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Colossians 1:25-26
   Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia] of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
   Even the mystery [musterion] which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

   The Word of God declares that the Apostle Paul was given revelation regarding "the dispensation of God" which God labeled "the mystery"  to fulfil or fully preach the word of God.  God's Word is not complete without an understanding of this dispensation. 

2 Timothy 2:15
   Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing
[orthotomeo] the word of truth.

   We are charged with the admonition  to study as workmen and rightly divide the word of truth.  The words rightly dividing are the Greek word orthotomeo which literally means a straight cutting.  Every one that reads or studies God's Word divides it.  But to stand approved before God our dividing must be a perfectly right cutting.  An understanding of dispensations in God's Word is vital to rightly dividing truth from error.

   There are those who dismiss the dispensation of God regarding the mystery (along with the right dividing of God's Word) by labeling it an "ism."  An understanding of "To Whom" God is addressing revelation is necessary to rightly divide God's Word.  The response: "Oh, that's dispensationalism" to dismiss this requirement is not a valid working of God's Word.   The fact that John Nelson Darby (1800 - 1882) labeled a systematic theology "dispensationalism" does not change the truth that God has identified dispensations in His Word and that they must be recognized by the workman of the Word.

Hebrews 1:1-2a
   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
   Hath is these last days spoken unto us by his Son, . . .

   God gave different rules and standards at different times for people to live by.  Identifying dispensations in God's Word is rightly dividing the Word of Truth and is necessary if we are to come to an understanding of these changes and establish how we are to live today according to the scriptures written to us.  Are we to live according to the standards God set for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  Are we to keep the feasts and sacrifices of the law? 

Galatians 1:11-12
   But I certify you brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me
[Paul] is not after man.
   For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

   The Apostle Paul was given revelation of the dispensation of God regarding the mystery "by Jesus Christ."  Those who would elevate the "words of Jesus" would do well to recognize that the Word of God given to Paul is just as much the words of Jesus Christ as are those declared in the four Gospels.  The key is "To Whom" or "Regarding Whom" are each written.  In the Gospels Jesus Christ was not addressing Christians because there were no Christians until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two.

1 Corinthians 10:32
   Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.

   To understand "What does God's Word say?" you must rightly divide "To Whom" the Word is speaking.  God's Word declares that God's division of people is Jews, Gentiles, and the Church of God.  There are three categories of people in God's Word and all of the scripture is addressed to one (and sometimes more than one) of these three categories.  The Church Epistles of Romans through Thessalonians address "The Church of God" established by God on the day of Pentecost.  The Gospels are written concerning Jesus Christ's ministry to Israel.

Romans 15:8 
   Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

Matthew 15:24 
   But he answered and said, I
[Jesus Christ] am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Colossians 1:25-26
   Whereof I [Paul] am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia] of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
   Even the mystery [musterion] which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

   The Greek Word oikonomia is often translated as dispensation in the King James Version of the Bible.  Oikonomia means "managing or administering the affairs of a household.  God as the "Householder" gives stewardship or administrational responsibilities to men throughout the various times and ages recorded in His Word.  Oikonomia would be best translated and understood in our day and time as administration.  God declares to mankind "the rules, regulations, and standards" for the people on earth during a particular time just as a president declares how things will be done and decisions made during his particular administration. 

   By careful study of God's Word, you can identified seven administrations: The Original Paradise Administration,
The Patriarchal Administration,  The Law Administration, The Christ Administration,  The Grace Administration or the Administration of the Mystery,  The Appearing Administration,  and The Final Paradise Administration.

   These dividings of God's Word are based on how God worked, works, or will work with people during the identified time periods.  The word of God tells how man adhered to the rules of each administration and how God responded to man's rejection of the rules and established the next administration.

   In this short study I will identify two dispensations that God has specifically labeled using the word oikonomia in the Greek text.   So lets get to the Word and  look at the nine uses of the word oikonomia.

Luke 16:2-4
   And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship
[oikonomia]; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
   Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship
[oikonomia]: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
   I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship
[oikonomia], they may receive me into their houses.

   The first three uses of oikonomia are in a parable in the Gospels.  This record makes it clear that oikonomia refers to the administration of a household and a set time period in which a particular man was responsible for keeping a particular set of  rules and regulations for managing the house.  Should the administration change and be given to another it is likely that some of the standards for life under that new administration would also change. 

1 Corinthians 9:16-17
   For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me
[Paul]; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
   For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation
[oikonomia] of the gospel is committed unto me.

   The Apostle Paul was given charge to make known a specific dispensation or administration.  This verse tells us that this dispensation was committed to Paul and it was required that he preach it. 

Ephesians 3:2 - 5
   If ye have heard of the dispensation
[oikonomia] of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
   How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
   Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
   Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

   The book of Ephesians (more than any other book in the Bible) makes known the dispensation given to the Apostle Paul.  Here the dispensation is given a label BY GOD: "The Dispensation of the Grace of God."  It is further explained as "Revelation of the Mystery."  The word mystery is the Greek word
musterion which has been transliterated into the English word mystery.  Our modern English use of the word mystery may be misleading as we might think of a mystery novel in which clues are given throughout the pages of the book.  The Greek word musterion is a sacred secret that is never spoken or made known until it is revealed.   A musterion does not have clues or hints that you can discover after the secret is revealed.

