Dispensation (οἰκονομία)

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
This is literally “administration of a house,” an “economy,” and hence an ordered dealing with men by God in the varied administration of his ways at different times. In reviewing God’s administrations with man, we may notice the state of innocence in Eden, though it hardly partook of the character of a dispensation. One law was given to Adam and Eve, and obedience was required, the penalty being announced if they failed.
This was followed by the lengthy period of nearly 1600 years till the flood — a time of no ordered dealing of God with men, during which men corrupted their way, and the earth was filled with violence. Then the world was spoken to by God in the person of Noah, who was “a preacher of righteousness”; and their repentance was waited for in longsuffering mercy while the ark was preparing (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5). They repented not and the old world was destroyed. In the postdiluvian world government of man by his fellow was established by God, while a knowledge of God, as a God who judged evil, was spread abroad by the descendants of Noah; traditions of the Flood being found all over the earth. This was an additional testimony for God. Then followed the division of the earth into various nations and tribes, according to their families and tongues. Among these ignorance of God prevailed in spite of the testimony of God’s power and divinity, and the admonition of conscience spoken of in Romans 1-2.
About 360 years after the deluge the Patriarchal Age was begun by the call of Abraham, a new and sovereign dealing of God; but this was confined to Abraham and his descendants.
The Dispensation of the Law followed, strictly the first publicly ordered system of God’s dealing with men, and administered by angels. The oracles of God were given to a nation, the only nation in all the earth that God had known in this way (Amos 3:2). It was the dispensation of “Do this, and live and be blessed; disobey, and be cursed.” This dispensation had three phases:
1. About 400 years under the Judges, when God would have been their king, but during which time everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.
2. 500 years as a kingdom under royalty. And
3. 600 years from the captivity to the coming of Christ. Connected with this was prophetic testimony: the law and the prophets were until John (Luke 16:16).
During this “Dispensation of Law” the Times of the Gentiles commenced in the political supremacy of Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold and king of kings (Dan. 2:37-38). They still run their course, and will continue until the Lord Jesus commences His reign.
The Dispensation of Grace and Truth commenced, after the preaching of John, by the advent of Christ. During this economy the gospel is preached to every creature under heaven, and the calling out of the Church takes place, extending as a parenthesis, from the day of Pentecost to the rapture of the saints (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Paul had a special “dispensation” committed to him by God, both as to the gospel and to fulfill the word of God by the doctrine of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2-3; Col. 1:25-26).
The Dispensation of the Reign of Christ over the earth during the millennium. It is also called “the dispensation of the fullness of times” (Eph. 1:10; Rev. 20:1-6). See MILLENNIUM.
Under these varied administrations the goodness and faithfulness of God shine out, and the failure of man is everywhere made manifest.