WAS THERE A TRANSITION INTO THE PRESENT DISPENSATION?
Many, if not most, in the mid-Acts community believe that there was a transition into the dispensation of the mystery. I believe that there are problems with that suggestion, both logically and Scripturally. But before we get into those problems, let us be certain that we understand what a dispensation is.
The Greek word translated “dispensation” means literally “house law”. It is used for the first times in Luke 16 where it is translated “steward” and “stewardship”. I believe that as we consider those facts we may conclude that a dispensation is a certain management or management style. So in the New Testament the word. is used of a particular way in which God manages His household, i.e. the world. So a new dispensation will be in evidence when we see a change in how God manages the world.
Let me, for the sake of clarity use a secular example of a change of dispensations. On Jan. 20, 2009 the United States experienced a change of dispensations. That is to say, Pres. Bush managed the country in one way, and when Pres. Obama took the office of the presidency his was a different management style. Now let’s use that example to illustrate why I believe there is a problem in logic with the notion of a transition into the present dispensation.
When Mr. Obama was elected he set up a transition team, so he would be ready to take over the duties of his office at the appointed time. The point at which he was elected was the point (more or less) at which the transition began. And when he was sworn into office the transition period ended because the goal of the transition was met, i.e. he took office. In other words, from point A (his election) to point B (his taking office) can be called a transition period.
Now here is what I see as a problem with the notion of a transition into the present dispensation. Those who believe in an Acts period transition believe that the present dispensation began at mid-Acts. If that were true that would mean that the dispensation of the mystery began (according to them) at point A, i.e. the point at which the transition began. But that makes no sense. That would be like saying that Obama’s administration began at point A when he set up his transition team. But his administration began at point B, when he took office.
So too, if there was a transition into the dispensation of the mystery (and I do not believe there was) the present dispensation would have had to begin at the end of the transition period, i.e. at Acts 28, not in the mid-Acts period.
In short, if there was a transition period, the present dispensation began at point B, i.e. the end of the transition (Acts 28) not at point A (in the middle of the Acts period).
THE SCRIPTURAL PROBLEM WITH A TRANSITION PERIOD
Many believe that the message of salvation going to the Gentiles at Acts 13 constituted the beginning of the transition into the dispensation of the mystery. If we take that to its logical conclusion, we must say that when the transition was completed, the new management style ((house law) was that Gentiles had a full and totally free access to God’s grace as exhibited in His plan of salvation.
But there is absolutely nothing new about the Gentiles having full and free access to God’s plan of salvation. It is true that they were required to respond to a different message, but Gentiles had always been free to accept God’s salvation. How do we know that?
We read in Acts 10:34, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons'”. The point I wish to make is that when Peter said that “God is no respecter of persons”, he was saying that God makes no difference between Jews and Gentiles.
We read in Rom. 1:19-20, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead….” This passage tells us that God makes Himself known to man by the things that have been created. When one believes the message of the nature of God, (i.e. His “eternal power”), as exhibited in “the things that are made”, one is made righteous. (For a more complete discussion of this subject please see the paper on this subject Salvation Apart From Israel.)
The point is that Gentiles having free and full access to God’s salvation was not new in the dispensation of the mystery, and therefore did not constitute a different management style than what had existed since before the birth of Abraham. Therefore, the message of salvation being preached to the Gentiles had absolutely nothing to do with a change of dispensations and, of course, was not part of a transition period.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org