   The Apostle Paul was given revelation of the secret regarding the Church of God and the time period in which we now live.  This secret dispensation was not made known to the sons of men  in other ages.  There were no clues.  The Old Testament prophets did not know about it and it was not made  known to Jesus Christ in the Gospel period.  God kept it hidden and revealed it to Paul (by revelation of Jesus Christ).  In other words, following his resurrection and ascension Jesus Christ was made head of a NEW group of people: the Church of God - where there is neither Jew nor Gentile.  As head, Jesus Christ then revealed the rules, regulations, and standards regarding this time period to the Apostle Paul.  This was NEW information kept secret in God.

   The Church of God which started on the day of Pentecost and will discontinue when we are gathered together to meet him in the air is a NEW group of people.  The promises made to Israel and the teachings of the Gospel period are rules, regulations and standards of former administrations that do not apply.

   Application of God's Word is to be according to whom it is addressed.  If principles, rules, and standards of living stated by Jesus Christ in the Gospel period do not contradict the rules, principles, and standards given to the Church,  then they may be applied by the Church.  However, if that which God has given to the Church as a standard differs from that which Jesus Christ spoke to Israel then the standard given to Israel must NOT be applied by us.   For example: If a doctor has written a drug prescription for Joe, and Mary gets a hold of that prescription and reads it: the information is specific to Joe and is not to be applied by Mary.  Mary has learned from the prescription about how the doctor is working with Joe.  Mary has, in fact,  gained a great deal of understanding about Joe and the way the doctor is working with him.  However, if Mary were to apply the prescription written to Joe to her own life it might very well be damaging.

   Our knowledge of the Gospels and of future administrations (revealed in the book of Revelations) must be understood in light of the revelation of the dispensation given to the Apostle Paul and addressed to us in the Church.  Failure to rightly divide the Word of God regarding the Church will result in error regarding whether or not salvation is permanent, the goodness and grace of God toward us in this day and time, the gathering together of the Church (sometimes called the rapture), judgment for rewards, and our part in future administrations. 

   God's fulfillment of His promises to Israel, keeping of the law, "believe unto death" salvation,  as well as many other Biblical truths regarding God's working with the Jews and Gentiles in the previous and future dispensations must be divided from God's standards for the Church of God at this present time.  These standards differ from the revelation given to the Church and therefore must not be applied by the Church.  Jesus Christ was a minister to the Circumcision (the Jews) and the teaching of the Gospels are specific to the promises and events that concern Israel.  They tell us about a dispensation that is past and one that is yet to come and how God will fulfill His promises and work with Israel.  When applied to the Church of God started on the day of Pentecost these teachings become contradictory and lead to confusion, fear, and error.

Ephesians 3:7-9
   Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
   Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
   And to make all men see what is the fellowship
[oikonomia] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,

   In these verses the word fellowship in the King James Version is the Greek word koinonia translated from the Stephens text.  Most other texts (Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Wordsworth) contain the Greek word oikonomia and would thus be consistently translated "dispensation of the mystery."  Here, once again, our present dispensation is given a label BY GOD.

   These verses tell us that knowledge of this present administration was unsearchable.  The word unsearchable is untrackable

Psalm 77:19 
   Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

   Just as the outlaws in the old western movies hid their tracks by riding their horses down the river, God's ways regarding the present dispensation are untrackable.  It was a sacred secret "hid in God" made known first to the Apostle Paul and the Church.  There are no clues or hints (let alone defined doctrine) about this dispensation revealed prior to the day of Pentecost.

Colossians 1:25-26
   Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia] of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
   Even the mystery [musterion] which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

   In Colossians this dispensation is also labeled BY GOD: "The Dispensation of God - The Mystery."  Here we see that this revelation given to Paul fulfills the word of God.  It completes God's revelation.  This dispensation was a secret hid from ages and from generations.  But now it is made known and the rules, principles, and standards of this administration are to be understood and applied by those of us who belong to the Church of God.

1 Timothy 1:4-7
   Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying
[oikonomia] which is in faith: so do.
   Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
   From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
   Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

   Timothy was admonished of Paul to not give heed to fables, endless genealogies, vain jangling, or teaching of the law.  These are all errors in understanding which minister questions rather than godly administration.  Timothy was to take on the leadership role of the Apostle Paul after his death.  Timothy needed to understand the godly dispensation of the mystery of the grace of God and not be distracted by those who wanted to put believers under the standards of a former dispensation.

   The ninth use of the word dispensation in God's Word is in regard to a future administration that GOD labels: "The Dispensation of the Fullness of Times."

Ephesians 1:10 
   That in the dispensation
[oikonomia] 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:

   God's Word declares that there is a dispensation coming in the fulness of times in which all things will be gathered together in Christ - both things which are in heaven and things which are on the earth. 

   In summary, dispensations are not theologies of men.  They are identified in the Word of God by God Himself.  As workmen of God's Word we must acknowledge that the Bible is written to Jews, Gentiles, or the Church of God.  The Church of God is a unique body which lives under a dispensation of God which began on the day of Pentecost and will conclude with meeting the Lord Jesus Christ in the air.  This dispensation is specifically labeled BY GOD as The Dispensation of the Grace of God or The Dispensation of the Mystery.  This dispensation was kept secret by God Himself and was not made known until after the day of Pentecost.  The workings of God, His standards for the Church, and how the Church of God is to relate to God both now and in the future are the subjects of the Epistles written by the Apostle Paul to whom God made known the secret.  There is also a future dispensation identified by God in Ephesians 1:10 that God labels The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.  These are dispensations specifically labeled in the Word of God which must be understood if we are to rightly divide the Word of God and stand approved.

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