THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
DOCTRINE AND DISPENSATION.
In our last article we remarked that, although the nation of Israel was addressed both by Peter and Paul, yet it
was the remnant that believed, and formed the nucleus of " the Assembly of God" during the Pentecostal Dispensation of the Acts of the Apostles. " Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel: though the
number of Israel be as the sand of the sea. THE REMNANT shall be
saved" (Rom. 9:27). "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a SEED,
we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha " (Rom. 9:29).
The "Remnant," and the "Seed," are used inter changeably (as a reference to the passages quoted from Isaiah will show), the idea being that the seed left over is reserved for sowing.
" Isaiah is very bold (Paul seems to rejoice at finding these words in the old Testament Prophet) and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not for Me." (This shows that the inclusion of the Gentiles in grace, was no mere new idea of Paul); " but to Israel He
saith, " All day long I have stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.'" This shows the attitude of Israel and of the Lord during the period of the Pentecostal Dispensation, which is the subject of the Acts of the Apostles. The time was fast hastening when another Scripture would he fulfilled: " Because I have called and ye refused ; I have stretched out My hand and no man regarded . . . They shall seek Me and shall not find Me." Prov.
1: 24-28. " Even so then at the present season there has been a Remnant according to the Election of Grace, and if by grace, it is no more of works." " Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for (cp. Rom. 10,
1-4), but the ELECTION hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (hardened)."
It is this Elect Remnant that gives the peculiar characteristics to the Acts of the Apostles. We must not forget, however, that although it was true when Romans was written,
it is not true NOW that there is a Jewish Remnant. For the time being, God recognizes no distinction :
" there is no difference " as to sin (Rom. 3: 22) and "no difference" as to grace (Rom.
10:12). Both are alike; both are sinners; both are saved in unconditional mercy. In the present Dispensation Doctrine arid Dispensation agree together, whereas in the past we have seen that it was not so.
The R.V. of Eph. 3 helps to show this, for, in verse 2, the Apostle speaks of the
" Dispensation of the Grace of God," and, in verse 2, he speaks of the
" Dispensation of the Mystery."
In the first part of the Acts the Remnant is centralized at Jerusalem. In the second portion the Remnant is found in the Dispersion among the Gentiles. In the Epistles of Paul written before Acts 28, the Jew and Jewish questions are everywhere prominent and uppermost (see
1 and 2 Cor., Gal., Rom).
To a large extent the Jewish Remnant never left the traditions of their fathers, nor the Law of Moses. Over twenty years after Pentecost it could be said " Thou seest, brother, how many MYRIADS of Jews there are which believe, and they are all
ZEALOUS OF THE LAW, and they are informed of thee that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs " (Acts
21:20 and 21).
This passage clearly shows the Apostle's ministry had a great deal to do with the Jews of the Dispersion;
and certainly, his teaching would have the tendency to loosen the ties of legalism.
The charge which was brought against Paul is very similar to that which was brought against Stephen
" This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us." How much did Stephen know? How far was he in advance of the other witnesses ? We cannot tell. He sealed his testimony with his blood, and the mantle of Stephen fell upon Saul, and a double portion of his spirit was given him. Paul seems to have been raised up to continue the witness of Stephen, addressing himself more particularly to the Jews of the Dispersion.
Many have found fault with Paul for heeding the words of James and the elders at Jerusalem. We must not forget that he himself tells us that he became a Jew to win the Jew, and the whole transaction in the Temple was concerning the feelings of the Jews-not touching anything to do with the Gentiles. In no subsequent allusion to this important period of his life does the Apostle express any sorrow for his action. On the contrary, during the next few days he received the encouraging words, from the Lord " Be of good cheer, Paul, for as thou
hast testified of Me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23. It).
Reverting to our reference to Acts 21, we see there the character of those who
formed the bulk of Jewish believers. To such, it would appear, the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, wherein the accusation made against Stephen, quoted above from Acts 6, is fully answered. The holy place, the law, the destruction of this place, and the changing of the customs of Moses, are all fully explained and enforced.
For any share in the foretaste of millennial blessings granted to the elect Remnant of Israel, the Gentile had to remember that he was the " Wild Olive graffed in contrary to nature ; " that the
" Root bare him, not that he bare the Root."
He was warned concerning a possible " cutting off," but was comforted by the fact that nothing could separate him from Christ.
The doctrinal teaching of Romans has come through to us to-day, amplified, bearing added glory, by reason of the fuller revelation of the heavenly exaltation of Christ. We have the same glad message of " Justification by faith without deeds of law;" we have the same message as to the all-sufficiency of Christ for His
|* We thus meet the misrepresentation of many who say that we rob them of the Bible, and take away the greater part of its teaching from them. We do nothing of the kind. We show how they may make restitution by returning the stolen property which belongs to the few.-(Ed.)
The Gospel of Grace leads on to the Gospel of the Glory, each being a phase of the
" Gospel of the uncircumcision " committed to Paul.
Consider the Gospel in " Ephesians."
With one majestic sweeping statement, the plan of salvation is given. The sinner,
DEAD in trespasses, is QUICKENED, RAISED, and SEATED in the Heavenlies
WITH CHRIST. No intermediate stages, no room for reforms or ordinances, but a grand almighty act of creative grace, raising the dead sinner to the Right Hand of God.
The doctrine of justification by Faith receives a full exposition in Phil. 3. The
doctrine of the Gospel committed to Paul is still truth for this present time, but the
Dispensational teaching, is entirely different. The Dispensational teaching of Paul did not take upon it a distinctive character until after Acts 28.
In Eph. 3, and Col. 1, he speaks of the Dispensation given unto him, viz., the Dispensation of the Mystery. In this honour it has pleased the Lord to allow none to share. We shall beheld responsible in that day for the way in which we have treated this Special Messenger. " Be thou not therefore ashamed of the Testimony of our Lord,
nor of me His prisoner." " If we deny Him, He also will deny us"
(2 Tim. 2:12).
Today we are totally severed from Abrahamic promises, kingdom blessings, hopes and ordinances. We have no hesitancy in saying that the words of Scripture " There is therefore now, a Remnant according to the election of Grace" is not a truth for the time now present. God has obliterated every distinction, He knows neither Jew nor Gentile (dispensationally or doctrinally), He recognizes only "sinners," with no other plea but Christ.
The Jew never did take precedence in salvation (although he thought that he did);
but he did take precedence so far as dispensational blessings were concerned, and will yet do so in the future Millennial Dispensation.
But now, neither in doctrinal blessings nor dispensational privileges, does he fare any better than the Gentile. Both Jew and Gentile who are "in Christ " are
HEIRS TOGETHER; both are equally members of the SAME BODY TOGETHER; both are partakers of
HIS PROMISE IN CHRIST by the Gospel (not " the promises "-the promises belong to Israel, Acts
2: 39, Rom. 9:4), but "HIS Promise in Christ," that is the promise which is specially revealed now, in its own peculiar season (Tit.
The " One Body " of Eph. 4, is peculiar to the present Dispensation. Gentiles were not admitted into membership of a Body already existing-it is a
new thing. While "the middle wall of partition" remained, while the enmity of Ordinances stood, the New Man, the One Body, was an impossibility. So long as it seemed good to the Holy Ghost to perpetuate a difference between Jew and Gentile, there neither was, nor could be, such a thing as the
ONE BODY of Eph. 4.
Some have a difficulty in the fact that they find written BEFORE Acts 28 the words " There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus
It must be remembered that the great controversy in Galatians is of a Doctrinal
character. Justification by faith without legal works of any kind is the grand truth, and the inspired challenge. The Judaisers (Acts 15, and Gal. 2), sought to make believing Gentiles attempt to perfect themselves by going through the rite of circumcision. If this had been allowed, it would have lent colour to the idea that the Jew was in a safer place, and on a higher platform, than the Gentile; but this was not so. While the Apostle himself admitted that, Dispensationally, Israel had many things denied to the Gentiles, yet Doctrinally they were in exactly the same need of the same grace and the same mercy. There was profit in circumcision
Dispensationaily ; there was none Doctrinally (compare Rom. 2: 25 ;
3:1 ; Gal. 5. 2).
The words of Gal. 3: 28 echo and answer the Pharisee's morning prayer, wherein he blesses God that he was not born a Gentile, a Slave, or a Woman. We must also remember the final clause of this passage "in Christ Jesus." This reference has to do with the believers relation to Christ, and his standing in grace. " In Christ " all factions cease, all differences fade. In Abrahamic blessings, and the covenants made unto the Fathers, the Jew takes the lead. " In Christ " the Jew is not, and the Gentile is not.
We know very well that a clear distinction is drawn between the man and the woman-even regarding ministry in the Church-yet " In Christ" there is neither male nor female. Eph. 6. gives a word to the " masters" and to the " slaves "-yet " In Christ " there is
" neither bond nor free."
This passage (Gal 3: 28), has reference to that truth which we have entitled " doctrinal " and which characterized the gospel proclaimed by Paul from the very first. It is noteworthy, in passing, that whereas the order of the words
before Acts 28 is "There is neither Jew nor Greek," when we read Col.
3:11, after Acts 28, the order is reversed-" There is neither Greek nor
Jew." If we see nothing further than the admission of the Gentiles upon terms of full equality to a unity already existing, we signally fail in appreciating the riches of grace that obtains
today over Jew and Gentile alike, utterly transcending every manifestation of grace that went before. God has fashioned the vessel anew as it hath pleased Him (Jer.
Failure to distinguish between the " nation " and the " remnant," the doctrinal and
dispensational teaching, means failure to understand the Epistle to the Romans, or indeed to understand the whole New Testament. So complete is the apostasy of the nation, that by the time " Romans" was written, the end of all was visible to the eye of the Apostle; their iniquity was full. " Israel
hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the ELECTION hath obtained
it and the rest were blinded " (Rom. 11: 7).
"Have they stumbled that they should fall." "The branches have been broken out in order that I might be graffed in" (v.11). These and similar expressions show that the nation had manifested the hardness of heart prophesied before by Isaiah (Isa.
Rom. 11:2 tells us "God has not cast away His people whom He
foreknew....there has been a remnant according to the election of grace." Israel's great stumbling was the cross and all that it meant. They were ignorant of God's way of justification.
" Israel pursuing after a law of righteousness, has not attained to that law. Wherefore ? Because it was not on the principle of
faith, but as of works-they have stumbled at the stumbling-stone." To be wrong here is to be wrong completely.
It is useless to seek to understand " the Mystery" commissioned to Paul if we fail to appreciate his "Gospel." The very knowledge and enlightenment of the Jew gave occasion for the flesh to work his undoing: whereas, the Gentile, who knew neither God nor His law, who did not trouble about seeking righteousness either by works or by faith, received the gospel more readily. - The Gentiles who did not follow after righteousness have attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is on the principle of
faith " (Rom. 9. 30).
God's purposes are by no means thwarted or altered. All is made to contribute to the accomplishing of His will. Israel shall yet be righteous, they shall yet be blessed,
even though but a remnant believed during the Pentecostal period : "for the gifts and calling of God are not subject to repentance (Praise God). For as indeed ye were formerly not believing in God, but now have been objects of mercy through the unbelief of others (Jews), so they too have now become unbelieving, that they also may obtain mercy through the mercy shown to you."
Here is a mystery of grace and mercy beyond our wildest dreams. Truly, our God delighteth in mercy. The Jews gave occasion for greater mercy by their unbelief-the Gentiles by their belief. How far above our thoughts or ways is the Lord! God is not slack; He is not unmindful; He keeps His Word. Great is His faithfulness.
The promises made to the fathers still stand true. God hath not cast away His people. All Israel shall yet be saved ; ungodliness shall be turned away from Jacob.
" As regards the Gospel, they are enemies on your (Gentiles) account, but as regards the Election,
beloved because of the fathers " (Rom. 11: 28).
Here is God's Own Word, and words:-" blinded," "hardened," " broken off,"
" scattered," wanderers for long centuries, yet "BELOVED!" Oh for a heart to believe
" ALL that the prophets have spoken."
More and more the conviction grows upon us that THE controversy of the Bible is not so much between God and man, but between God and Satan; and Israel's case is illustrative of wider issues. Electing grace operated in the midst of apostasy, but the rest, although hard and blind, were still beloved for the fathers' sake. They were not forgotten, "for God hath shut up together all in unbelief." Why ?-In order that He might pour out His wrath
on all? No! that is not Scripture; that is not the character of our God. " But, the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! how unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways ! . . . For of Him, and through Him, and for Him, are all things, to Him be glory for ever, Amen " (Rom. 11. 32-36).
Is this the conclusion of our Dispensational study? Does our attempt to rightly divide the Word of Truth magnify Him and enlarge our view of His purposes of grace? Who would have thought that out of Israel's apostasy the Lord could have brought forth such sweetness? (Rom.
11: 32). In His Dispensational dealings with sinful erring man, God has many untrackable ways of mercy, many untrackable riches of grace.
Soon the things depicted in " Romans " were to pass away, but out of the chaos the Lord was to bring forth the hidden mystery, to display still more His kindness and His grace,
" that unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies there may be
shown now, by means of the church, the manifold wisdom of God " (Eph. 3: 10).
" He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." Satan was more subtle, more wise, than any living creature. Man has been his dupe and tool for ages, but out of it all the Lord will bring both grace and glory, "The devil that deceived them " is not to continue for ever. Oh may our understanding of these things open our hearts as well as our minds.
The more we know of the wonderful dealings of God, the more reason we shall have to confess "How unsearchable ! How untraceable! " We are but on the fringe; we are called to humility, meekness, and longsuffering. Let us learn the needful lessons. The same chapter that instructs us to rightly divide the Word of Truth, also says that " the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all" (2 Tim.
Let us not make dispensational truth a weapon to turn against our brethren ; let us
rather realize that it is a part of our armour to be used against the enemy of our souls.
Let us learn to distinguish between the doctrinal and the dispensational
teaching of the Apostle, and we shall then be in a position to more clearly appreciate just what the special blessings of this present time
CHARLES H. WELCH.