equally in this new man, also called the new body and the new temple. This new entity was never even hinted at in the Old Testament.
3. This new identity that we have because we are in Christ. We are in this new man, we are in this new body, and we are in this new temple. This new identity involves new blessings. It involves a new joint inheritance, a joining together of Jew and Gentile in a new body. And we are together partakers of the promise in Christ that is so incredible that we should never lose heart in proclaiming our new wealth in Christ. Ephesians 3:6.
This is all ours. We really have to understand who we are in Christ; that is our new identity. People today say, “Oh, well I just don’t have a good self-image.” The correction isn’t getting pumped up through psychobabble, the correction is learning who we are in Christ and living in light of who we are in Christ.
The application of this rationale:
4. Because of who we are in Christ, our assets: our privileges, our position, our future inheritance, our identity, there is no excuse for ever losing heart or becoming discouraged by our circumstance. For every circumstance, what we perceive to be good or bad, is under the sovereign control of God: all things work together for good. As a result, it’s just another opportunity to tell others about our wealth in Christ that can be theirs also.
Paul was not discouraged because he was in prison for two years in Caesarea by the Sea, then was taken on board a ship, suffered shipwreck, and then he’s in prison again in Rome for two years. It never discourages him. He just sees each situation as another opportunity to serve the Lord.
I have my differences at times with the theology of John MacArthur in terms of his soteriology and his Lordship salvation, but he is taking a good solid biblical stand now in terms of resisting the government mandate that churches should not meet and the penalties that they wish to impose upon his church.
He was interviewed on a Fox News show a couple weeks ago, and they said, “what happens if they throw you in prison?” And he said, “Well, I’ve had all kinds of ministries in my life. I’ve had beach ministries, youth ministries, church ministries, women’s ministries, men’s ministries. I’ve never had a prison ministry. I look forward to that opportunity.” See, that’s the mentality here.
In another place I heard him say the Apostle Paul went to prison many times. Why should I think that any of us should be any different for our faith? We shouldn’t let any circumstance get us down if we understand our role within the proclamation of this Mystery Doctrine.
For a lot of Christians, the idea that “well, now we are Jew and Gentile together in one body” seems somewhat difficult and distant because we don’t understand how it was before the Church where there’s this distinction. That’s why I spent a lot of time on it in Ephesians 2:11–13.
This is all grounded on a proper understanding of the phrase “the grace of God which was given to you.” What does that actually mean?
I pointed out last time that it’s used again in Ephesians 3:7. It’s used in many other places in the New Testament, but it’s used right in this context where Paul says, “I became a minister of this gospel according to the—what?—the gift of the grace of God given to me.”
That’s his call to be an apostle, his commissioning as an apostle. Being a minister of this gospel indicates the message of his mission. We can’t really separate those two. I’ll point it out again as we do word study understanding what is this thing called the dispensation or stewardship or administration or a dispensing
Ephesians 3:2, “the grace of God which was given to me” is repeated in Ephesians 3:7, so it gives us the structure of the passage—that everything here is tied to an understanding of that phrase.
In Ephesians 3:7, he was made “a minister of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace, which is given to me according to the working of His power,
Ephesians 3:8 which starts the next paragraph, “To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given …” Notice, it’s not the grace of salvation, it’s the grace of his apostolic mission and message.
Conclusion: the “grace given to me” refers to Paul’s apostolic gift and the message, his function, as an apostle.
Let’s look at Ephesians 3:2 and break this down. There’s so much that’s packed into each one of these verses in this chapter, but unfortunately there are so many things that are either mistaught or not taught or just ignored. In many churches if we got anything at all, we would just get one message on Ephesians 3:1-7, then we would go to the next paragraph, and we wouldn’t really get it. So we overview, we repeat, we go over it so we don’t forget it.
Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me …”
It was typically interpreted among older dispensationalists that “the administration of the grace of God,” where “which was given to me” goes to the administration, and that’s typical, so it’s called “the dispensation of grace”
The relative use of the participle goes to “the grace of God which was given to me.” That’s your reference. “Which was given to me” goes to “the grace of God,” not to “the administration.” And “the grace of God” focuses on his apostolic office and its function.
What is a dispensation? That is how the word was translated in the King James Version, carried over into the New King James Version. Some of the other 19th century-based translations also retain “dispensation,” but that is not a user-friendly term today.
We talk about dispensationalism; people will go to their Bibles, and they won’t see that word used in the New Testament. So, they wonder, what exactly is a dispensation?
The English word “dispensation” comes from the Latin word dispensatio, which was translated in the Vulgate from the Greek. We think of dispensatio as having to do with weighing something out, dispensing something, measuring something, distributing something.
As I was redoing word studies on it, I looked this up in a different Latin dictionary with a third meaning listed for dispensatio, having to do with the administration of a law. That’s very interesting.
The problem is these words that are in our Bible that really go back and have a history are often somewhat ignored. And because we don’t use the words in quite the same way today, we have to go back and do word studies not only in the English, but sometimes the Latin and the Greek.
It has to do with the administration of a law or the administration of something, and that’s really what we see in the Scriptures.
Looking at “dispensation” in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, it identifies it as:
1) “A divine ordering and administration of worldly affairs.” That’s pretty good for secular dictionary to get the correct theological definition and assign it the first meaning.
2) “A system of principles, promises, and rules divinely ordained and administered.”
With each administration there are particular rules or regulations that govern during that administration.
3) “A period of history during which a particular divine revelation has predominated in the affairs of mankind,” the idea that this is based on divine revelation.
4) “Any general state or ordering of things.”
What we see and learn from this is a dispensation takes place within a time period, but it isn’t necessarily related to time.
That always confuses people. Every other year I teach dispensationalism when I go to Kiev, and every time I come to this I say, “A dispensation doesn’t have its primary meaning related to time.”
When you talk about the Carter administration back in the 70s or the Nixon administration, or the Clinton administration, is a time period the primary thing that you’re talking about? No, you’re talking about the attributes and qualities and characteristics of that time when that person was president. But it is bounded by time; it’s a secondary or tertiary idea. It’s not the main idea in the word “dispensation.”
We look at other words used in Scripture like “age;” its primary meaning is a time period. A dispensation comes within an age, but they’re not necessarily synonymous. A dispensation is an administration that takes place during a time period, but time isn’t the focal point here. That may get abstract for some of you, so you’ll wrestle with it for a while.
Breaking it down we see that the basic meaning is:
1. The action of administering or ordering something; dealing out or distributing something.
2. The act of administering or dispensing with some requirement.
A good word that is used in a number of modern translations is this word “administration.” Who’s doing the administrating? God is administrating, because God is the One who oversees history. But He is delegating that to a human administrator within the different time periods. In each one of the administrations there are different characteristics, different guidelines, and different regulations.
Go back to the Old Testament for a simple illustration: when you’re in the Dispensation of the Law, which extends from the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai until the coming of Christ, the primary characteristic or regulation is the 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law.
Those commandments were never given for salvation. They were given for the overall guidelines of how God’s people as a nation were to live their lives to be a testimony to the peoples, to the kingdoms, around them. When Christ came He is the end of the Law—He brings it to completion—and there is now a new dispensation or administration that is characterized by grace.
But we have to be careful because there was grace in the Old Testament. In John 1 we’re told grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, but there was grace all through the Old Testament. God’s grace was demonstrated in the Garden of Eden in that at the instant Adam ate the fruit, he just didn’t dematerialize. God had a plan, He was gracious. There was redemption and forgiveness of sin, and Adam and Eve went on to live their lives for over 900 years.
The word translated “dispensation,” “administration” or sometimes “dispensing” is OIKONOMOS, the noun form. OIKONOMIA is the word in this context, and it refers to management; it is an office.
It’s the word from which we get “economy.” You can hear it if you say it out loud. Economy is the administration of the goods, services and financial resources of a nation. It’s a compound word, made up of OIKAS for house and NOMOS for law.
If you’re a four-year-old living in a house, there are certain rules and regulations for you that do not apply when you’re a 14-year-old. And they don’t apply if you’re still living with your parents when you’re 24 because rules change because of circumstances. So that which applied in the Old Testament period under the Law has changed.
Paul uses this analogy where he says it’s like a child in the house under a pedagogue. But once you have reached sonship, then you’re no longer under the pedagogue; there is a change. So, we are under different house rules than what existed in the Old Testament dispensations.
Looking at this in terms of “economy” in Webster’s, it’s the management of the resources of a community, country; the disposition or regulation of the parts or functions of any organic whole; an organized system; the management of household affairs. All these terms go together.
When you think about a dispensation, it is God’s administration of human history. God is sovereign. He rules in the affairs of men, and we’re seeing an example of that. We see such chaos around us. So many people wonder what in the world is going on, and you have people who are pressing the panic button and they’re fearful because of the virus, and they’re afraid the economy is going to collapse and all these things are happening.
Every time we turn around it’s something else, whether it’s giant, murderous hornets, or whether it is the death of a Supreme Court justice, or now the president has been tested positive for COVID, and he’s sick. What is going to happen next?
Well, we will find out when they start meeting. The Senate Judiciary Committee starts meeting next week to interview the president’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, so who knows what will happen next.
Some people think it’s going to go away after November 3. Do not kid yourself! Because of the lax application of law enforcement with these riots, on these anarchist groups, it isn’t going to go away. We just need to pray for our nation so that those in leadership can make the correct decisions.
The basic meaning is managing or administering the affairs of a household. How do we do that?
Here is a breakdown of the three words that we see in the Scripture:
1. OIKONOMEO is the verb, used one time. We will see that passage. It means to function as a steward or to function as an administrator.
2. OIKONOMOS, the noun form has to do with a steward or administrator. It’s used 10 times in Luke 16, which we will look at.
3. OIKONOMIA which has to do with the administration of something, how it is administered. It’s used three times, in Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 3:2 and Ephesians 3:9. This is an important word. It’s a foundation for understanding dispensationalism.
4. Jesus uses this in Luke 16:1–2, the beginning of a parable goes through Luke 16:12. This is the parable of the unjust steward. We don’t need to get into the interpretation of that parable because that’s not the point. The point is just looking at how this is used.
Jesus teaching His disciples in Luke 16:1, “There’s a certain rich man who had a steward.”
This is the OIKONOMOS; he has a steward, an administrator. He’s the manager of the store, the manager of the property. He’s the one who oversees the estate. He has obligations to make sure that the debts are collected and that the bills are paid. He hasn’t done well at this.
“… and an accusation was brought to him—that is, to the rich man. In the analogy the rich man is God—that this man was wasting his goods.”
Now the application of this is going to be in relation to Israel because they are being irresponsible and wasting that which God has graciously given them. But it also is really going to tweak the Pharisees. Because in pharisaical theology they sort of had their own version of the health and wealth gospel, that if you were spiritually solid with God, He was going to make you wealthy.
So, they had ways of twisting all the laws so that they could abuse the law against interest, so they could figure out how to charge interest in a roundabout way—instead of charging in money they would charge in goods.
That’s the background. Jesus is really nailing them to the wall over their greed and their abuse of the law and failures as the administrators under the dispensation of the Law in Israel.
In Luke 16:2, the rich man calls the steward and the administrator and says, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship—that’s related to the verb—for you can no longer be steward.”
The idea here is that a steward is somebody who is appointed and who can lose the appointment. That applies to a dispensation: each dispensation identifies someone who’s responsible. In the Church Age it’s the Church, and we can lose that administration though failure. We are to be held responsible for how we handled that which God has given us. That is the accountability aspect in a dispensation.
I have pointed out in definitions, that this indicates that there is a responsibility given to the steward; there are tests related to his integrity as a steward. It can be failure on the part of the steward, in which case, as happened in previous dispensations, the dispensation ends and a new dispensation with a new administrator comes into being.
a. Two parties are involved. One party has authority to delegate responsibilities—that’s God, and the other has the responsibility to carry out the duties.
The church has the responsibility to carry out these duties. Paul had the responsibility as an apostle to explain what the new responsibilities were.
b. There are specific responsibilities for the steward in Luke 16:1.
c. Accountability and responsibility are inherent to the arrangement. At any point in time the steward can be called upon to explain how he has fulfilled his responsibilities.
d. A change can be made at any time if unfaithfulness is found.
The next passage is background: how Paul used the term in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man so consider us—who’s the “us?” the apostles— let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards—or administrators—of the—what?—of the mysteries of God.”
“Mysteries of God” is previously unrevealed information. They were not at all hinted at in the Old Testament., Paul says it’s been given to the apostles. In this chapter he calls them “the holy apostles and prophets.”
Here again in 1 Corinthians 4:1, it’s not just Paul who gets the mystery revelation, it’s all of the apostles. They are responsible administrators of the content of the gospel in communicating this new information to the Church.
The next verse has always been one of my favorites. In one of my early pastorates, I had four guys who were elders, three of them were entrepreneurs. One guy went into big companies and was like an efficiency expert. He would bring in the head of the department and ask, “What are your goals and objectives and what did you accomplish this year in terms of your goals and objectives?”
All three of these guys thought totally in terms of measurable, quantifiable goals and objectives, so we had a little head-butting contest at least once a year where they would ask, “Well, what are your goals for next year?”
I would say, “My goal is to be faithful in teaching the word of God.” “Well, wait a minute, what about your goals related to the expansion of the church and outreach?” I said, “You can’t quantify goals and spiritual life.”
Every time I’ve ever tried to do that God always seems to interfere and throw a monkey wrench into things and nothing happens because were on God’s timetable and plan and not on your quantifiable goal plan.
I don’t know if I ever made any headway with those guys, but that was about the only thing we would butt heads on. They were bringing all of their experience in their secular job and imputing that to their role as a spiritual leader in the church. Which there are some business aspects that you apply to a church, but there are a lot that don’t, so you can’t really always do that.
1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards—or the administrator—that one be found faithful—faithful in doing what God told you to do.”
As a pastor-teacher, as an apostle, it is to teach the word. It is not to go out and knock on doors, it is not to do visitation. It is not to do all of the other things that a lot of pastors in a lot of churches do.
I had a lot of black pastors at one time, and I would talk about the importance of teaching the Word, and they would tell me what’s expected of them as a pastor in a black church. They had to be involved in going to City Council and doing this and doing that or this other thing.
I asked, “Where do you have time to study?” They answer, “Well, if I get up an hour earlier every day, then that’s when I can study. But the rest the time I’ve got to do all these other chores and jobs.”
That’s why pastors have burn out, because they’re not doing the job God gave them to do. They’re doing the job that a congregation gave them to do. But a pastor is to be faithful in handling the Word, teaching the Word, edifying the congregation, and building them up spiritually. The message of the Church Age has to be taught because that is directly related to the spiritual life of everybody in the church.
a) God is the One to whom men are responsible in discharging stewardship. 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 I am responsible to God. He is the One that can evaluate that.
b) Faithfulness is required of those to whom a dispensational responsibility is committed. 1 Corinthians 4:2
c) A stewardship may end at some appointed time, according to Galatians 4:4–7.
AIONOS has to do with a time period, what we normally think of as an age. The Age of the Gentiles is comprised of three dispensations.
The first dispensation is perfect environment, or innocence as it’s often called. That’s not innocence in the sense of naïveté; that is innocence in the sense of judicially innocent of sin: not guilty. It’s a legal term.
The second dispensation is human conscience; the third dispensation is human government—all during the age of the Gentiles. Then God sort of washes his hands of the Gentiles after the Tower of Babel and He calls Abram, and then you have the Age of Israel, comprised of the Dispensation of the Patriarchs, the Dispensation of the Law, and the Dispensation of the Messiah when Christ is on the earth.
These ages are lengthy segments that are then broken down into subsequent dispensations.
CHRONOS is another time word that focuses on a chronological time in a sequence of events. The Age of Israel and this sequence of events and of administrations also involves The Tribulation as part of the Age of Israel.
Each of these are different terms that indicate the time factor for an age.
We can chart out the ages this way:
- The Age of the Gentiles from creation to Abraham
- The Age of Israel from Abraham to Christ’s Coming.
- The Church Age at present, followed by
- The Messianic Age.
This shows the ages, so I don’t have the Tribulation there. It is between the Church Age and the Messianic Age, and it’s the last seven years of the Age of Israel.
We’ve seen that a dispensation can be understood as a stewardship, an administration, the management of other’s property. The other is God; we are managing God’s property. As a pastor, I’m an under-shepherd of Christ’s sheep, and my responsibility is to be faithful.
A dispensation becomes a distinct and an identifiable administration in the development of God’s plan and purposes for human history.
Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of this dispensation—related to what?—the grace of God which was given to me—Paul’s apostolic commission and message.”
One of the important aspects of how dispensations go forward has to do with the giving of new revelation. In the Old Testament that’s through covenants, but in the New Testament we have the revelation of God’s new administration through the mystery—the previously unrevealed information.
Three things that characterize a dispensationalist. These were first articulated by Charles Ryrie. I’m going to modify the third one verbally, but he does a good job here. The third one is a little bit awkward for most people. In fact, we had a paper on this given by Bruce Baker for the pastors group on Friday morning this last week, which was very good.
1. A consistent, literal, historical, and grammatical interpretation of the Bible.
Literal doesn’t mean that you ignore figures of speech, but using figures of speech in the normal way in which figures of speech are used. A figure of speech has specific meaning, so you always know, when somebody uses that idiom or that figure of speech, exactly what it means because it has a literal sense and also specific figurative senses.
You have to study the language for the literal part
You have to understand the verses in light of the time in which they were written for the historical part
You have to understand the breakdown of the grammar for the grammatical part
Then you are able to properly see the meaning of the text.
If you are consistent in your literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of the Bible, that will lead to the second characteristic,
2. A distinction between God’s plan for Israel and God’s plan for the church.
We see that in this whole chapter. This is about the fact that the Age of Israel and the Dispensation of the Law have ended and that there is a new entity where Jew and Gentile are united together as one new man, one new body, one new temple.
God is giving us the riches of Christ—the wealth of Christ—that is the foundation for our walk, which is Ephesians 4–6:10. Then warfare in the last part of Ephesians 6, so that’s important.
3. The overall purpose of God’s plan for His creation is His glory. That is difficult for people to get their hands around.
We spent a lot of time in discussion on this Friday morning, and the reason is because you will go to a Presbyterian Church that has covenant theology, and they recite the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says the chief end and purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
See, they believe in glorifying God, but they don’t work it out theologically in their system. That’s as far as they go with it. Their unifying principle of the Bible and of history is God’s redemptive plan.
Sounds good doesn’t it? What about the angels? Oops! We left out a major part of God’s plan that has to do with the angels and the Angelic Conflict. So you have to have a broader category, and that’s where glorifying God comes from.
Ryrie only devotes two sentences to explaining it. Bruce Baker did a good job in his paper of explaining it. But both of them left out the fact that what this really shows is the glorification of God in the angelic rebellion, which then incorporates all of the angels and all of human history. That’s my addition to this definition problem.
The Golden Rule of Interpretation:
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.”
If you read it and it makes sense, don’t try to, “Oh, it must be symbolic of this,” or “that must represent that, and this must represent something else.” Stick with its literal sense if it makes sense.
“… therefore take every word and its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless—there is contextual evidence of something else —unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.”
That’s the Golden Rule of Interpretation.
When you look this up in Webster’s New International Dictionary, he says it’s that literal interpretation is “the natural or usual construction and implication of a writing or expression; following the ordinary and apparent sense of the words; not allegorical or metaphorical.”
That’s literal interpretation, which leads to the literal interpretation of the Abraham Covenant where God promised an eternal, everlasting covenant to Abraham. Which means it’s still in effect even though Israel has rejected the Messiah. God still has a future plan, and He will bring them back to the land. That Abrahamic Covenant is then developed in the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant in the Old Testament.
We see that God took Israel out of the land, and He has temporarily assigned His work to the Church Age, but that there will be a future return of Israel. In fact, the Scriptures in the Old Testament indicate two end-time re-gatherings.
At the end of the Church Age, ended by the Rapture, there will be seven years of tribulation, and then the Second Coming. According to these passages, especially Isaiah 11:11–12, but also in Ezekiel 20:33–38, 22:17–22, 36:22; Zephaniah 2:1–2; Ezekiel 37, Israel is regathered in unbelief first.
A lot of people are taught that, “Oh well, this doesn’t matter that all these Jews are going back to Israel right now because they’re not regenerate.” Well, they have to be regathered in an unregenerate state to have a nation, so that their nation can sign a treaty with the antichrist that begins the last seven years. There has to be some sort of restoration of a nation, so that’s what we’re seeing now.
There will be a second regathering at the end of the Tribulation in belief, and this is indicated also. The Isaiah 11:11–12 passage, I think, is the strongest indication of this which talks about the second regathering in belief. It says, “I will regather them a second time.”
Wait a minute! When was the first time! Well, it couldn’t have been before Christ, because that was only about 100,000 Jews. Not even 25% of the Diaspora returned. There hasn’t been another one, so it has to be what’s been going on since the end of the 19th century. 48% of Jews worldwide now live in Israel. That’s like double anything that ever happened in history since 586 BC.
Glorifying God is in contrast to the narrow redemptive purpose of man.
Ephesians 3:2, “you have heard of the dispensing of the grace of God which was given to me for you Gentiles.”
The phrase “the grace of God given to me” equals the mission and the message about the new man, the new body, and the new temple. That means and is the same as a new dispensation based on that mission and message. It’s a new dispensation based on the grace gift; that is, the apostleship given to Paul and the message God revealed to the apostles.
If you have it in a kind of a complicated way, it’s still the dispensation of the grace of God. But it’s the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to Paul, if you understand it correctly. So, it’s really better, I think, to call it the Church Age, which is characterized by the distinctive and expanded grace of God given to us.
Next time we will talk more about this new revelation given to Paul and the Mystery Doctrine.
“Father we’re thankful that we have this revelation written, recorded, preserved for us in our Scripture, that we can come to understand that because of this Mystery Doctrine, we have such a heightened identity. No believer in the Old Testament ever had anything like us. John the Baptist was the greatest of the Old Testament believers, yet he has seen nothing compared to what we have in the Church Age. Yet we don’t understand it, we don’t take time to really explore it, and too often we misuse it.
“Father, encourage us with what we’ve learned: that we need to really live each day in light of this Mystery Doctrine and our identity, the fact that we are members of this new body, we’re members of Your body. We are corporately a new temple, we are a new entity, new man, a new person, and that You have changed everything from the moment of our salvation. We need to live in light of this new identity.
“Therefore, we should remember this when things come up that discourage us or depress us or get us out of sorts or angry, that You’re still in control and the new circumstances just tell us we have a new opportunity to serve You and to communicate Your grace to those around us.
“Father, we pray for those who may be listening that might have never understood the gospel clearly before. It doesn’t mean they have to clean up their life. It doesn’t mean they have to get rid of their sin nature. It doesn’t mean that they have to somehow repent with great remorse and impress You with their sorrow for their sin. The sin’s paid for; Christ died for it. The issue now isn’t the sin, it’s faith: trusting in Christ as Savior. That’s the essence of grace.
“Father, we pray that You challenge us with what we’ve learned today. In Christ’s name, amen.”