Powerful Message by Leonard Ravenhill
Powerful Message by Leonard Ravenhill
A great sermon by the late Leonard Ravenhill
In Defense of Job
by Joanne Panettieri
Job 1: 1 “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
The book of Job is considered by scholars to be the oldest book of the bible and its theme is “why the righteous suffer”. The author, according to Rabbinic sources, is accredited to be Moses. There are writers who have said that because the Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible that it is a foundational teaching. And according to the “law of first mention” it should be studied as a most important theme, since God gave it to us first. One author stated that if you do not understand the God of Job, you do not understand God.
Having gone through personal suffering over the past several years, my husband and I have gleaned a lot of wisdom from the life and sufferings of Job. And God has deepened our understanding of Himself and His ways in the lives of his children. It has become our belief that God not only allows suffering in the lives of His saints, but sometimes He actually orchestrates it. But more on that later!
In sharing some of my thoughts on Job and suffering, I have run across great opposition by other Christians. There are two great divides in the minds of Christians about Job. One, that his life was “before the cross” and therefore does not apply, since Jesus suffered and died for us and therefore we do not have to suffer. The second is that God would never ALLOW us to suffer. The argument I keep hearing is this: “Job had fear in his life and this opened the doorway for the devil to attack him”. Where this “blame the victim” mentality about Job came in, I do not know, but it is totally erroneous regarding Job!
Job Was Blameless!
The book opens by describing Job’s character as being upright and blameless. A man who feared God and shunned evil. Job 1:1
It is rather hard for anyone to believe that God would allow such a man to suffer! Reading on we find that Job was a very blessed man:
Job “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. “ Job 1: 2-3
Job was also a loving and caring father who regularly gave burnt offerings to God on behalf of his children, just in case they sinned.
God himself initiates the attack against Job!
In the beginning of Job Chapter 1 we see that the sons of God (some form of divine beings) appear before God and Satan (the deceiver) appears with them.
Job 1: 6 – 12
“One day the angels (Sons of God) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”
God tells Satan that his servant Job is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and there is no one like him. At this Satan throws in God’s face that it is only because God has a hedge around him and that Job is blessed, that he is like this. No where in this exchange does it mention that Job had a fear problem, or was in sin, or that there was a doorway open for Satan to attack him! God initiated the entire event! God knew beforehand what would happen to Job and God allowed it.
God allows Job to be tested!
At the end of Chapter 1, after we see that Job has lost all his children and everything he has, that Job falls on his face and worships God! This is the lesson we are to glean from the example of Job, a righteous man who suffered! A man who praised God in the midst of horrific circumstances.
Job 1: 21 – 22
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
In all of this Job did not sin, even when his wife told him to “curse God and die”! And in the end Job has a double portion of wealth and new children.
Job 2: 9-10
“His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job acknowledged that both good and trouble come from God himself!
The apostle Peter makes a comparison to the trial of Job when he encourages the believers in the first century. The goal of testings and trials is the refining of our faith!
1 Peter 4: 6 -9
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
God’s great concern is the proving of our faith. God will allow trials to come into our lives to accomplish that end.
Does God direct and allow suffering under the New Covenant?
Let us not forget that the first century church endured much suffering. All of Jesus’ 12 apostles, except for John, suffered martyrs deaths. And many saints were persecuted by the Jews, and suffered and died under Nero. (For more information on this see Fox’s Book of Martyrs).
If you are a born again Christian, bought by the blood of Jesus, the devil can NOT randomly touch you! The common teaching of today is that you yourself give Satan legal access by sinning. This is partly true, but even for the saint who sins there is forgiveness if one repents. The only way the devil can attack you is if he gets permission by God, because YOU BELONG TO HIM!
It is my opinion that we have a misunderstanding about God. Isa 45:7 tells us: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”
I heard Derek Prince once say that God is ruthless in carrying out his preordained purposes! The eternal purpose of God in Ephesians 1 is “to bring all things together in Christ”. In order for us to be brought into the fullness of Christ we must apply the cross in death to our selves, and the cross is ruthless. Jesus told us If you love your life (your soul) you will lose it. We are called to live a crucified life and to constantly put to death the misdeeds of the soul!
The apostle Paul states in Galatians 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”
1 Peter 4: 1-2
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”
God Disciplines His Children
Hebrews 12: 4 – 11
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he (God) rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he (God) chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
The word “chasten” in the above verse means:
mastigoó: to scourge
Original Word: μαστιγόω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (mas-tig-o’-o)
Short Definition: I flog, scourge
Definition: I flog, scourge, the victim being strapped to a pole or frame; met: I chastise.
The meaning of this is that God will scourge you in order to get out of you what is not conforming to the image of Christ in your life! Sometimes this is very painful, but it is an act of love given in love by God himself.
God sent a trial to the apostle Paul:
In order to keep Paul from being conceited the Lord allowed a messenger of Satan to attack him:
1 Cor 12: 7 – 10
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
As Christians we will always have trials!
Isaiah 43: 2 Does not say “if” but “when”
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
We are encouraged to live our lives as living sacrifices. The sacrifice was put on an altar and slain! This is a paradox of the Christian life: We are to be living dead men.
Romans 12: 1 – 2
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We are encouraged by the apostle Peter to rejoice in our sufferings because they are revealing the glory of Jesus Christ in us!
1 Peter 4: 12 -13
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Jesus himself, as the author of our salvation and the pattern son over God’s house, also suffered by the hand of God.
Isa 53: 10 “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer”
We are made perfect through suffering
Hebrews 2: 10 – 11
“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. “
The principle here is that if God made Jesus perfect through suffering, and we are of the same family as he, He will also make us perfect through sufferings! The word “perfect” in the above verse means “to bring to an end”, “complete”. God’s will is that we are conforming daily to the image of Jesus Christ in the earth. It is the ultimate goal of our faith!
Please take a moment to listen to this song!
Buckle your seat belts folks!
THE “SEVEN DISPENSATIONS” VIEWED IN THE
LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE
LET us at this point inquire what, if any, support the Bible lends to the basic idea of modern dispensationalism, namely, that God has divided all time (past and future) into seven distinct and clearly distinguishable “dispensations;” and that in each of those “dispensations” He deals with mankind upon a special plan and upon peculiar principles that differ from those of all the others.
WHAT IS A “DISPENSATION”?
And first, as regards the meaning of the word itself, it is easily to be seen, that the Biblical meaning thereof is radically different from that assigned to it by the “Scofield Bible,” where it is stated that:–
“A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to some specific revelation of the Will of God” (note to Gen. 1:28).
But in our English Version of the Scriptures the word “dispensation” is not in a single instance used to designate a period of time. Paul says, “A dispensation of the gospel is committed to me” (I Cor. 9:17); that is to say, the gospel had been entrusted to him to be dispensed by him. And the word has a like signification in other passages, all its occurrences being in the writings of the apostle Paul. Thus in Ephesians 1:10 is a reference to “the dispensation of the fulness of the times”; and the apostle is there speaking of that which God had purposed to administeror dispense in these last days. (“The fulness of the time,” according to Galatians 4:4, is the era when “God sent forth His Son.”).
Again in Ephesians 3:2 Paul speaks of “the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward”; the meaning being that the ministry given him was to dispense the grace of God to the Gentiles.
And lastly, in Colossians 1:25 he refers to “the dispensation of God,” that had been given him, “to fulfil the word of God”; the reference being to that which God had made him responsible to administer or dispense, in fulfilment of the word of God concerning His previously concealed purpose as to the salvation of the Gentiles. These are all the occurrences of the word.
In the English Version of the Bible, therefore, the word “dispensation” means always administration, or stewardship. Our English word “economy” comes directly from the Greek word rendered “dispensation” in the four passages above referred to. It is to be deplored that a biblical word of definite signification should have been chosen for the purpose of this new system of doctrine, and a radically different meaning assigned to it.
Then further we are told, in the words of a prominent dispensationalist, that each of these seven distinct periods of time has “a character exclusively its own,” being “wholly complete and sufficient in itself,” that it “is in no wise exchangeable for the others, and cannot be commingled.” That is to say, each “dispensation” has its own peculiar and distinguishing characteristics, insomuch that, when one succeeds another, there is a complete and radical change in the character and principles of God’s dealings with the world. So say the dispensationalists; but I find in the Scriptures no evidence to support the statement. On the contrary, I find that, in every age and era, God has accepted those who believed Him and refused those who disbelieved Him. Salvation has always been “by grace, through faith,” and upon the ground of the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Adam and Eve and Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and David were one and all saved precisely as we are.
WHY SEVEN DISPENSATIONS?
And now, what warrant is there for the statement that “seven such dispensations are distinguished in the Scripture” (Scofield Bible, note to Gen. 1:28)? And how does the Scripture distinguish them?
The correct answer is that there are no “such dispensations distinguished in the Scripture.” The method by which they have been arrived at is purely arbitrary, fanciful, and destitute of scriptural support; the method being to select arbitrarily some epoch, such as the Exodus, and say “here began a new dispensation.” But obviously the number seven is entirely arbitrary; for it is possible, by the method described, to divide human history as recorded in the Scriptures into any desired number of “dispensations.” One is at liberty to take any and every important era, as the beginning of the era of the Judges, of that of the Israelitish kingdom, that of its division into two parts, the Assyrian captivity, the return from Babylon, the destruction of Jerusalem, the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles (Acts X), and say, “Here began a new dispensation”; and he would have for his dispensational scheme all the warrant that our dispensationalists have for their’s–that is to say, none at all.
And if one who searched the Scriptures for indications of dispensational divisions were to assert that there was one dispensation that extended from Abraham to David, another from David to the Babylonian captivity, and another from the Babylonian captivity to Christ, he might refer to Matthew 1:17 as lending support to his scheme; whereas for the dispensational system set forth in the Scofield Bible there is no semblance of any scriptural proof.
In laying out its scheme of the seven dispensations the Scofield Bible makes the first to be the dispensation of “Innocence,” and has not much to say about that. The second we are told, is that of “Conscience,” which began, our authority asserts, at the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. But where is there a scrap of evidence to support the idea that this period was distinguished in any special way as regards God’s dealings with men, from later times? or that “conscience” figured in it any more conspicuously than in other periods? To fulfil the definitions given by the dispensationalists themselves, it is necessary that “conscience” should characterize this period exclusively; for there must be “no commingling.” But the fact is thatnothing is said in the Scriptures, either directly or by implication concerning the human conscience during that period of history, or concerning man’s being left in those remote times to the voice of his conscience; whereas, on the other hand, much is said in the New Testament about the part conscience is to have in shaping our conduct in this gospel era, and as to the importance of having a “good conscience,” a “pure conscience,” a “conscience void of offense”; and about what we are to do “for conscience’ sake.”
Thus the whole system breaks down at this initial stage; for manifestly it is impossible to confine the operations of the human conscience to the comparatively unknown period that extends from the fall of man to the flood.
Third Dispensation. This is said to embrace the period extending from the flood to the call of Abraham; and we are told that this was the dispensation of HUMAN GOVERNMENT. (Scofield Bible, note to Gen. 8:20). But upon what evidence, I ask, can it be asserted that God was in any special sense (much less in an exclusive sense) dealing with the world, during that era of time, through the medium of “human government”? The fact is that there is no mention at all of human government during that period. The only recorded event belonging to it is the building of the tower of Babel; and there is no indication of human government in connection with that event. The building of that tower was not begun, continued or ended at the command of a human governor. On the contrary, what we read is that:–
“It came to pass as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick . . . and let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name” (Gen. 11:1-4).
There is no trace of human government here. But now, in this gospel era, we are specially commanded to be in subjection to human governmental authorities,–kings, rulers, and magistrates of lesser degree; and are instructed by the Scriptures that “the powers that be are ordained of God,” and the civil magistrate is “the minister of God” (Rom. 13:1-4; Tit. 3:1; I Pet. 2:13, 14). Is not this quite enough to show that the scheme of seven distinct dispensations is the product of the human imagination, and destitute of biblical support? Are we not justified in concluding without going further into the subject, that the reason why the discerning Bible students of past centuries did not find the seven dispensations in the Scriptures is that they are not there?
But let us nevertheless pursue the interesting subject a little further, and give heed to what is said concerning
The Fourth Dispensation. This, according to the same authority, was the dispensation of “Promise” (S.B. note on Gen. 12:1); and it extended from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. This period embraced the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. In it occurred the multiplication of their seed in Egypt, the afflictions they endured in that land, their miraculous deliverance out of it by the hand of Moses, and the giving to them of the law of God with the “statutes and judgments,” which prescribed for that people the worship of God and defined their relations and duties to one another. Now I ask, wherein was that period in any special sense the “dispensation of Promise”? There were indeed promises given to the fathers of Israel during that period; but there had been promises given previously, notably that grand, all-embracing, most glorious promise recorded in Genesis 3:15, concerning the Seed of the woman; a promise that includes both “the sufferings of Christ,” the coming Redeemer of the world, and also “the glories that should follow.” There was also the world-embracing promise given to Noah (Gen. 9:9-17). And there were also promises in profusion in subsequent times, as for example in the era of “the law and the prophets.” And it is needless to say that the New Testament Scriptures simply abound in “exceeding great and precious promises.”
So there is not the slightest warrant for marking off the centuries during which the natural descendants of Jacob were being multiplied into a nation, and making that era a “dispensation” specially characterized by divine promises.
The Fifth Dispensation. This is said to be the dispensation of “Law,” and it is put in the strongest possible contrast to the next succeeding “dispensation,” that of “Grace.” And further we are told that “This dispensation [of Law] extends from Sinai to Calvary; from the Exodus to the Cross; from Ex. 19:8, to Matt. 27:35” (S. B. notes).
Here is where some of the most serious evils of dispensationalism come clearly into view; for the aspersions which the teachers of that system cast upon the holy law of God constitute in their totality a complete and grievous misrepresentation thereof; and in certain extreme instances they assume the character of slanderous vilification. But before glancing at some of these, let it be noted that the much maligned “dispensation of law” is said to have embraced the entire lifetime of our Lord–“from Ex. 19:8 to Matt. 27:35“; for it is one of the points upon which the dispensationalists mainly insist, that the Gospels belong to the era of law, and not to that of grace; which I am bold to say is palpable and pernicious error. For as regards the termination of the era of the law, we have the word of our Lord that “The Law and the prophets were”–not until Calvary, but–“until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached” (Lu. 16:16). And in agreement with this it is written: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
These Scriptures declare in the plainest terms that the life and words and works of our Lord “in the days of His flesh,” including the “Sermon on the Mount” (concerning which we have something special to say) belong, not in the twilight era of the law of Moses, but in the full daylight era of “grace and truth.” They also make it plain that the era of “the Kingdom of God”followed immediately upon that of “the law and the prophets”; and further that the era of “the Kingdom of God,” and that of “grace and truth” are one and the same. And this a matter of special importance because, as I expect to point out in some detail later on, the humanly concocted scheme of the “seven dispensations,” which we are now considering, has had the effect of blotting out, for those who accept it, the illuminating truth which the Scriptures reveal concerning the Two Covenants, “the old covenant,” whereof Moses was the mediator, and “the newcovenant” whereof Jesus Christ is the Mediator. For the Bible clearly distinguishes those two covenants and the eras to which they respectively belong; and moreover, upon that difference depends truth of the highest value. Therefore, one object I have in view, in exposing the unfounded character of dispensationalism, is to clear the ground for the presentation of the truth concerning “THE TWO COVENANTS” (Gal. 4:24).
But apart from the palpable error of placing our Lord’s life and ministry in the era of law as distinguished from that of grace, the strongest exception is to be taken to the teaching that gracewas entirely absent from the era of law, even as law is said to be absent from the era of grace; this being a two-fold error. And in this connection I would particularly like to ask those who hold that view, and who place the ministry of Christ in the dispensation of law, was not His ministry a ministry of grace? and were not His words “words of grace”? I wonder that this grievous teaching does not evoke bursts of indignation from those who love the Lord and who are accustomed to go for their comfort to the Gospels.
This brings us to what the “Scofield Bible” teaches concerning the holy law which God gave at Mount Sinai to the people He had delivered out of the “iron furnace” of Egypt. And first I call attention to these extraordinary statements:
“It is exceedingly important to observe . . . that the Law was not imposed until it had been proposed and voluntarily accepted” (Note on Ex. 19:3). “At Sinai they (Israel) exchanged Grace for Law. They rashly accepted the Law” (Note on Gen. 12:7).
Here we have in brief the teaching (which is amplified in the writings of this new school of theology) that Israel was given an opportunity to choose between Law and Grace, that they were put under the law of God by their own choice; and further that they chose “rashly,” and hence made, ” not a bad choice merely, but–one that was fatal, if so be that the differences between Law and Grace are what the dispensationalists aver.
As to this I say, first of all, that it is palpable error. For no choice was presented to Israel between Law and Grace, or between Law and any alternative. On the contrary, it was an essential part of God’s plan in taking them out of Egypt, which He accomplished by signs and by wonders and by a mighty hand, that He might have a people who should be the custodians of His law. Thus, Psalm 105 recites the fact that the giving of the law was in fulfilment of God’s covenant with Abraham (vv. 8-10). And it goes on to recall how He delivered them out of Egypt by the hand of Moses and Aaron, led them by the pillar of cloud and fire, gave them food in the desert and water out of the rock; and all to the end “That they might observe His statutes and keep His laws” (v. 45).
It is quite plain from the account given in Exodus, and also from references to the wondrous event in many later Scriptures, that the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai was God’s act alone; and also that it was an act of grace and goodness. The reason He gave them His “fiery law” was because “He loved the people.” Yet the teaching of the “Scofield Bible” is that the people of Israel made a fatally bad choice in consenting to be under the law of God. The statement that “they rashly accepted the Law” implies that they acted without due consideration, and did not know what they were doing or what would be the consequences of their rash choice. And this necessarily implies that God acted unfairly toward them; that He took advantage of their ignorance concerning what it meant to be “under the law,” that He thus led them into a deadly trap from which it was impossible thereafter for them or their posterity to extricate themselves.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. For the gift of law to Israel was both a distinguished honor and an unspeakable benefit. It gave them the knowledge of the true God; it gave them a way of access to Him for worship and for obtaining mercies and blessings; it gave them a sanctuary, a priesthood, acceptable sacrifices–including a sin-offering–and promises such that, by meeting the fair and reasonable conditions, they might have been a “peculiar treasure” to God and “a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” forever (Ex. 19:4, 5). Therefore, if it be asked, “What advantage then hath the Jew,” over all other nations in the world? the inspired answer is, “Much every way: Chiefly because that UNTO THEM WERE COMMITTED THE ORACLES OF GOD” (Rom. 3:1).
Most certainly the Scripture last quoted could never have been written if Israel had been put under law by their own choice, and if their choice had been a bad one; for it declares that the Jew, so far from being put at a disadvantage, enjoyed much advantage and in every respect; and that the chief of all their advantages was that unto them had been committed the oracles of God—the law and the prophets.
This subject, however, is too large and too important to receive proper notice at this stage of our inquiry. So we reserve it for further consideration later on.
The Sixth Dispensation. The sixth place in the dispensational scheme we are examining is assigned to Grace. And well may we rejoice that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared” (Tit. 2:11). But it is quite another thing to say that God’s Grace characterizes this era exclusively; that Law and Grace cannot be commingled; and that “They are as far asunder as Mount Sinai and the place called Calvary, and can no more mingle than the iron and clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-statue.”
The truth in this regard is that there was grace during the era of the Law, and that there is law during this era of the Gospel; that the New Covenant is the completion of the Old; and that the Gospel of God finishes the work that was begun by the Law of God. It would seem from the language our Lord used in Matthew 5:17 that He had this very error in view; for His words were“Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” And likewise Paul, in the question he asks and answers concerning the Gospel: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
Further consideration of this subject likewise must be deferred to a later chapter; so we will only add that the great difference between the past era and the present in respect to the law is that then the law of God was engraved upon tables of stone, whereas now it is written upon the hearts of His redeemed people (2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10).
The Seventh Dispensation. This, according to the most commonly held dispensational scheme, will be the Millennium; though some give a dispensational place to a supposed “great tribulation,” or “time of Jacob’s trouble,” which they hold to be yet to come. But inasmuch as our present concern is not with any conjectural dispensations yet in the future, we shall pass this part of the general subject by without comment.
TWENTIETH CENTURY DISPENSATIONALISM:
WHAT AND WHENCE?
FOR some of our readers a definition of modern dispensationalism will be a necessity, and for all it will be a convenience. It has been defined as “that system of doctrine which divides the history of God’s dealings with the world into periods of time, called “dispensations’.” And it is an essential tenet of the system that “in each dispensation God deals with man upon a plan different from the plan of the other dispensations. . . . Each dispensation is a thing entirely apart from the others, and, when one period succeeds another, there is a radical change of character and governing principles.” (Rock or Sand, Which?, by Matthew Francis).
For example, we are told that the present era is “the dispensation of Grace,” and the last preceding was “the dispensation of Law”; and therefore the teachers of the new system strain their ingenuity to show that there was no grace in the preceding “dispensation,” and there is no law now; whereas in fact there is all the law of God now that there ever was, and there was abundance of the grace of God in the “former times.”
In the elaboration of this crude system of error, the greatest harm has been done to the revealed truth of God concerning this present era of the Gospel. According to the prophecies of the Old Testament and the apostolical scriptures of the New as they have always been understood heretofore, this is the long looked for era of the Kingdom of God, foretold by the prophets. As Peter stated it, “All the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after as many as have spoken, have likewise”–he had just referred to Moses–“spoken OF THESE DAYS” (Acts 3:24); and in his first Epistle he declares that the things now reported by those who preach the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, are the very things, including the salvation of souls, that were ministered in times past by the prophets; and that it was the very same “Spirit of Christ that was in them,” Who now empowers the gospel preachers (I Pet. 1:9-12).
Likewise Paul emphatically declared that in all his preaching (which even the extremest dispensationalists acknowledge as belonging to this era of grace) he had said “none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (Acts 26:22).
But according to “dispensational teaching” this age is “a mystery,” a gap of unmeasured length intervening between the past era of the natural Israel, and a future era in which (so it is taught) that apostate nation will be reconstituted and its earthly glories will be restored and enhanced. We are told that “this gospel era was not in the view of the prophets at all;” and this is maintained despite the plain statements of Scripture just cited above and of others to the same effect.
One of the unhappiest of the results of this violent wrenching of the “things the angels desire to look into” from the place to which the word of God assigns them, is that “the Kingdom of God” in its entirety, including “the gospel of the Kingdom” (Mat. 24:14; Acts 20:25; 28:31) has been transferred bodily from this present age, and “postponed” to an hypothetical and mythical “dispensation” yet to come. This surely is a matter of such importance as to demand the most earnest attention of every saint of God; for it does violence to both the Old Testament and the New.
