‘If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you’, Eph. 3. 2 NKJV
God never changes. God’s holy standards never change. But, at times, God does change the way in which He conducts His affairs with mankind. In the Old Testament, God set Israel under the Law of Moses, promising blessing if His people obeyed the commandments. Sadly, they proved completely incapable of doing so. Therefore, God introduced a new administrative system.
The new system, or dispensation, the one which we are under today, is the dispensation of grace, Eph. 3. 2. Grace came through Jesus Christ, John 1. 17, but the responsibility of unfolding it was committed to Paul. Its distinguishing feature is ‘that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel’, Eph. 3. 6 NKJV.
Grace means that anyone can come to God directly by faith in Jesus Christ, