I am sure you are familiar with the term, “Hyper-dispensationalism.” It is a big word, but it is not difficult to understand. The Greek prefix, “hyper” means excessive and going beyond what is right and acceptable. Some prefer the Latin prefix, “ultra.” Dispensationalism is the divine method of Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15). It is the understanding that although God doesn’t change in His person, He does change in His dealings with man throughout the ages. Man is always prone to extremes, so it is certainly possible to go to unscriptural extremes and be guilty of wrongly dividing the word of truth.
Doctrinally speaking, the issue of when you believe this present dispensation began is typically one of the main ways people judge whether or not they think someone is a hyper-dispensationalist. The problem is that what may seem hyper in comparison to your traditional view may not be hyper at all in the word of God (1 Thess. 5:21).
I believe that this present dispensation began with Paul’s salvation and ministry. Many dispensationalists, who hold to the more traditional view that it started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), would accuse me of teaching hyper-dispensationalism.
What is a biblical dispensation? It is basically a dispensing of divine revelation that brings about significant changes in God’s dealings with man. How can a dispensation begin before the revelations that make it a distinct dispensation are dispensed (Col. 1:24-27)? We are living in the Dispensation of the Mystery which was planned by God before the world began but kept secret until He first revealed it through the apostle Paul.
What took place in Acts 2 was according to PROPHECY. Furthermore, the gospel that we must believe in order to be baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ was first revealed to Paul. The apostle Peter was not preaching the gospel of the grace of God on the Day of Pentecost (compare Acts 2:38 with 1 Cor. 1:17)!
Doctrinal hyper-dispensationalism does exist, and it is a legitimate problem. The Acts 28 position is the idea that the Body of Christ began in Acts 28:28 (even though Paul wrote about it before Acts 28). Lord willing, I will write an article against the Acts 28 position, but for now please see Q&A #36 (two parts) on our YouTube channel for more information. My purpose in this article is to warn you about the danger of falling into what we might call practical hyper-dispensationalism. It is possible to not be hyper in our doctrine but to be hyper in how we act concerning our doctrine.
According to Phil. 4:5, Christians are to be known for their moderation. What is moderation? It is the avoidance of excess or extremes. It’s a good testimony to live a balanced Christian life. This is not easy because the flesh is ever prone to excess and extremes. Finding and maintaining the right balance in the Christian life is very important but it is also very difficult.
Thankfully, “the Lord is at hand.” Some say this means that the coming of the Lord for us is imminent (3:20), while others say it means Christ is always near. Well, both are true! He lives in us and we can live a balanced Christian life through His strength. He is coming soon to glorify us into His image. We will never struggle again in that glorious day!
Extremism is not only the danger of being excessive in a bad thing for there is also the subtle danger of taking a good thing too far. Eating is good but eating to an extreme is bad. Consider this bit of practical wisdom from Proverbs: “Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” (Prov. 25:16).
We can apply this proverb to our spiritual diet. The word of God is our spiritual food. David said that the word of God is “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, we certainly need to be filled with the word of God (Col. 3:16)! But the word of God is not only to be taken in, but it is also to be exercised out in our daily life (1 Tim. 4:6-7). We are to “work out” our own salvation (Phil. 2:12). Knowledge without charity puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1-3).
Paul said that without charity we are nothing even if we understand all mysteries and have all knowledge (1 Cor. 13:2). We must not study the Bible just to gain knowledge. We must study the Bible to know God in a real relationship and serve Him according to His will.
When Are We Guilty of Practical Hyper-Dispensationalism
We are guilty of practical hyper-dispensationalism when:
Those of us who have come to understand that the apostle Paul was given the distinct revelations for this present dispensation need to be careful not to overemphasize his epistles to the point of neglecting the rest of scripture. Recognizing that Paul is the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for this age is very important and we should emphasize the doctrines revealed through him for today. However, it is possible to take it too far. Romans through Philemon is indeed the word of God, but so is Genesis through Acts and Hebrews through Revelation.
We should follow Paul’s example in this matter. His epistles contain many quotes and allusions to the OT scripture. He said that the things which were written aforetime were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4) and admonition (1 Cor. 10:11). Someone might say, “Well, he said that in his Acts epistles.” In his last inspired epistle, he said that ALL scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16). All dispensationalists at least give lip service to this fact. Even the most extreme dispensationalists would say we should study the whole Bible, but if in practice they rarely preach spiritual applications or teach doctrine other than dispensational truth, they are acting like a hyper-dispensationalist.
God preserved the whole Bible for a reason (Prov. 30:5; Matt. 4:4). Paul’s epistles are not the only place to find doctrine for this age (e.g. the virgin birth, hell, God). There are spiritual applications for us throughout the whole Bible. Right division has helped me to enjoy the rest of the Bible more than ever before because now I understand it better. Paul said that we are not stablished without “the scriptures of the prophets” (Rom. 16:25-26). Read and study the WHOLE Bible!
There are some who glory in the truth of the ONE BODY but can’t seem to get along with anybody who doesn’t agree with them on every detail of how they understand dispensational truth. They treat Christians who are not as enlightened as they like they are second-class members of the Body of Christ. Isn’t it ironic that there are so many cliques and schisms in the “grace movement” (1 Cor. 1:10-13)? Those who lament the error of denominationalism are too often denominational in their attitude and conduct. The basis of our fellowship is clearly laid out in Eph. 4:1-6.
I am certainly not saying we should be ecumenical. We should take a strong stand for truth, and there is a time to separate from apostates and heretics, but we should not break fellowship over things like whether or not you believe the twelve apostles are in the Body of Christ. Be careful not to develop a critical spirit towards all believers who don’t see everything the way you do (knit picking everything you hear). By the way, the mainstream dispensationalists typically won’t fellowship with us, so they can also be guilty of practical hyper-dispensationalism.
Being “under grace” is not just a doctrinal statement: it is a spiritual reality that ought to change the way we live (Rom. 6:14-18; Titus 2:1, 11-15). After laying a doctrinal foundation, the apostle Paul always made practical applications to our daily walk. If you think that preaching biblical separation and exhorting the saints to live godly in this present world is legalism, then you are acting like a hyper-dispensationalist.
I thank God for showing me the grace message, not because it freed me from the responsibility to live right, but that it taught me the right way to go about it! What did it do for Paul (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 4:9)?
As I said before, the flesh is prone to extremes. Therefore, if we are going to avoid the pitfall of becoming a hyper-dispensationalist we must not only know that we live in the Spirit, we must also walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).