Some dispensationalists believe and teach that dispensations are cut-and-dried time-periods that are disconnected and isolated from one another. They focus on the divisions in the Bible to the point that they neglect, if not ignore or even deny, the connections in the Bible. Because most preachers only focus on connections in the Bible, there are some who overcorrect in their effort to avoid that extreme and go to the other extreme of only focusing on the divisions.
They have imagined an unbiblical and unbalanced either/or ultimatum in Bible study: there are either divisions or connections, but there cannot be both. I’ve even heard one such teacher claim that those who point out connections in the Bible are not “real right dividers,” and will hinder people from seeing the divisions. What will happen to those young in the faith who are taught this when false teachers come along and point out legitimate connections in the Bible? They may begin to think dispensationalism is wrong and start listening to the false teacher!
Much harm and loss has come to the church because God’s “workmen” have failed to note distinctions and divisions in the Word of Truth. But serious harm can and does also result from a failure to recognize the unity of God’s great plan for the ages; from a failure to observe connections as well as divisions. Extreme dispensationalists see many distinctions in the scriptures – even distinctions which do not exist! – but they fail to see some of the most important connections.
Is it possible for there to be both connections and distinctions concerning the same thing? Yes, and here are some examples:
- There is one God who exists in three persons
- The Bible is 66 books in one book
- In the Body of Christ there are many different members in one Body
- Throughout eternity there will be one family of God in heaven (Body) and earth (Israel, nations)
The Results of Extremism
Extreme dispensationalists go beyond the apostle Paul in how they divide the word of God. It is this kind of extremism that causes them to assert things like:
- Nobody today is born again – While Christ and Peter were referring to Israel when they used the term “born again” (Jn. 3:3, 7; 1 Pet. 1:23), the apostle Paul taught that believers in this age are “born after the Spirit” (Gal. 4:29) and “regenerated” by the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). The differences in doctrine between Israel and the Body of Christ concerning this matter does not negate the spiritual application that can be made of the term to us today. When I was born into the world, I was born of the flesh. When I got saved, I was born of the Spirit. That makes me born again!
- We are not saved by the blood of the new testament – While the Body of Christ is not under the new covenant (which will be made with Israel at the second coming of Christ, Heb. 8), we are saved by the blood of the new testament (1 Cor. 11:23-26; 2 Cor. 3:6). There is a difference between a covenant and a testament.
- The Lord’s Supper is not for today – The apostle Paul received the Lord’s Supper by divine revelation and delivered it to the church to be kept as a memorial of the death of Christ (1 Cor. 11:17-34). If the Lord’s Supper was the same thing as the Last Supper, why would Paul need to receive it by divine revelation? If the Lord’s Supper is not for today, why would Paul bother to write a lengthy passage to correct the misuse of it?
- We are not in the book of life – All who have eternal life are written in the book of life, including those in the Body of Christ (Phil. 4:3). The difference is that Paul never gives us any warning of being blotted out of it (we are sealed with the Spirit) like we find in the book of Revelation concerning the tribulation period (Rev. 3:5).
When God Reveals and Dispenses Truth
A dispensation is simply a dealing out or dispensing of something. Biblical dispensations concern how God has progressively revealed and dispensed His truth to man. The revelation of a new dispensation does not automatically negate everything from previous dispensations. When God changes something, He says so. In other words, there are things that carry over from one dispensation to another which is why Paul said that ALL scripture is profitable for us today (2 Tim. 3:16). I am fully aware that there are things that do not mix, such as law and grace, but there are doctrines and moral principles that do not change through the ages. We cannot understand much in Paul’s Epistles without the rest of scripture because he referred to other scripture MANY times.
How do we know the difference between what is connected and what must be divided? We are to consider what Paul said first since God spoke through him directly to us in this present age, and then we must rightly divide the things in the bible that differ from what Paul wrote to us (2 Tim. 2:7, 15). What God has divided, leave divided. What God has connected, leave connected.
Consider the following references which provide examples of how Paul made connections between this present dispensation and other dispensations:
- Innocence – Rom. 5:12-19; Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:31; 1 Tim. 2:12-14
- Conscience – Paul used the word “conscience” 20 out of the 31 times it is used in the Bible
- Human Government – Rom. 13:1-7, still in effect today
- Promise – Rom. 4; Gal. 3
- Law – Rom. 3:19-20; 7:7-14; 13:8-10; Gal. 3:23-25; 1 Tim. 1:8
- Kingdom – Rom. 15:1-13 (spiritual application of kingdom prophecy)
- Fulness of times – Eph. 1:10, when God’s purposes for the times will all be brought to perfect fruition, all gathered together in Christ