Church (Part I)

Since the current dispensation is the dispensation of the Church, this dispensation gets the most attention by modern writers. Not only does it get a lot of attention, but it also causes much confusion. The Church is a distinguishable economy, that is, we can tell the difference between one dispensation and the next. Yet some dispensationalists confuse the place of the Law in the life of a Christian while denying any connection at all between the two dispensations. A consistent application of the interpretative principle should assist in distinguishing between the twodispensations.

Historically, the title Grace has been attributed to the current dispensation, and not without warrant. Paul contrasts the time of the Law with the present time of grace in Ephesians 3. That being said, when the title Grace is used, some could misunderstand the dispensationalist as teaching that God did not show grace to mankind in any other dispensation. This, of course, is not true. God is always gracious, and he has shown grace to men and women in every dispensation.

Charles Ryrie prefers the term Grace because he believes it is the primary characteristic of God’s dealing in the world today. God has liberated mankind from the burdens of the Law, and, in a sense does not rule with an iron fist over his subjects. Forgiveness is the counterpart of grace by which God deals with mankind and men should deal with others, both inside and outside of the church.

Even though the Apostle Paul uses the term grace to describe the current dispensation, the term Church is preferable. First of all, it does not bring with it the negative connotations that the term grace does. Secondly, as mentioned previously, God does work graciously in the lives of men in all dispensations, whether in common grace, or in salvation. Forgiveness of sin is not a new concept to the current time, either. It is evidenced in the Garden of Eden, in the life of Cain, and even in the Law (See Leviticus 4-5.).

If the question is asked this way, “What is the means by which God is managing the affairs of mankind during the current dispensation,” the response may be, “by means of the Church.” This is not to say that every person alive is a member of the Church universal, or even part of a local assembly. Likewise, not everyone received a promise during the dispensation of Promise. This dispensation is characterized by the way the recipients of the promises responded, and how others treated them. Likewise, the Church has a responsibility in the world and to the world. (to be continued)