1st Corinthians 9:17, “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” Ephesians 1:10, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” Ephesians 3:2, “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” Colossians 1:25, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;”
Dear reader, the word “dispensation” appears 4 times in the New Testament, and nowhere in the Old Testament. I have quoted these 4 mentions above. The Greek meaning of the word “dispensation” is the same in these 4 passages. It is the Greek word oikonomia, which according to Strong's Concordance means:
From G3623; administration (of a household or estate); specifically a (religious) “economy”: - dispensation, stewardship.
This sheds some light on what the Apostle Paul meant in 1st Corinthians 9:17, saying that God his entrusted him with “a dispensation of the Gospel.” God had entrusted Paul with the administration (the preaching of) the Gospel. Paul also refers to this in Ephesians 3:2 as “the dispensation of the grace of God.” Salvation is wholly by God's grace! Likewise, Colossians 1:25 refers to the preaching of the Gospel.
Now in Ephesians 1:10, the use of the word “dispensation” does not refer to just the Gospel, but to the final climatic gathering of all the saints into one Body of Christ. Read for yourself:
Ephesians 1:3-12, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
Boy, I love all that! Sounds great to me!!! We are the elect, the chosen, as God's adopted children. What were we chosen to? We do not believe because God chose us, God chose us because He knew that we would believe. Every believer was predestinated before the world began, not unto salvation, but to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:29). God knew in His foreknowledge who would receive Christ as Savior, and to all them He predestinated us, giving every believer an inheritance in Christ (Romans 8:32). Dear redeemed saint, God was making big plans for your life and mine before we were even born.
The phrase “fulness of times” simply refers to “the completion of time.” Dear friend, when all is said and done of history, Jesus Christ will triumph victoriously, and all those who trusted in Him as their Savior will share in His glory. We are on the winning side in Christ! In God's economy of time, all things will work together for good in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32). God will make it so! This is what Ephesians 1:10 is teaching, nothing more.
Now, the manmade system of dispensational teaching is something entirely different. Pastor Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921) popularized this new method of studying the Bible, which Pastor Harry Ironside (1876-1951) called “an overlay” of the Scriptures, “not doctrine.” However, I personally think it is a doctrine, because dispensational thinking affects how a Bible student views the Holy Bible, and that certainly is “doctrine.”
I know faithful pastors who are excellent Bible teachers, who utilize dispensational teaching. I am okay with that, just so long as they don't cross the line theologically and use it to idolize present-day manmade Israel (aka, Zionism). There is no special Bible promise of divine protection for Israel today. In fact, the Bible teaches quite the contrary, that Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentile until Christ's Second Coming (Luke 21:24). God's promise to bless those who bless, and curse those who curse, in Genesis 12:3 was only made to Abraham. Rebellious unsaved Jews today have no biblical right to expect God's blessings (Exodus 19:5-6). Deuteronomy 28 plainly teaches that God will bless or curse the Jews, conditioned upon their obedience or disobedience to His commandments.
I also don't agree with the idea that the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation chapter 1-3 refer to dispensations of time (or ages). Evangelist William P. Grady teaches this heresy, for which Pastor Jack Hyles threatened to fire him at Hyles-Anderson College if he didn't cease and desist to teach it to students (as he did me). There is absolutely nothing in the Holy Bible that even remotely suggests that these seven churches in Revelation coincide to “ages” of time, or “dispensations.” Dr. Hyles hated this heresy because it discourages young people from going soulwinning. Why should we work hard to win souls if we are living today in the Laodicean age of unbelief? I agree with Brother Hyles.
Furthermore, I do not like the idea of the Holy Bible being divided into SEVEN dispensations (time periods in which God dealt differently with humanity). God has already made TWO great divisions to His Word of Old and New Testament (or LAW and CHRIST). These TWO great divisions emphasis the free grace Gospel. But the SEVEN divisions made by dispensationalists focus on the future Kingdom of Israel, instead of upon the Gospel of the Kingdom. Evangelist Philip Mauro (1859-1952) authored an excellent book refuting the teachings of Cyrus I. Scofield, which I highly recommend and agree with titled: 'THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM.'
Philip Mauro emphasizes that God made TWO great divisions to His Word, not SEVEN. I fully agree with him about that. I think we ought to let the Holy Bible speak for itself, and not add thoughts and words to what God has already said. There is no need for dispensational teaching, and from what I have seen, it just confuses many students, leading them away from soulwinning and into manmade theology. There is no more of a lifeless and fruitless group in America today than theologians! Jesus didn't chose His apostles from among the local theological institutions or synagogues, he chose a fisherman, a tax collector, a doctor and common men. God doesn't need our intelligence, talents or abilities, He needs someone who will GO INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL.