The Dispensation Of Grace
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the gospel of John. We read from chapter 1, verse 15:

John 1:

15 John bare witness of him [Christ], and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

I would like for you to notice particularly, by way of introduction to our discussion, the words of verse 17:

John 1:

17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

We have been discussing what we refer to as the dispensations . We are using Dr. Scofield's definition of a dispensation, because we do not believe it can be improved upon. You may change a word here or there, express a phrase a little differently, but the basic ideas are incorporated in it. You will recall that, according to his definition, a dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of certain revelations, specific truths, related to the will of God. This definition describes stated periods of time in which and through which God has dealt with the human race.

You may be prone to say, if you are not familiar with the Scriptures, “What difference does it make?” We believe it makes all the difference in the world. In II Timothy, chapter 2, verse 15, we are told to “study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We believe that, in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth, we are going to have to understand how God has dealt with man.

The Present Dispensation

In our discussion, we come to the sixth dispensation, remembering that there are seven. We have already noticed the Dispensations of Innocence, Conscience, Government, Promise, and Law. As indicated by our introductory verse, the dispensation we will be discussing in this lesson is the Dispensation of Grace - the dispensation in which we are living at this present hour. This is the dispensation which belongs to us.

We do not belong to the Dispensation of Innocence because we were born into this world in sin. In sin were we conceived; in iniquity were we born. We do not belong to the Dispensation of Conscience because we have the complete revelation of God, and we do not need to rest upon the prickings of a conscience. That conscience is revealed by the Word of God to be a very uncertain thing. We are not living in the Dispensation of Promise because the promise has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not living in the Dispensation of Law because when the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the Cross, the law was nailed to the Cross, and we are delivered from all of its obligations and all of its demands. We are a privileged people to be living in the Dispensation of Grace.

Six Words

We have used six words and I want to give you those words once again to use as a guide in our discussion. The words are: circumstance, character, covenant, course, climax, and compassion.

Circumstances Of The Dispensation

As we look at the Dispensation of Grace under those six words, we begin by asking ourselves what the circumstances are of this Dispensation of Grace. As we have already mentioned, we learned that in the Dispensation of Law, the law of God was broken, and man stood condemned before God. That dispensation, as every dispensation, ended in abject failure. But we noticed a note of compassion in that dispensation. That note of compassion is described for us in the book of Romans, chapter 8. If you will turn there in your Bibles for this brief notice of review. and read of God's compassion in the words:

Romans 8:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Absence Of Condemnation

We reminded you that the phrase, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” is not in the first verse in the original text. It is in its rightful place in the original text in verse 4. I say this paragraph describes the compassion of God because God knew that man would never be able to meet the just demands of the law. Knowing that, He sent His Son who would do that for us so that when we receive Him as Savior, we would be without condemnation. I suggest to you, then, that the circumstances under which the Dispensation of Grace began was that condemnation was removed, Christ's having paid the penalty in full, the simple grace of God sufficient for every need.

Sufficiency Of God's Grace

Turn with me, please, to Paul's letter to Titus, chapter 2, and notice a statement concerning the sufficiency of the grace of God in the hour in which we live. Notice verse 11:

Titus 2:

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

May we remind you that the word peculiar in verse 14 does not speak of an individual who is less than a square; it speaks of an individual who is God's own particular possession. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared.” From that statement comes the title for this particular dispensation, the Dispensation of Grace.

Presence Of The Holy Spirit

The circumstances of the Dispensation of Grace are not only included in the absence of condemnation, but the circumstances of the Dispensation of Grace are seen in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Notice what I'm saying now, “in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.” This is not to suggest to you that the Holy Spirit was not active in the Dispensation of Law. He was, but He never abode upon the earth in the hearts of men as He abides today. That is the chief characteristic in this Dispensation of Grace.

Turn with me, please, in your Bibles, to the Gospel of John, remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ was taking leave of His Disciples, and they were very much concerned that He would no longer be with them. He encouraged their hearts with what we find in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, where, in the paragraph which begins with verse 15, the Lord Jesus Christ says:

John 14:

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

The promise which the Lord Jesus Christ gave in chapter 14 of the gospel of John was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, in chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles. From that day to this, when any man is rightly related to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his life and abides there to own and direct. These are the circumstances under which the Dispensation of Grace is lived - no condemnation because of the fulfilled work of Christ, and the controlling of the Holy Spirit because of His abiding presence.

The New Covenant

Closely related to the circumstances of this dispensation, as in every dispensation, is the covenant upon which this particular dispensation is based. You will remember that every dispensation which we have considered had a particular covenant upon which it was based, a covenant by which God guaranteed He would operate during that particular dispensation.

A covenant is simply an agreement, sometimes conditional, sometimes unconditional. If there is a right to say that one covenant is greater than another, then I would be willing to say to you that the covenant related to the Dispensation of Grace is the greatest covenant of all. It has a name that would indicate that. It is called the New Covenant - different, unexpected, something that is difficult for human minds to comprehend because of its very simplicity.

Prophecy Of The New Covenant

This New Covenant was prophesied in the book of Jeremiah. It became a reality in the gospel of Matthew. And it was made all inclusive in the letter to the Ephesians. The manner in which it was implemented is described in both the Old and the New Testaments. I suggest that we look at these Scriptures where these facts are made known.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament and notice the prophecy of the New Covenant as it is recorded in chapter 31. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 31:

Jeremiah 31:

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Keep in mind that when Jeremiah wrote these words, the covenant had not been made. God said, “There's going to come a day that I'm going to make a new covenant with Israel, with the house of Judah.” And He said, continuing in verse 32:

Jeremiah 31:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord,…

That is, when the time comes for this covenant to be fulfilled. Now notice carefully:

Jeremiah 31:

33 … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The specific feature of this description of the New Covenant in which we are interested for this present discussion is found in verse 33, where God says, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and I will write it on their hearts.” You remember the old covenant was written on tables of stone. As we pointed out to you, the clay was hardly hardened until the covenant was broken. But now, the New Covenant is not written on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart of Jeremiah prophesied.

If you are not familiar with your Bibles, you might wonder if the prophecy was ever fulfilled. So we ask you to turn to the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, for one of many passages of Scripture which emphasizes this truth. That portion of the Word describes the Lord's Supper. We read in verse 26:

Matthew 26:

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Notice the word testament in verse 28. It is the same word that is used for the word covenant in the Old Testament. What are we reading here? The New Covenant is instituted at the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The old covenant was instituted when the people said, “All that the Lord hath said, we will do.” It failed from the beginning. The New Covenant was instituted when the Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood on Calvary's Cross, thereby empowering all of the provisions of the covenant to be effective.

Covenant Related To Gentiles

If you were listening when we read the prophecy related to the New Covenant, you noticed that the covenant was made with the nation of Israel, the house of Judah. You may be thinking that since we are Gentiles, how could this covenant apply to us? That's the reason I want you to turn to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, as I remind you that on its institution, this New Covenant became all-inclusive. It was not only related to the house of Israel, not only related to the house of Judah, but became all-inclusive when the covenant was qualified. Let us read from verse 11 of Ephesians, chapter 2;

Ephesians 2:

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

”Under the Dispensation of Law, ” Paul says, “remember you were Gentiles, and the Jews who were circumcised sneeringly referred to you as ‘uncircumcized.' Remember that at time, ye were without Christ.” It might be clearer here to substitute the word Messiah , because the Gentiles had no Messiah for whom they were looking. This word Christ means “Messiah.” Paul said, “At that time, back in the Dispensation of Law, you had no Messiah. You were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. You were strangers from the covenant of promise.”

Let us remember, the covenant of promise that God made with Abraham, the Palestinian Covenant, did not include the Gentiles. No provision was made for them. The Apostle went on to say, “At that particular time, you were without hope because the Gentile world was steeped in idolatry and had no hope of eternal life. You were without God.” That was true, because the Gentile world did not know anything about the true God. Look at verse 13:

Ephesians 2:

13 But now [under the new covenant] in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off [that is, you who were at one time a way off from God] are made nigh [now] by the blood of Christ.

“You are just as close as Israel; you are made nigh by the blood of Christ. As a matter of fact,” he said, “you are closer than they were. But you're both on the same level.” Look at verse 14 now:

Ephesians 2:

14 For he [the Lord Jesus Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one…

That is, the Jew and the Gentile. He's made us one, instead of two separate people. And how has He done that?

Ephesians 2:

14 … and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [that separated us]

There was a wall between the Gentile and the Jew, but Jesus Christ has broken that wall down. “What do you mean, Paul, by ‘broken it down'?” How did He do it? Look at verse 15:

Ephesians 2:

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

What was the wall that separated the Gentile and the Jew? The old covenant, the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments. He broke down that wall by discharging all the obligations to it, and He made Jew and Gentile in one new man. Not that He might make the Gentile as good as the Jew, or not that He might bring the Jew down to the level of the Gentile; that wasn't it. In verse 16:

Ephesians 2:

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God [for the Gentile needed reconciliation, and the Jew needed reconciliation. And the lord Jesus Christ reconciled us both] in one body [that is, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ] by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has bound the hearts of Jew and Gentile together when they come into a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We remind you that where the old covenant was related only to Israel, the New Covenant is all-inclusive and no one is left out.

We've already related to you how difficult it was for Israel to obey the old covenant. Oh, how hard it was! If you don't think it was hard - that is, if you don't have sense enough to know that it's hard, read chapter 7 of the book of Romans. It's hard to keep the old covenant, so hard, as a matter of fact, that it has never been done.

When we hear about the New Covenant, how do we feel about it? Do we find ourselves saying, “Oh, is this just another rule that I have to keep that I can't keep? Is this another obligation that I have to discharge when I don't have strength enough to discharge it? Is that what it is?”

A New Approach

Well, Beloved, I couldn't rejoice as I talk with you about a New Covenant if that were true. Thank God it isn't true! Along with the New Covenant, God brought a new approach. I would like for us to turn to the book of Ezekiel so that you won't think, as some people do, that the New Covenant is only related to the New Testament. It was prophesied as well in the Old Testament. Notice in chapter 36, verse 25, God says:

Ezekiel 36:

25 [When I institute this New Covenant for you] Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

You will no longer be mixed up with idolatry when I give the New Covenant. Notice verse 26 now:

Ezekiel 36:

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

I don't know how this appeals to you, but it thrills my heart. It thrills my heart to know that when God saved me, He took away that stony, rebellious heart and gave me a heart that would be tender toward Him, and He saved me. He caused the Holy Spirit to move into my life so that the Holy Spirit could direct my footsteps in the path that He wants me to walk. And the struggle is over.

Walk In The Spirit

If you are struggling to live right today, one of two things is true: either you have never been born-again, or if you have been born-again, you don't realize that you don't need to struggle. Either you haven't been born-again, or you have never recognized that every believer should be continuously controlled by the Holy Spirit and through that continuous control, walk where God leads.

Let the Apostle Paul tell us about it in the New Testament because we don't want to be partial and take something from the Old and not take it from the New as well. This is a wonderful truth taught in both testaments. In Romans, chapter 8, verse 4, we read:

Romans 8:

4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

May I suggest to you that in this Dispensation of Grace the precious privilege that is extended to all believers is the privilege of walking after the Spirit. You can walk after the flesh if you want to, but you don't have to; you can walk after the Spirit. I remind you that the only way you can have any victory, the only way that you will ever be able to please the Lord is to walk after the Spirit.

Pleasing The Lord

Have you said at some time of other, “Oh, I try so hard to please God; I hope I do.” Have you said something like that at some time or other? Well, don't be shocked, but let me suggest that you quit trying to please Him. You can't do it. Why can't you do it? Look at verse 5:

Romans 8:

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can [it] be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

You see, you can't please Him. There's no way in the world it can be done. But, notice the next verse:

Romans 8:

9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Beloved, if you are among that group of people who feel that the Holy Spirit does not come into your life until sometime after you are saved, then, according to this passage of Scripture, you have no assurance of your salvation at all. The very moment that you are born-again the Holy Spirit moves in, and the very moment that He moves in He takes over, and He will keep control as long as you let Him have it. But if you say to Him, “Holy Spirit, I'm tired of doing what you're suggesting. I want to walk in the flesh,” the Holy Spirit doesn't say, “Now, you can't walk in the flesh; you're going to walk in the Spirit!” He says, “All right, if that's what you want.” and He just turns the reins of your life over to you, and you walk in the flesh.

That's the reason some of you are having the miserable time you're having. You're walking in the flesh. That's the reason you're not enjoying the things of the Lord. That's the reason there's no peace. You're walking in the flesh. You've said, “I want to run things for a while.” Now, in less time than it's taking me to say it. if you would say, “Holy Spirit, I made a mistake. I don't want to walk in the flesh. I'm born-again. I want to walk in the Spirit. Take control.” He'll take control, just like that. Oh, I don't mean you have to say those same words, but you get what I mean. Give the control of your life over to the Holy Spirit, and then you will find yourself walking in a way that pleases God.

Course Of The Dispensation

I wish I could tell you that this is the course that this dispensation took and is taking. I wish I could tell you that the course of this dispensation is one toward victory, but I can't tell you that. The course of this dispensation is just like the course of every other dispensation. It is heading down the road to failure, for men are not walking by the Spirit, and they are not living by grace. If we had the time, we might discuss the characters related to this dispensation. We have referred to them: the Jew, the Gentiles, and the Church of God. We don't have time to talk about them in detail, but if we did we would find that each individual in the dispensation has failed. The course of the dispensation is failure, because men are not handling the grace of God as they should.

Falling From Grace

The Bible says that there are four things men do in relation to the grace of God that they shouldn't do which indicates the failure of the dispensation. The Word of God says that some men fall from grace. Someone says, “Oh, I knew you could lose your salvation!” No, no, I'm not talking about that. That's a phrase that man has coined in relation to the loss of salvation. You don't find it in the Word of God.

Do you know what it means to fall from grace? It means that you revert back to the old habits instead of walking in the Spirit and pleasing God. That's “falling from grace.” And men do that in spite of everything.

Just as God looked down upon the course of the Dispensation of Human Government and saw that the whole world was steeped in wickedness, He looks down upon the course of this dispensation and can say concerning His own: “They are falling from grace.” The vast majority of Christendom has fallen from grace. Without being critical of any church or denomination, as such, I challenge you to examine the teaching from the pulpit and you will discover that the vast majority of Christendom has fallen from grace. It's work, work, work, effort, effort, effort, please, please, please, and no grace.

Frustrating The Grace Of God

The Word of God says that in this dispensation men can frustrate the grace of God. How do they frustrate the grace of God? By thinking that they have to add something to the finished work of Christ upon the Cross for salvation. Notice carefully what I am saying, whether you agree with me or not, and before you reject it, you prove it's wrong. If you insist that you have to be baptized in order to be saved, then you are frustrating the grace of God. If you insist that you have to live right after you are saved, on your own effort, then you are frustrating the grace of God. If you insist that you have to join a church after you are saved, then you are frustrating the grace of God.

Turning The Grace Of God Into Lasciviousness

Men frustrate the grace of God. Men fall from the grace of God. Men turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. Do you know what that means? That means that, instead of looking upon the grace of God as a great incentive to live pleasing to the Lord, they look upon it as a license for sin, and they bring reproach upon the testimony of Christ.

Shame on you today if you let anyone think for a moment that you are turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Shame on you today if you go about saying, “I'm saved, so I can do anything I want to do; it doesn't matter what I do - I'm going to Heaven; goody, goody!” Shame on you! That is turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and it's a pretty good indication that you don't know anything about the grace of God. Once you have had a vision of the grace of God, you won't be seeing how many things you can do to get away with. You'll be asking God to have mercy on you because you're such a vile creature.

Receiving The Grace Of God In Vain

The fourth thing that men do in relation to the grace of God is that they receive the grace of God in vain. That applies to every Christian who is defeated today and refuses to draw upon the grace that God has provided for whatever emergency he may be facing.

The Apostle Paul says, “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Apostle Peter says, “We are stewards of the manifold, many-sided, many-colored, grace of God. In every situation, there is a provision of God's grace.”

Do you see why I say that the course of this dispensation is like the course of the dispensation past? It tends toward failure. We're not doing at all what we could do.

Climax Of the Dispensation

How is this dispensation going to reach its climax? Let me give it to you in one simple sentence: This age is going to reach its climax in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. When God feels that when man has had ample opportunity to prove himself under a given dispensation, according to a specific revelation, He brings that dispensation to an end. He will bring this dispensation to an end with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And what does that mean? It means that every Christian shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ for judgment of his works, “to give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad.” Read II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 10, when you have time.

And what does the Second Coming of Christ mean for the Jew? Remember, the characters of this dispensation are the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. What does the climax of this dispensation mean to the Jew? It means that the Jew will go through seven years of intense judgment, intense chastening, intense trouble, until at the end of that time the veil will be taken from their eyes. They will be able to recognize their mistake in rejecting Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. They will look unto Him whom they have pierced, and when they do, the Lord Jesus Christ will come to the earth to deliver them out of trial and out of tribulation.

Compassion Of God

The last word we want to discuss is the word compassion . I said to you that in every dispensation the compassion of God is manifested, for God in His mercy remembers judgment. His compassion is shown toward the Church, for in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 10, we are promised that He will save us from the hour of tribulation that is coming to try the world. We won't have to go through this hour of tribulation. This hour of tribulation will be so horrible that any difficult time this world has ever seen will seem like a picnic in relation to it. God has promised, “Because you've kept the Word of My patience, I will keep you from the hour that is coming to try the world.”

His compassion is even shown in relation to the nation of Israel, because in Matthew, chapter 24, describing this terrible time of tribulation, God says, “If it were not for the elect's sake, no one could stand. But for the elect's (the nation of Israel) sake, the days of the tribulation are shortened.” And there will be a remnant, a remnant of people who will believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and Messiah.

Conclusion

Beloved, you are living in the Dispensation of Grace. The other dispensations are of interest to you because you need to know how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. But the Dispensation of Grace should be exceedingly important to you because you are involved in it. If you are trying to live in this dispensation on the basis of the past dispensations, I know you are miserable and unhappy. You couldn't be victorious. I beg of you, leave the old dispensation where God left it - nailed to the Cross - and enjoy this present dispensation as you walk in the Spirit. If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and to walk in the Spirit simply means to walk at the direction of the Spirit.


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