A RADICAL SYSTEM OF DOCTRINE
It will be readily seen therefore, that we have here to do with a system of teaching which, whether true or false, is of the most radical sort. Hence if true, it is most astonishing that not one of the Godly and spiritual teachers of all the Christian centuries had so much as a glimpse of it; and if false, it is high time its heretical character were exposed and the whole system dealt with accordingly. And inasmuch as it contradicts what every Christian teacher, without a known exception, has held to be the indisputable truth of Scripture concerning the Gospel of God and the Kingdom of God, it clearly belongs in the category of those “diversand strange doctrines,” against which we are specially warned (Heb. 13:9). For it is undeniably diverse from all that has been hitherto taught the people of God, and it is altogether “strange” to their ears. This I deem worthy of special emphasis, and hence would ask the reader to keep constantly in mind the fact of the absolute novelty of dispensationalism. For here is modernism in the strictest sense; and it is all the more to be feared and shunned because it comes to us in the guise and garb of strict orthodoxy.
WHENCE CAME THIS MODERN SYSTEM?
As regards the origin of the system: the beginnings thereof and its leading features are found in the writings of those known as “Brethren” (sometimes called “Plymouth Brethren,” from the name of the English city where the movement first attracted attention) though it is but fair to state that the best known and most spiritual leaders of that movement–as Darby, Kelly, Newberry, Chapman, Mueller and others, “whose names are in the Book of Life” ” never held the “Jewish” character of the Kingdom preached by our Lord and John the Baptist, or the “Jewish” character of the Gospels (especially Matthew), or that the Sermon on the Mount is “law and not grace” and pertains to a future “Jewish” kingdom.
From what I have been able to gather by inquiry of others, (who were “in Christ before me”) the new system of doctrine we are now discussing was first brought to the vicinity of New York by a very gifted and godly man, Mr. Malachi Taylor, (one of the “Brethren”) who taught it with much earnestness and plausibility. That was near the beginning of the present century, either a little before or a little after. And among those who heard and were captivated by it (for truly there is some strange fascination inherent in it) was the late Dr. C. I. Scofield, who was so infatuated with it that he proceeded forthwith to bring out a new edition of the entire Bible, having for its distinctive feature that the peculiar doctrines of this new dispensationalismare woven into the very warp and woof thereof, in the form of notes, headings, subheadings and summaries. There is no doubt whatever that it is mainly to this cleverly executed work that dispensationalism owes its present vogue. For without that aid it doubtless would be clearly seen by all who give close attention to the doctrine, that it is a humanly contrived system that has been imposed upon the Bible, and not a scheme of doctrine derived from it.
A REVIVAL OF ANCIENT RABBINISM
Then as to what this modern system of teaching is, it will be a surprise to most of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ to learn that, in respect to the central and vitally important subject of the Kingdom of God, twentieth century dispensationalism is practically identical with first century rabbinism. For the cardinal doctrine of the Jewish rabbis of Christ’s day was that, according to the predictions of the prophets of Israel, the purpose and result of the Messiah’s mission would be the re-constituting of the Jewish nation; the re-occupation by them of the land of Palestine; the setting up again of the earthly throne of David; and the exaltation of the people of Israel to the place of supremacy in the world.
Now, seeing that a doctrine is known by its fruits, let us recall what effect this doctrine concerning the Kingdom of God had upon the orthodox Jews who so earnestly believed it in that day. And in view of what it impelled those zealous men to do, let us ask ourselves if there is not grave reason to fear its effect upon theorthodox Christians who hold and zealously teach it in our day? The effect then was that, when Christ came to His own people, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, but making it known that that Kingdom did not correspond at all to their idea of it; when He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and taught that, so far from being Jewish, it was of such sort that a man must be born of the Spirit in order to enter it, then they rejected Him (“received Him not”) hated Him, betrayed Him and caused Him to be put to death.
Now let it be carefully noted in this connection, that the apostle Paul, referring to what had been done to Jesus by them “that dwelt at Jerusalem and their rulers,” said that the reason for their murderous act was “because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day”, and furthermore, that “they have fulfilled them in condemning Him” (Acts 13:27). This plainly declares that it was because the Jewish teachers had misinterpreted the messages of the prophets, that they were looking for the restoration of their national greatness, instead of that which the prophets had really foretold, a spiritual Kingdom ruled by “Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from the dead” (2 Tim. 2:18).
Have we not therefore, good reason to fear disastrous consequences from the fact that the teachers of the new dispensationalism say the Jewish rabbis were right in their interpretation of the prophecies, that the kingdom foretold by the prophets isan earthly kingdom of Jewish character, and that in fact Christ’s mission at that very time was to restore again the earthly Kingdom to Israel? And why then did He not do it? The answer the dispensationalists give to this crucial question is one of the strangest features of the whole system. They say, in effect, that Christ wasready to do it, and that He would have done it, but that when He “offered” them the very thing they were ardently expecting, they (most inconsistently, it would appear) “refused the offer,” whereupon it was “withdrawn” and the kingdom “postponed to a future dispensation.” And when we ask for the citation of a single Scripture that mentions the alleged “offer,” or its “refusal,” or the alleged “withdrawal” and “postponement,” not a reference is produced. And particularly, when we press the vital question, what, in case the offer had been accepted, would have become of the Cross of Calvary, and the atonement for the sin of the World, the best answer we get is that in that event, “atonement would have been made some other way.”Think of it! “Some other way” than by the Cross!
Now, in view of the above facts, I do most positively insist that, whatever the conclusion one may reach after an examination of the whole subject, there is to begin with, and because of the facts just stated, a very heavy “burden of proof” resting upon those who advocate this novel and radical system of teaching. And specially I insist that, as regards the doctrine of a future restoration of national Israel, with the accompaniment of supreme earthly greatness and dominion, there are two relevant facts that should receive our most serious attention: first, that that doctrine was the very cornerstone of the creed of apostate Judaism in its last stage, and the prime cause of their rejection and crucifixion of Christ; and second,that it made its first appearance among Christians near the end of the nineteenth century. These facts may not settle anything; but certainly they do impose a heavy “burden of proof” upon those who now teach that the apostate Jews were right in their interpretation of the prophets (whose “voices,” the apostle declares, “they knew not,” Ac. 13:27) and that christian teachers and expositors for nineteen centuries were all wrong.
SOME PRESSING QUESTIONS
Moreover, because of the springing up in our midst of this new system of doctrine, certain questions of the deepest interest to the people of God are pressing for an answer at this time. Among them are the following:
Was it any part of the work of Christ to revive and reconstitute the Jewish nation? to re-establish that people in the land that was once theirs? to revive their system of worship, etc.? Did He come to reinstate the bondwoman and her son in the family of Abraham? and to make the son of the bondwoman to be heir with the son of the free woman? Did He come to raise up again, and to make permanent, that “middle wall of partition” between Jew and Gentile, or to take it away entirely and forever? Did He come to restore the “shadows” of the old covenant, or to abolish them? These are questions of surpassing importance, and they press for settlement at the present time. We are deeply convinced that one of the most urgent matters for the Lord’s servants and people in these last days is to grasp the truth that there is absolutely no salvation of any sort whatever, no hope for any human being, except “through the blood of the everlasting covenant;” that there is nothing but the abiding wrath of God for those who do not stand upon the terms ofthat covenant; and especially that there is absolutely “no difference” in God’s sight, and in His future plans, between Jew and Gentile.
It is my purpose, in the pages that follow, to seek the scriptural answers to the above, and other questions of like import.