REVISING THE DISPENSATINALL CHART
By Russell Earl Kelly, PhD.
July 29, 2018
see Dr. Renald Showers’ article, Dispensational Theology, Is it Biblical? Showers is a graduate
of Dallas Theological Seminary. www.biblestudymanuals.net/dispensation.htm
Dispensationalists believe that salvation
is and always has been by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone. While many denominations recognize
most of the same dispensations, they often describe them in different terminology.
Most modern Dispensationalists recognize seven distinct periods of time during which God judged actions of
men differently. They point out that, since Adam’s fall, God (1) has progressively revealed more and more of His will,
(2) He has expected a faith-response to each new revelation and (3) He has thus far punished failure to respond to each successive
FINE TUNING THE
DOCTRINE AND CHARTS
1. NOT ALL DISPENSATIONS
ARE FOR ALL PEOPLE.
Too often we are told that the dispensations
are for “man.” Since the charts do not go into detail (as does Showers), the typical Dispensational church member
is confused and often concludes that every dispensation was for all mankind.
Example #1: Scofield: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some
specific revelation of the will of God.” Later inn the article Showers writes “The purpose of each dispensation,
then, is to place man under a specific rule of conduct, but such stewardship is not a condition of salvation.”
(Showers) Standing alone, these definitions are both wrong.
Example #2: A “dispensation” as “a progressive and connected revelation of God's
dealings with man, given sometimes to the whole race and at other times to a particular people, Israel.” Rather
than point out Scofield’s confusing definition, Showers simply addes his own.
Example #3: “Before the cross man was saved in
prospect of Christ's atoning sacrifice, through believing the revelation thus far given him.” (Showers) The first
half of the sentence is correct. The second half is incorrect because the dispensations were not different plans of salvation.
Regardless of the dispensation, before Grace man was saved by (1) admitting his sinfulness and (2) offering a sin sacrifice
as a forward-looking atonement in Christ. This is especially true of Law: obedience to the revelation of Law for Hebrews saved
Example #4: “Dispensational Theology could be defined as a particular
way of God's administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history.”
Far from being God’s
rule over “the world,” the dispensation of Promise was only God’s rule over one family. The dispensation
of Law was only over only one nation and Grace is only over believers. A more careful exact wording is necessary to avoid
#5: “Each dispensation makes man responsible to obey God in accordance with its unique ruling factor or
combination of factors. “Since all man was not responsible for obedience to every dispensation, the statement is not
correct in the absence of qualifiers.
Example #6: “A DISPENSATION
MAY INVOLVE A PARTICULAR WAY OF GOD'S ADMINISTERING HIS RULE OVER ALL OF ANY KIND OR OVER ONLY ONE SEGMENT OF MANKIND.”
Here, with great emphasis, Showers has it correct. However, by now his audience is confused because he did not go back and
correct examples #1, #3, $4 and #5.
Example #7: “For example, the
Dispensation of Human Government was over all of mankind, but the Dispensation of the Mosaic Law was over only the nation
of Israel.” Having corrected his definition of “dispensation,” the confusion from examples #1, #2, #3, #4
2. “DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGIANS NORMALLY NAME EACH NEW DISPENSADTION AFTER THE NEW RULING FACTOR.” (Showers)
As long as this point is made absolutely clear, it is not objectionable. However, the problem is that it
is NOT always made absolutely clear! There equal size of the circles on the charts is very deceptive. They make the casual
Bible student think that God judges everybody on earth according to that particular dispensation. It is no wonder that most
Christians go around saying “We are no longer under the Law” when Gentiles and the Church never were under it.”
The typical Dispensational church member does not understand the doctrine
of dispensations because the display charts lead to the wrong conclusion.
3. DISPENSATIONS ARE OFTEN, BUT NOT ALWAYS, CUMULATIVE
“On man's part the continuing requirement is obedience to the [progressive] revelation of God.
This obedience is a stewardship of faith. Although the divine revelation unfolds progressively, the deposit of truth in
the earlier time-periods is not discarded; rather it is cumulative. Thus conscience (moral responsibility) is an abiding
truth in human life (Rom. 2:15; 9:1; 2 Cor 1:12; 4:2), although it does not continue as a dispensation.” (Showers)
Except for The Law of Moses, the dispensations are cumulative:
believers are convinced of sin by Conscience, Government (man’s judicial laws), Promise, Grace and Millennial Law. Unbelievers
are convinced of sin against God by Conscience and Government (1 Tim 1:8-10) and even God’s government during the Millennium.
From Romans 1:18 to 2:16, the Apostle
Paul uses conscience and nature to explain how and why God is just in dispensing wrath upon all unbelievers “who hold
the truth in unrighteousness (1:18).” Those who have not heard the gospel or known “The” formal Law are
still guilty of transgressing God’s principle of law as found in the conscience and nature (1:18-20; 2:14-16; 3:20;
Rather than ending at Calvary (as
did The formall Law), Promise continues and expands into Grace (Galatians 3:28-29) and endures into the Millennium and eternity
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD