Eph 3:2, “If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you.”
“If indeed” is the subordinating Conjunction EI plus the Particle GE, that introduce the sentence with a first class “if” statement, “if and you have.” What they have done is “heard,” something over and over again that Paul had taught them. “Heard” is the verb AKOUO in the constative Aorist, Active, Indicative, for the reality of the past action of being taught by Paul through GAP of his stewardship of the mystery Doctrines for the Church Age. Therefore, the Gentiles in Asia had been taught this doctrine of Paul’s position and the Dispensation of the Church many times before. And now, all that Paul was teaching them in Chapters 1-2 thus far, and what he will teach them in the rest of this letter are part of the mystery doctrines of this new dispensation called, the Age of Grace or the Church Age.
“Stewardship,” is the Noun OIKONOMIA, οἰκονομία that means “stewardship, administration, or management.” We noted this word in Eph 1:10, and also have it in vs. 9. It is derived from the words OIKOS meaning, “house,” and NEMO meaning, “to deal out or to administrate.” From the time of Xenophon and Plato using Attic Greek, it represented the administration of a household, the management of a household, or of household affairs. Generally, it was also used for the administration of the state and was eventually used to designate every kind of activity that accrued from that position.
Here, it denotes Paul’s attitude toward the duties of his apostolic office. In 1 Cor 9:17, Paul used it to describe the responsibility he had of preaching the gospel entrusted to him by God as a “commission” from which he could not deny. He also used it to designate his responsibility to “fulfill the Word of God” in Col 1:25, by which he meant he had been entrusted to impart to the Colossians the unfolding of the Plan of God that has been consummated in the Church, the body of Christ, just as he does hear in regard to the churches in the Ephesus region. This plan, as vs. 9 tells us, was a MUSTERION, mystery, hidden from eternity in God, by which He, in the fullness of time, will sum up all things in Christ.
The KJV typically translates it as “dispensation,” and as Vine’s comment notes, “a dispensation is not just a period of time or epoch, a common, but erroneous, use of the word, but a mode of dealing, an arrangement or administration of affairs,” (Expository Dictionary, “Dispensation”). Even though we speak of “dispensations” in a matter of time periods, it really must be understood as God’s various administrations of human affairs to further His will and plan during the appeal trial of the Angelic Conflict.
Here, Paul calls this dispensation, “of God’s grace,” HO CHARIS HO THEOS in the Genitive Singular. That is why we call this current time period the “Age of Grace.”
Then we have, “which was given to me for you,” HO DIDOMAI, (Aor., Pass., Genitive Part.), EGO EIS HUMAS. Paul was given this responsibility directly by God, so that He could communicate the Mystery Doctrines of the Age of Grace to the Church. Therefore, God had given him the responsibility of making known to the world the meaning of the mystery God had revealed to him, which is, the amazing unity of the New Testament Church being incorporated into the “one body,” with no distinction and with equal privileges and responsibilities between Gentiles and Jews, because of their union with Jesus Christ.
The Doctrine of Dispensations
a. A dispensation is a period of human history expressed in terms of Divine revelation of God’s administration of human affairs during the appeal trial of the Angelic Conflict. It is a technical theological term used primarily by the apostle Paul in the presentation of the Mystery Doctrine of this Church Age. While OIKONOMIA means God’s administration of human history, Eph 1:10, 3:2, 9; Col 1:25, several other Greek words emphasize time periods in communicating the concept of dispensations. They include:
1) AION that means, “an age or a period of time,” Gal 1:4; 1 Cor 2:6-8.
2) KAIROS meaning, “an epoch, age, a chronological order or system, or a period of time characterized by distinctive development within that period,” Luke 21:24; Rom 8:18; 11:5; 13:11; 1 Thes 5:1.
3) KRONOS that means, “time as a succession of events.” It is used to portray the chronology of history or time as a series of points. Occasionally, it is used for a section of time in chronology, which then refers to a dispensation, Rom 16:25; 1 Peter 1:20.
b. Dispensations are Divine categories of human history; it is both the Divine outline and the Divine interpretation of human history. There are many interpretations of history, but the only Biblically accurate interpretation of God’s administration of human history is dispensational, i.e., Divine.
c. Dispensations are the vehicle, by which believers living at a specific time in history can orient to God’s will, plan, and purpose for their lives. God’s plan is not the same for every dispensation. In fact, the plan is quite different in each dispensation. The most difficult and subtle plan to learn by a believer is the Church Age or Age of Grace. Old Testament believers during the time of the Law were under the ritual plan of God, today we are under the Grace Plan of God. The believer’s orientation to time and history is vitally necessary for understanding God’s plan and reaching the objective of the super-grace life.
d. While there is a different plan for believers in each dispensation, there is only one way of salvation throughout human history; i.e., personal faith in Jesus Christ. In all of human history, there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and He is revealed in different ways in different dispensations. Further, while salvation is always the same in each dispensation (faith in Christ), the tactical objective of reaching the super-grace life is also the same. Each dispensation, however defines the function and the ministry of the believer in terms of Divine revelation pertinent to that period of history.
2. Dispensational study is beneficial. It will keep you out of confusion. It is the only correct interpretation of the Scriptures that accounts for all of God’s inner workings of human affairs in different ways and at different times, to fulfill His great plan. Therefore, it will keep you from trying to function in the wrong dispensation and allow you to rightly divide the word of God for accurate interpretation and application.
3. The Dispensation of the Church is a technical dispensation. It requires understanding technical words and knowing the modus operandi. This is the first time in history that the ordinary believer must think in terms of doctrine, must think like a prophet or an apostle, and must reconstruct his entire mental attitude. Therefore, every believer is given the ability to think through the filling of the Holy Spirit, and is given the complete Canon as the information about which to think. In order to think, you must know the doctrine and be able to think in terms of its application. You think for yourself and do not need others to think for you.
4. The Various Dispensations of Human History
a. The Age of Innocence.
1) Scripture: Genesis chapters 1-3.
a) The period of positive volition; the time in the Garden of Eden of Adam and the woman that is known theologically as Innocence.
2) The general characteristics of this Age included a special angelic attack upon establishment, free will and marriage.
b. The Age of the Gentiles.
1) Scripture: Genesis chapters 4-11.
a) The period of negative volition, the period of the fall and conscience, including Noah and the Flood.
b) The period of Divine establishment, the beginning of human government at the tower of Babel through to the time of the giving of the Law.
3) The general characteristics of this Age includes: One language, one race (Gentiles only), a special angelic attack upon establishment (the family, Genesis 6, and nationalism, Genesis 11:1-9).
4) The scope of this dispensation is from the exile from Eden to the tower of Babel, the first United Nations building. God expresses His attitude toward it by destroying that building.
5) During this Dispensation there was no written canon of scripture. God communicated His doctrine in other ways.
6) There was no specific missionary agency.
7) Salvation was by faith in Jesus Christ as He was revealed in that Dispensation.
c. The Age of the Jews (Israel).
1) Scripture: Most of the Old Testament minus the Millennial passages, and the Gospels minus John chapters 13-17.
2) Outline: The period of the nation Israel from the Exodus of Moses and receiving the Law to Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, plus the period of the Tribulation.
a) There are many languages;
b) Many races;
c) The development of Israel from a race to a nation; Israel becomes the custodian of the written Canon as well as the missionary agency representing God.
4) Security for Israel was given through the unconditional covenants; the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants to Israel which acted as both spiritual and eternal security.
5) National security, prosperity, and blessing came through the establishment teaching of the Mosaic law. National discipline was given to this nation under five cycles, Lev 26.
6) Salvation was by faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah / Anointed One, looking forward to the Cross.
7) Spirituality was the faith-rest technique. This is demonstrated in the N.T. in Heb 11; Rom 4:17-21.
d. The Doctrine of Intercalation: The insertion of the Church Age.
1) Intercalation basically means “insertion.” The Jewish dispensation was interrupted by the strategical victory of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Before it would come to a conclusion, God the Father inserted a new Age called Grace or the Church Age. This intercalation also included the insertion of new Bible doctrine not previously known, so that people could orient to this new Age, the Church Age. Whatever God intended for this age, we had to know about it, so we have the N.T. epistles as the concept of intercalation.
2) Intercalation or the insertion of information goes with the Dispensation. Intercalation is the intensified stage of the Angelic Conflict. It is expressed in another way: mystery. The Church Age is a mystery in the Greek sense of the word MUSTERION. It was something hidden in the past but known to others. The Church Age is a mystery not known to the Old Testament writers.
3) Doctrines pertaining to the Church Age were not found in the O.T. Where Church Age information would have occurred, the O.T. simply skipped over it. The O.T. would talk about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and then it would stop, it would move over to the Tribulation and talk about the Second Advent and the Millennium. But it would never talk about anything in between the ascension of Christ and the beginning of the Tribulation. This is the great parenthesis of Scripture. So now, we must have intercalation, the insertion of doctrine where before there was a complete blank. Doctrine pertinent to the Church Age is therefore intercalated, inserted, by the N.T. epistles.
4) We have a large number of the great parenthesis passages. The great parenthesis occurs between Dan 2:40 and 41; between 7:23 and 24; between 8:22 and 23; between 11:35 and 36; between Hosea 3:4 and 5; between 5:15 and 6:1; between Psa 22:22 and 23; between Isa 61:2a and 2b.
e. The Church Age.
1) The scripture: John chapters 14-17 and the New Testament epistles.
2) The outline: Broken down into two parts, the pre-Canon period, which is the book of Acts and the post-Canon period which is the New Testament epistles.
a) The baptism of the Holy Spirit produced union with Jesus Christ and/or positional sanctification.
b) The universal royal priesthood of all believers.
c) The universal indwelling of Christ.
d) The universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit which never occurred before.
e) The completed Canon of scripture. All divine revelation is now reduced to writing; there is no extra-Biblical revelation such as dreams, trances, visions, voices, and so on.
f) Every believer is in full time Christian service; every believer is an ambassador representing the Lord Jesus Christ on earth in the devil’s world.
g) The intensification of the devil’s world in the Angelic Conflict is a characteristic of this Dispensation.
h) Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, looking back to the Cross.
i) All believers are commanded to GAP it to super-grace as the means of glorifying God.
f. The Tribulation, 7 year time period to complete the Age of Israel as noted above; the time of the Antichrist.
g. The Age of Christ – The Millennial Reign.
1) Scripture: Isa 11, 35, 62, 65; Psa 72; Rev 20.
2) Outline: The Second Advent of Christ, Armageddon where Jesus Christ breaks His record in killing the enemy, the baptism of fire, the 1,000 years of perfect environment, the Second Advent of Satan and the Gog revolution, the destruction of the universe and the Great White Throne or final judgement.
a) There is perfect environment because Satan is bound. Demons are removed from the earth. There is no religion in Christ’s kingdom, Rev 20:1-3. However, in this perfect environment people are still saved the same way, by faith in Christ, and the objective is still to go to super-grace in this dispensation; super-grace giving the capacity to enjoy the environment as well as the blessings.
b) Optimum spirituality will exist among believers during that dispensation, Isa 65:24; Joel 2:28,29; Zech 14:16-17.
c) Israel will be restored as a nation, Isa 5:26-30; 10:19-23; 11:11-16; 65:19; Joel 2:16ff; Zech 8:20-23; 10:6-12.
d) There will be the fulfillment of the unconditional covenants to Israel, Dan 9:24.
e) The nations of the earth enjoy perfect environment under the reign of Christ. This includes: For the first time in history, there will be universal peace, Psa 46:9; Isa 2:4; Hosea 2:18; Micah 4:3. There will be universal prosperity, Psa 72:7, 16. There will be a perfect world government under Christ, Isa 11:1-2; Zech 14:9. There will be a universal knowledge of God, Isa 11:9. There will be perfect environment which is reflected in longevity. People will live a thousand years easily, Isa 65:20. There will be perfect objectivity in the administration of justice. Therefore, there will be no crime, Isa 11:3-5; Psa 72:12-14.
f) Perfect environment will exist in nature. This means creation will be released from the bondage of sin, Rom 8:19-22. Plant life will abound, Isa 35:1-2, 7. Animals will lose their ferocity, Isa 11:6-9; 65:25.
g) The human population in the Millennium. The baptism of fire removes all unbelievers from the earth so the population begins with believers only, Ezek 20:34-38; Mat 25:31-46. As the Millennium continues with perfect environment, there will be a population explosion. This will result in a population of believers and unbelievers, and the unbelievers will be involved in the Gog revolution at the end of the Millennium.
h) The Gog revolution terminates the Millennium, Rev 20:7-10. It starts with the second advent of Satan and terminates with the great white throne judgement. The Gog revolution indicates once again that perfect environment is not the solution to man’s problems.
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