August 24, 2019

Bob Jones University: It’s a Question of Doctrine

Dr. Steve Pettit
Today I am drawing your attention to a chapel message given at Bob Jones University (BJU) by its president Dr. Steve Pettit. The message was preached in BJU’s chapel on January 26, 2015.  Following are excerpts transcribed from the recorded message.

“What is the race? It is the whole of the Christian life of faith….  (4:15) When you start [the race] in faith you need to run and finish in faith…. (6:35) The race has to be faithfully run to the finish.” (10:15) Dr. Pettit goes on to say there is, “justification, sanctification and a glorification.” (11:12) Then, however, he said this, “If you lose, if you don’t finish you lose everything, you lose your soul.” (11:40)

Later in the message he references Old Testament saints from Hebrews 11 saying, “These Old Testament saints received God’s approval, they all died in faith, they were loyal, they persevered in their faith.” (19:10) He said, “If you run and don’t win then you are truly the biggest losers.” (21:35)
We run the race, we cross the finish line, and so what’s the prize? What is the award? Well, there are different viewpoints.  Some would have the viewpoint that the awards are crowns in Heaven. But as I read the book of Hebrews and see the whole gist of the book and the flow of the book, I don’t believe its referring to crowns in Heaven. I think it is referring to Heaven itself.” (22:10) 
“Now, there’s almost a dilemma that immediately arises up.  Fact is I’ve already had some statements on this to me. Because it almost gives the impression that you’re saying that you can lose your salvation, and I have not really said that at all. What I would like to say is…God’s people have to continue in the faith. They must persevere because perseverance is the testimony of the reality of your faith.” (23:30) 
“It’s almost like you have two rails as you’re running down this road, this Christian life.  One is I’m saved, but the other one is I’m not saved yet. I’m not in glory. It’s like you could say it this way, ‘I am in the race, but I have to keep on running, I’m not saved yet, I’m not in glory’.” (25:45)1 For the complete sermon audio see footnotes.
At the time a number of pastors were genuinely concerned with the message content and contacted Dr. Pettit about it.  With what did their concern lie?  For example Dr. Pettit said, “If you lose, if you don’t finish you lose everything, you lose your soul.” (11:40)  That theme is common among the advocates of Calvinism. For example,
John Piper
“There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.... What God will require at the judgment is not our perfection, but sufficient fruit to show that the tree had life-in our case, divine life.” (John Piper, What Does Jesus Demand of the World, pp. 160, 211.
“Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.” (R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown, p. 198.)
“Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption…. we are commanded to be holy, saved to be holy, and, in fact, we must be holy if we are to inherit eternal life.” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, pp. 26, 30 italics his, bold mine.)
Dr. Pettit was teaching Calvinism’s 5th point of TULIP, which is “Perseverance of the Saints.”  That a saint will persevere, will finish the race faithfully, he will not fail. Steve Pettit’s message is virtually identical to that of Piper, Sproul, DeYoung cited above and MacArthur’s below. 
“The doctrine of the believer’s security is tied to the believer’s persevering faith…. the most important element in all the range of salvation doctrines is this issue of the perseverance of the saints.  It is, in the end, what makes salvation salvation because it is forever…. Any idea of salvation that leaves out security is a distortion of the truth.  And any idea of security that leaves out perseverance is a distortion of the truth.” (John MacArthur, “Perseverance of the Saints,” Part 2. September 5, 2004.)
“The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere. . . . It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of the [sic] their perseverance or their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere. Consequently the security that is theirs is inseparable from their perseverance.” (John MacArthur, “Perseverance of the Saints.” The Master’s Seminary Journal4, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 5-24.)
What we’ve read means, “Perseverance is [being] articulated as the only way to ensure ‘final salvation’, i.e., glorification.” (In Defense of the GospelBiblical Answers to Lordship Salvation [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 273.) Does what weve considered thus far make Dr. Pettit a 5-point Calvinist?  It does not! Like any other man only he can answer as to whether or not he accepts or rejects any of Calvinisms five points (TULIP).

Here I would like to examine a portion of the current BJU Position Statements: Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology. Under the subsection, With Regard to the Doctrine of Soteriology, paragraph one, this statement appears, “God offers this salvation freely to all men who are willing to repent and turn from their sins (Acts 3:19, 17:30) and place their full faith and trust in the atonement Christ made by His finished work on the Cross (Luke 24:46-48, Heb. 9:11-15, 10:10-14).”

An essential feature of Lordship Salvation’s interpretation of the gospel is encapsulated in that single sentence. Lordship’s gospel demands of the sinner faith in Christ, plus commitment of life, to turn from (stop) sinning and start obeying in “exchange” for salvation.   
“This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of taking up one’s own cross to follow Him. And that is why he demanded that we count the cost carefully. He was calling for an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. He was demanding implicit obedience—unconditional surrender to His lordship.” (Dr. John MacArthur: The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith, p. 202. Italics added)
Dr. John Van Gelderen explained why it is confusing to tell sinners they need to turn from their sins,
“Jesus said, ‘They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ (Luke 5:31-32). Sick people do not turn from their sickness to a physician. If they could turn from sickness, they would no longer need a physician. Rather, sick people turn to a physician for deliverance from their sickness. Similarly, sinners cannot turn from their sin(s) to Christ. If they could, they would not need a Savior. Sinners must turn to Christ, the Great Physician, for deliverance from their sin and its consequence.”2
Dr. Ernest Pickering (1928-2000) recognized Lordship Salvation as a departure from the biblical plan of salvation. Following are two excerpts from Dr. Pickering’s review of John MacArthur’s original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus.

“John MacArthur is a sincere servant of the Lord, of that we have no doubt.... We believe in his advocacy of the so-called lordship salvation he is wrong. He desperately desires to see holiness, lasting fruit, and continuing faithfulness in the lives of Christian people. This reviewer and we believe all sincere church leaders desire the same.... But the remedy for this condition is not found in changing the terms of the gospel.”
“One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to the sinner that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of ‘lordship salvation’ tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God.” (Ernest Pickering, Lordship Salvation: An Examination of John MacArthur’s Book, The Gospel According to Jesus.)
Lordship Salvation demands a commitment of one’s life, and a promise of surrender to the lordship of Christ in an up-front exchange for the reception of salvation (justification). Calvinism’s perseverance is keeping that promise, but if you fail, “if you don’t finish you lose everything, you lose your soul.” (Steve Pettit: What Does it Mean to Run the Race?)

Teaching that a soul, justified by faith, must perform the good works expected of a born again believer, throughout his lifetime to inherit eternal life (glorification) in Heaven at death is works salvation. That is “Lordship Salvation.”3

When Dr. Pettit told the BJU student body “If you lose, if you don’t finish you lose everything, you lose your soul” his message essentially left one of two conclusions for the students. First, although you have been justified, born again by faith in Jesus Christ, if you do not run the race of sanctification faithfully until death, you do not enter Heaven, you never see glorification.  Second, you were never saved in the first place.

The chapel sermon we’ve considered was not given by a mere guest speaker.  This was Dr. Steve Pettit, the president of BJU, teaching an element of Calvinism.  The BJU Position Statement legitimizes an integral part of Lordship Salvation.  This is a very serious matter because, “Lordship Salvation tears at the very heart of the gospel; it corrupts ‘the simplicity that is in Christ’ (2 Cor. 11:3), it is a man-centered message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).” (In Defense of the GospelBiblical Answers to Lordship Salvation [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 49.)

Calvinism and Lordship Salvation has made inroads into schools and churches that aforetime rejected this teaching. When a university president and that school's position statement bring elements of Calvinism and Lordship Salvation to the student body one might wonder if those teachings have been adopted as acceptable or possibly official doctrinal positions of the university.

The BJU Student Handbook (2018-2019) states, “The BJU Creed highlights the fundamentals of the faith. Based on these essentials, we strive to maintain unity among the student body. In the interest of this unity and in love and respect for each other, there is to be no proselytizing based on theological interpretations, such as Calvinism and Arminianism.” (p. 8). Yet BJU president Steve Pettit was preaching Calvinisms Perseverance of the Saints, “proselytizing Calvinism,” if you will, to the student body.

What Should you, as a Parent or Pastor, Do?
If you have questions, ask. You may reach out to Dr. Pettit, Dr. Horn or any Bible faculty to ask what their position(s) are on Calvinism, Lordship Salvation, Reformed/Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. You might ask, “Which of the 5-points of Calvinism (TULIP) or Doctrines of Grace, do you accept as legitimate or reject?” Ask their view of each of the 5-points in turn: Total Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. You should also ask,
  • Do you believe regeneration comes before belief or at the moment of saving belief?
  • Is faith the fruit of regeneration or is regeneration the fruit of faith?
  • Explain why the Bible says Christ will preserve you in Jesus Christ (Jude 1) and God will keep you from falling (Jude 24), but the only use of perseverance refers to praying for the saints Eph. 6:18?  
This is hard because we love BJU and all it has contributed over the years. Seeing what has happened to many of our schools (Pillsbury, TTU, Calvary, Clearwater, Northland4) is disappointing. Dr. Pettit’s message, “What Does it Mean to Run the Race may signal a shift in the doctrinal stance of BJU. It pains us greatly that circumstances dictate an article like this could even be written.  It would, however, be a pity for pastors and families sending their young people to BJU thinking it is the same as it once was for them if it is not, if the university has changed.

1) For the complete recorded sermon, see- What Does it Mean to Run the Race?
Defined briefly: Lordship Salvation is a position on the gospel in which “saving faith” is considered reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Lordship views “saving faith” as incomplete without an accompanying resolve to ‘forsake sin’ and to ‘start obeying.’ Lordship’s ‘sine qua non’ (indispensable condition) that must be met to fully define ‘saving faith,’ for salvation, is a commitment to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ in submissive obedience. In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 48.

August 12, 2019

A Review of Walter J. Chantry's Today's Gospel by Dr. Stewart Custer

John MacArthur published five major works on the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel.  His first was in 1988, The Gospel According to Jesus (TGATJ). Walter J. Chantry, however, long before MacArthur’s TGATJ published a book advocating Lordship Salvation.  That book is Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic. In 1973 on behalf of Bob Jones University professor, Dr. Stewart Custer, published a critical review of Chantry’s book.  The review, which follows, appeared in BJU’s Biblical Viewpoint magazine.

A Baptist pastor has indicted the entire practice of modern conservative evangelism. Walter J. Chantry, in Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (London: Banner of Truth Trust. 1970. 93 pp)., charges that the doctrine and practices of the “evangelical wing of the Protestant church” are unbiblical and dangerous (p. 121). He urges that churches “rethink the way of salvation” (p. 16). He maintains that the sole biblical standard for personal evangelism is the Lord’s interview with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 (p. 16).

If modern personal work does not follow the exact pattern our Lord used, it is not the genuine gospel (p. 17). Therefore, Mr. Chantry argues, the personal worker must preach the character of God (“There is none good but one, that is, God”). To tell a lost person, “God loves you and has a plan for your life,” is “terribly misinforming”(p. 29). The personal worker must also preach the law of God (pp. 35f).. Just to quote Romans 3:23 (“For all have sinned,” etc). is not sufficient (p. 38). “You must dwell on the subject at length. Exposit the Ten Commandments until men are slain thereby” (p. 43).

The personal worker must also preach repentance (pp. 47f ). Mr. Chantry rejects the idea of urging the sinner to “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour.” These words are “wholly inadequate to instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life” (p. 48). “Scripture always joins repentance and remission of sins” (p. 50). (As a matter of fact, of course, it does not; see Acts 10:43; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:22). Mr. Chantry charges that “evangelicals have invented the idea of ‘carnal Christians’” (p. 54). He admits that Paul used the term but thinks that Paul was referring to “babes in Christ . . . who had an area of carnal behaviour” (p. 54). When you consider that Paul was concerned over factions in the church (I Cor. 1); an open case of immorality (I Cor. 5); abuses concerning food (I Cor. 8), the Lord’s supper (I Cor. 11), and spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12-14); and doctrinal heresy concerning the resurrection (I Cor. 15), Chantry’s position strains the Scripture severely. Mr. Chantry thinks that a good sermon ends not with a call to decision, but rather with the convicted sinners sent home to think it all over (p. 66). He derides the idea that evangelism is as simple as A, B, C: “Just accept, believe, and confess. A three-sentence prayer and you will be safe for eternity” (p. 80). He attacks the idea of “simplicity and brevity in evangelism” (p. 80). He calls upon evangelicals to “rise above deadening evangelical tradition” (p. 92).

It is plain that Mr. Chantry has removed himself from the evangelical tradition. He is not an evangelical; he is a dangerous outsider.

His implication that all evangelicals are encouraging an “easy-believism” is a misrepresentation. The vast majority of evangelicals are deeply disturbed by “easybelievism.” Most born again personal workers are careful to show the sinner that Christ is not a fire-insurance policy, after accepting which the sinner may go off and live like the devil. Most personal workers explain to their converts the importance of the Christian life and the necessity of prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. The idea that all evangelical personal workers are using unbiblical methods to gain statistics is simply false. Most personal workers have a definite series of Scripture passages which they discuss with the lost person. The personal worker knows that these verses are effective for the lost, because in most cases he himself was converted by those same verses.

The basic fallacy of Mr. Chantry’s position is his assumption that all personal work must follow the pattern of our Lord’s words to the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). The young ruler had an idol in his life: his great possessions. Whenever a personal worker detects such an idol in the life of the one he is witnessing to, he certainly ought to use the law to reveal the presence of such an idol. But the Lord used a different method in talking to Nicodemus (John 3) and to the woman at the well (John 4). Philip did not follow the same pattern when he talked with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8).

One of the clearest descriptions of a soulwinner’s words that resulted in conversion is Peter’s testimony to Cornelius (Acts 10:38-43). Peter mentioned a number of important subjects: (1) Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and healing. (2) He was crucified. (3) God raised Him up on the third day. (4) The apostles were witnesses of His resurrection. (5) This Jesus is the Judge at the last day. (6) Everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins. It is significant that there was no discussion of the law of God and the word repentance was not used. Before Peter had finished all that he had intended to say, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening (v. 44). All the rest of the theological verbiage which Peter had in mind was thus demonstrated to be unnecessary. His audience believed; the Holy Spirit regenerated them. The idea that hours of theological discussion is necessary for salvation is unscriptural. If it were true, many more theologians would be converted than the laity. It is clear, however, that very few contemporary theologians are converted men.

If a Christian, approaching the scene of an automobile accident, sees a poor dying man stretched out alongside the road, he should not drive on, saying to himself, “I do not have the time adequately to present the gospel.” He should get off his theological high horse, take his Bible in hand, and tell that poor lost soul how to find eternal life in Christ. If he cannot do it in the two minutes before the ambulance arrives, he is incompetent as a soulwinner. If he has more time, he should use it; but if he does not, he should use what time he has to tell the victim of the good news which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Originally published in Biblical Viewpoint 7 (1973): 155-57. (c) 1973
Bob Jones University. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved.

Site Publisher’s Addendum:
Is it fair to ask if Bob Jones University today still rejects Lordship Salvation’s works-based message, as it once did? We will delve into that question in an upcoming article.

Recommended Reading:
Summary of Lordship Salvation from a Single Page
What is Lordship Salvation and Why Does it Matter?

Lordship’s “Turn from Sin” FOR Salvation

August 5, 2019

Dr. H. A. Ironside: Reaffirmation of Dispensational Truth

Previously we enjoyed a biography of Dr. H. A. Ironside.  The following is excerpted from Dr. Ironside's book, The Lamp of Prophecy or Sign of the Times: Chapter Four, Reaffirmation of Dispensational Truth. The errors of Covenant Theology has made inroads into some of our Bible college classrooms. I think we do well to be reminded that the Bible is a Dispensational book.

Dr. H. A. Ironside
BY THIS SUBJECT I have in mind certain objections that have lately been taken to the dispensational view of the Word of GOD. It has often been said that the dispensational teachers are quite unable to meet the new position, but I really think that most of us have too profound a regard for one or two of the brethren who are leading the new dispensational departure to like to appear in public against them; at any rate, to take sharp issue with them.
We realize that in this age men and women who firmly believe in the inspiration of the Word of GOD ought to stand shoulder to shoulder as far as possible. It is always with greatest regret that I take issue with any who love the Lord JESUS CHRIST, who believe firmly in His true deity, who believe in His virgin birth, His sinlessness, humanity, His atoning work, the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, and the full inspiration of the Word of GOD. We consider that however we may differ on other lines, if they agree with us on these, on our part we don't like to be found apparently in opposition to them. Therefore, many dispensational teachers have felt it hardly wise to say very much about this issue, but in schools such as this school and similar institutions, it is well to make clear our position on dispensational truth and reaffirm it to the students.
For years I have read carefully and prayerfully nearly all the books written from the other side, and I see no reason to change my point of view. The Scriptures are plain on the subject.
Turn to Ephesians 3:1-11:
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation 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; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel; 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 of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose - literally - "according to the purpose of the ages." I call attention to that expression. There is in Scripture a doctrine of the ages-GOD working out a very definite purpose of the ages - and we are now living in one particular age, the age of grace. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Ephesians 1:8-10: "Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of time, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him."
I have quoted these Scriptures, to which many more could be added, to show in the first place that the word "dispensation" is an eminently Scriptural term. It comes from a Greek word that is translated in four different ways in the New Testament. In these passages and in several others, it is rendered "dispensation." In the Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 12, it is translated "administration." It is elsewhere rendered "order," and in the Gospel of Luke it is rendered "stewardship." "Give an account of thy stewardship . . . "
The only way really to understand our Bible and get things in their places so that we are not in confusion of mind as we read and study is by noticing the various dispensations or administrations or stewardships or other periods that run through the Scripture. But we have recently been told by some prominent writers that this is all a mistake.
There is, they declare, no dispensational plan running through the Scripture, or, if there are any dispensations, there are only two - the dispensation of the Old Testament and the dispensation of the New; and that Dr. Scofield and others who have been glad to learn from him, and many great. men who have learned independently of him, are all wrong in thinking that the Old Testament presents a series of dispensations and that in the New Testament we find people passing out of one dispensation into another, and that there is still ahead of us a glorious dispensation of the "fulness of time."
So when a position like this is challenged, we shall examine the foundations again and see if dispensational teaching rests upon any solid basis.
First, let us be very clear as to what we mean by a dispensation.
The word simply means the "ordering of a house." It is a word we have taken over bodily into English. The English word "economy" is but the Greek word oikonomia, anglicized, which is translated "dispensation," "administration," "stewardship," or "order."
We know what that word "economy" means. Our statesmen study political economy. What is that? It is the ordering of the affairs of the nation. If the affairs of all nations were ordered just exactly the same way, then the study of international politics would be very simple, but the affairs of nations differ.
Take this great country of ours in contrast with Great Britain. We have largely the same civilization. It isn't the easiest thing to tell a Britisher from an American, yet their fundamental systems of governments are altogether different. We base everything on a Constitution. Great Britain has no Constitution. Here is this great government and it rests on its Constitution, while in Great Britain the government rests on tradition. Their body of law has been built up century after century and changes have come very slowly, for the English people are strong for custom, and it is very hard to bring about a change.
With us in America, we just put up an Amendment to the Constitution and have the people vote on it, and if endorsed, it is added to the Constitution. Whether we keep the Amendments or not is another thing!
The laws of nations differ. Each nation has its own peculiar economy. Now, I might be well versed in American economy and go over to Great Britain and find myself constantly at outs with the people there and yet be perfectly innocent about it. I have been brought up differently, and I don't understand. I have been taught from boyhood in the United States what to do under certain circumstances, but I find I have to learn a new dispensation over there.
Our children go to school, especially our girls, and they study domestic economy, which is the ordering of a house or a home.
Sometimes I illustrate domestic economy like this:
Suppose a young girl goes out to learn how to become a housekeeper. She takes a position in a certain home. By and by she becomes thoroughly adept and trustworthy. The mistress can depend upon her under all circumstances and feels that Mary knows just how she wants things run, and with a mere word from her, everything is understood. Well, after a few years, Mary feels that she is so proficient that she can get a better position. She is working in a little home where the people are working people who get up early in the morning, so she has to be up at five, have the breakfast ready at 5:30, on the table by 6:00, lunches prepared for the men by 6:30, etc., and she knows exactly how this house is to be run. But now she learns that the big house up yonder on the heights is in need of a housekeeper. They pay more and Mary wants to earn all she can, so she interviews the mistress, and finally, everything being satisfactory, she leaves the one place and goes to work in the mansion.
She comes to the new home, and the mistress takes her into the kitchen and says, "Mary, let me tell you now what to do."
"Oh, you don't need to bother. I know exactly how a house should be run. I wouldn't have taken this position if I didn't understand how to run a house."
"But, Mary, not all houses are run the same way."
"Oh, that's all right; you needn't tell me anything.
It isn't necessary. You can leave everything to me."
So the first morning Mary is up at five o'clock and the gong is duly rung at 5:30. The man of the house jumps up and calls to his wife, "My dear, whatever is the matter? Is the house on fire?"
"Why, I don't know," she replies, and rushes to the head of the stairs and calls down, "Mary, what is it?"
"Why, mum, it just means that breakfast will be on the table in half an hour."
"Breakfast in half an hour! Why, we don't sit down to breakfast here until nine o'clock. What do you mean?"
"Why, I mean that they always had breakfast at six o'clock where I have been working."
"That's all right, Mary, but I tried to explain to you yesterday that you must learn how to run things in this house. I can't have this sort of thing! Now, do your best until nine o'clock. Ring a rising bell at eight-thirty if you like."
Poor Mary bursts into tears because her thriftiness is not appreciated. She learns the importance of dispensational truth.
How do we apply this? Some of us remember the time when we read the Bible fervently and devoutly prayed to understand it; but we were always in confusion of mind. Why? Because we were trying to apply the order that prevailed in the house of Israel to the church, the house of GOD, in this dispensation. Then we took the passages that apply to the dispensation of the "fulness of time," when CHRIST will come and "in his own times, show who is that blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords," and we applied all those passages to the present dispensation, and we couldn't make them fit.
I am reminded of the Scotch Covenanters, those good old people among whom were some of my own ancestors. The Scotch Covenanters took their swords and were ready to fight for their religion. They entered into a solemn covenant to oppose Episcopacy and establish Presbyterianism, which they conceived as the only divine religion on earth. They did this with good conscience because they believed that GOD had set up His kingdom now, that JESUS CHRIST is King, and that those who neglected Presbyterianism were the enemies of the kingdom of GOD on earth. They did not understand dispensational truth. Then take Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages. The church fought with sword and fire to destroy heresy because they did not understand the present age of grace.
When you come to the Word of GOD and you recognize this dispensational principle running through the Scriptures, everything opens up in a perfectly marvelous way.
In Ephesians, we have read of "the purpose of the ages." Augustine said, "Distinguish the ages and the Scriptures are plain." I saw a sentence in a book the other day that all this dispensational teaching has come about within the last fifty years. There was never a greater mistake and blunder. Godly men in all the Christian centuries have taught it, but in our day, this light is shining brighter and brighter.
Going back to the creation of man, we see that GOD placed Adam and Eve in the garden of delight. You can see that the economy under which our first parents were placed in the Garden of Eden was altogether different to the economy under which we are placed in this present day. What was the stewardship committed to Adam and Eve? They were to dress and keep the garden and have authority over all creation. The beasts were brought to Adam and whatever he called them, they were named. All was subject to them, but there was one stipulation - they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
That was their stewardship. That was the dispensation of innocence. Who would say for a moment that that dispensation, that stewardship, that administration fits with ours? They failed in their stewardship and were turned out. "Give an account of thy stewardship," the master says to the servant. "Give an account of thy dispensational responsibility." So they were turned out and that dispensation ended.
Take them outside of the garden - from the garden to the flood. Who would dare to say that the same dispensation, the same stewardship, the same administration was committed to the patriarchs in those so far distant millenniums as to us? For instance, we have no record of a Bible, a written revelation, though there may have been one. We are told by Jude that Enoch prophesied concerning the second coming, so there may have been some written record, but as far as we know, writing was not invented before the flood. We have no record of any inspired Bible of any kind before the writings of Moses. The Book of Job may or may not have been written before Moses. Enoch's prophecy may simply have been spoken.
It is certain that they had no body of rules and regulations in regard to conduct as we have in the law. The great thing that seems to stand out in that dispensation is that men now had conscience. They were able to discern between good and evil, and they were held responsible by GOD to choose the good and reject the evil. If men sought consistently after the good, GOD revealed Himself to them.
Abel, bringing his lamb of sacrifice, we are told in Hebrews, offered it by faith. GOD from time to time revealed Himself to them, but they had no written law, no body of doctrine, no organized church. The line of Seth chose the ways of GOD and the line of Cain chose the path of evil, and the two were separated. One called upon the name of the Lord; the other refused obedience to the revealed will of GOD.
We often hear it said by people who don't think things through that we don't need a Bible; men need only to obey the dictates of their consciences. For a period of sixteen hundred years by the Hebrew Version, but nearly two thousand years by the Septuagint, men were left largely to the dictates of conscience. What was the result? Corruption and violence filled the earth. GOD said,
"The only thing to do is to wipe it out with a flood." Thus that dispensation came to an end.
A dispensation is a period of time, long or short, in which GOD is dealing with men in a different way than He has ever dealt with them before. He dealt with them one way in the garden. He dealt with them differently from the expulsion until the flood. Now, consider the period from the flood to the calling out of Abraham.
What difference have we in GOD's way of dealing with men in this period ? We do not yet have a written Bible. We do not yet have a called-out nation nor a called-out church, but we do have something added to check man's natural propensities and hold him in subjection. We now have the principle of human government.
GOD constituted Noah the first magistrate, so far as records show, that the world ever knew. We have no word whatever of magistracy before the flood - no divinely given form of government. GOD, Himself, out of love for His creatures, seeing their need of Him, instituted human government. Brutal and wicked men carne into the place of power, but the Apostle tells us that the institution was a divine one. GOD appointed a magistrate, and a new principle came into operation.
With all the experience of the past and with the fearful warning of the flood, surely this little company coming out from the ark will remember the past and will be grateful to GOD for the new provision He has made, and will be in subjection to Him, and the authority He has instituted. What is the result? Follow it down, and again if you take the Septuagint, about one thousand years go by and at the end of the first millennium after the flood the whole human race has gone into idolatry. Instead of men obeying conscience and being subject to government and authority, the governors themselves have become apostate.
Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord, the hunter of the souls of men, is the first despot and first apostate. We find that men need more than conscience, need more than corrective power of environment and government to turn them to GOD. Of course, in all dispensations, GOD has undoubtedly saved thousands of men for Heaven of whom we have no record in Scripture. I do not suppose that all of the people who lived before the flood were lost eternally. Wherever men in any dispensation have obeyed the light GOD has given them, He has revealed Himself to them so that they could believe and be saved. But the dispensation of government closed in the darkness of idolatry.
With the call of Abraham we have the beginning of another dispensation, GOD calling Abraham out from an idolatrous people and revealing Himself and giving the promise of the coming Saviour.
Up to that time there had been only one promise given - the primeval promise made in the garden that the serpent should bruise the seed of the woman and He should bruise its head. Men could look forward, as they did undoubtedly, to the coming Seed of the woman, who was eventually to make propitiation for sin.
When GOD calls Abraham and tells him, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," He gives Abraham the promise of the coming Saviour. What we may call the dispensation of promise began with Abraham. We have something we have not had before. The old dispensation changes and the new dispensation comes in. GOD is dealing with men in a different way.
How were men to be saved now? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." "Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad," said our blessed Lord. He looked forward in faith to the coming Saviour. That dispensation was a brief one. Our definition says "a period of time either long or short."
Now, the people of Israel go down into Egypt. They have the promise and are sure of it, and that promise is so well known even in Egypt that the time comes when the man looked upon as the heir to the throne of Egypt, the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, considers that promise. I suppose it had been told him by his own mother; we read, "He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Why? Because he was ready to assume the reproach of CHRIST. What did Moses know about the reproach of CHRIST? He knew that CHRIST was to come through the despised people, the seed of Abraham, and he said, "I will identify myself with them."
Then we come to the scene on Mount Sinai. Now what? A new dispensation altogether, that of law. The moment the Law is given, GOD has committed an altogether different administration to them. Yet we are told there is only one dispensation in the Old Testament. What did Abraham know about the provision of Law? What did Noah know about the Law before the flood? Nothing whatsoever. They were given something they had never had before.
Was the Law given in order that men might be saved? The Law was given even at the very first in order to prove to man his helplessness. GOD always casts man upon His own infinite mercy and grace for salvation.
I attended a little church in a country village one Sunday and got there just as Sunday school was convening. I was asked to go into the Bible class. I do not remember the particular chapter they were studying, but the leader put this question: "Class, how were people saved before CHRIST came into the world?"
Someone answered, "By keeping the Law."
"Exactly," said the leader. He was going on, and I did not, as a stranger, want to interrupt, but I said, "I beg your pardon, but did I understand that correctly? Did you say that people were saved by keeping the Law before CHRIST came into the world?"
"Certainly, until CHRIST came that was the only way."
"Well, then, what do you do with this verse in Galatians, 'If there had been a law given which could have given life, then verily righteousness would have been by the law'?"
"Oh, yes, I hadn't thought of that. Well, class, we were wrong. What other suggestions have you?"
Finally a woman spoke up, "Why, by offering animal sacrifices."
"Exactly; I think the woman is right. Now, is that satisfactory?"
"It would be but for a verse here, 'It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should put away sin.'
"Oh, yes, that's true isn't it? Well, then how do you think that people were saved before CHRIST came into the world?"
"Why, exactly as Abraham. He rejoiced to see the salvation of the Lord. He saw it and was glad. They looked on in faith to the Seed of Abraham."
Wherever men will honestly judge themselves and repent, GOD will give them light enough to be saved. They were saved through the same sacrifice as that which saved us; they were saved through the coming Saviour as we are through the risen Saviour.
David lived in the dispensation of law. David committed a fearful sin, and he cried aloud, "Against thee and thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight." Why did he not hurry down to the temple and offer a sacrifice? "In burnt offerings and sacrifice [for sin] thou hast no pleasure. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." He depended upon the infinite sacrifice of the Lord JESUS CHRIST yet to be offered.
The dispensation of law did not propose the Law as a means of salvation but proposed the Law as the expression of integrity of heart toward GOD. People honest toward GOD would seek to keep that Law, and failing to keep it, it would impress upon. them their own sinfulness and the need of a Saviour. Paul said, "The law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ."
Our blessed Lord, when He died on Calvary, cried, "It is finished." What was finished? The work of saving poor sinners was finished. The dispensation of law was finished. On the Cross, He bore in His own body all the penalty of that outraged Law.

There is a verse in Colossians that is rarely ever explained in a way that seems at all clear, and yet I believe it is a most striking picture. Colossians 2:14: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
In this connection we often hear the illustration used of the old-fashioned way of keeping books.
There were nails on the wall, and when you bought something, the grocery man made out a slip and placed it on the nail. Then when you paid your bill, you presented your slips and he put them on another nail. They were nailed to the wall. But we learn from history that it was customary under the Roman law if a man were to be hanged on a tree for some crime, to write out the indictment, the law, the particular crime of which he was guilty and nail it on the Cross above his head. Pilate did that. He placed a placard over the head of JESUS CHRIST, which read, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews," which meant that He was a traitor to Caesar. He had dared to set Himself up as King of the Jews. That was the crime for which He hung on the tree. Over each of the robbers' heads a placard was nailed upon which was written the crime of which they were guilty, the laws they had broken. They were suffering for having broken those laws.
So our blessed CHRIST, hanging upon the tree, with Pilate's statement over His head, was supposed to die because He had declared Himself King of the Jews! But, although His hands were nailed to that cross, yet in a spiritual sense they were free to nail His own accusation to that Cross. He, as it were, nailed over His own head, the Law; the ten words given at Mount Sinai. He died because of the violation of that holy Law. Who broke it? Did He? No. He took it out of the way for us, nailing it to His Cross.
Now the penalty is paid. Everything is settled. So far as we are concerned, we are under grace, and that brings us to the present glorious dispensation the Apostle Paul calls the dispensation of the grace of GOD, and the dispensation of the mystery, the dispensation of the grace of GOD because He is making known His free grace in CHRIST JESUS to all who believe. "By grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of GOD. Not of works, lest any man should boast.' "
I remember some years ago preaching in Salt Lake City. I was younger then and had a little more fire and energy. Every night I would stand out in the snow and preach - it was during the winter time - and although I had a place with an awning where the people were protected, I was standing in the snow and preaching to them. One night I was preaching the Gospel to about three hundred Mormons, when a surly man came along and said, "Look here, may I ask you a question?"
"Yes, if you will be prompt, please."
"I am an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. I understood you to say that we could be saved by grace apart from human merit. I deny that, and I challenge you to show me a place in the Bible that says that anybody can be saved by grace without works."
I opened my Bible and read Romans 4:4·5: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." I also read in Ephesians (chapter 2), "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast."
"Let me see that," he said, and I handed him my Bible. "This is not in my Bible."
"What kind of a Bible have you? I think it is."
"I have read my Bible a good many times, but I never saw that."
"Well, when you go home tonight, you just look it up."
"What kind of a Bible have you?"
"This is the Authorized Version."
"Oh, well, that explains it all. I use the King James Version."
"Well," I said, "you know perhaps that the Authorized Version and the King James are the same."
"Is that so? I never knew that. Does yours have the letter to King James in the front of it?"
"Well, all I have got to say is that I have never seen that in my Bible, and if that is in the Bible, I would rather have the Book of Mormon any day," and he ripped out a fearful oath and cursed and damned the Bible.
I saw my advantage, and I said, "Look here, this is a practical demonstration of the thing that I have been preaching. Here is an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and he tells us that he is saved by his own works. We have just had a sample of his works-cursing and swearing. Now, I come to you as a younger in the church of JESUS CHRIST of the formerday saints, telling you that I am saved by grace alone, without works, and I challenge you to put a detective on my tracks, and if you can find one unholy thing that I am saying or one wicked thing that I am doing, you can proclaim it from the housetops." Grace makes us righteous.
This is also called the dispensation of mystery.
This is the age when GOD had made known His eternal purpose to take out of Jew and Gentile a people and unite them into one body; His Body and His Bride. When He reigns, He will not reign alone. This secret was never revealed in the Old Testament period - that the church, brought out of Jew and Gentile, united by the Holy Ghost during this present dispensation, should some day reign with Him.
When this dispensation is ended, are there any others to follow? According to some of our recent writers, there are not. The next great event will be, they say, the coming of the Lord; that the rapture and the appearing will all take place at the same time and that GOD is then through with Israel; that the promises to Israel are now being fulfilled spiritually in the church; that we are to be called up to Heaven and the earth is to be destroyed by fire; that there is no dispensation to follow this. They are telling us that we have been misled during all these years of dispensational teaching; that they don't know when the Lord may come; that all the things and signs of the times leading on to the end amount to nothing; that there will not be a millennium; that we may be here a few thousand years or less, that they don't know, but when this dispensation is ended, we shall enter immediately into our eternal state.
What do we find when we come to this old Book?
Paul points out to the Ephesians another dispensation. I shall not touch on the brief dispensation of judgment. Some think that hardly deserves the dignified name of a dispensation. I am thinking of this glorious dispensation of the "fulness of time," commonly called the millennium. The time will come when our Lord JESUS will be King over all the world, and He will show the world a happy potentate. Shakespeare says, "Unhappy lies the head that wears the crown," but when JESUS comes, He will be a happy King. When He comes He will show us who is that blessed ( or happy) and only potentate; there will be no other. JESUS alone will be King in that day. There will be no one to dispute His sway.
We are told that the term "millennium" is never found in Scripture. It is true that the Latin word is not found, but we have the English equivalent, "a thousand years," and this is found six times in the twentieth chapter of Revelation.
We read that the serpent is bound for one thousand years. When did the binding of Satan take place? If this is all in the past, we have never known the time when Satan was really bound. He has always seemed active so far as our own day is concerned. He is to be bound for one thousand years and is not to deceive the nations any more until the thousand-year period is over.
Revelation 20:4: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
This refers to the church and the martyred tribulation saints. Verse 5: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." This is the fourth time this is mentioned. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Verse 7: "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison." And this is what we mean by "the millennium."
This term has been used in the church from the very earliest ages, but now men rise up who profess to have increased light and suddenly discover that there is never to be a millennium. But this Scripture stands as a bulwark in the way of all who would deny that CHRIST is yet to reign for a thousand glorious years.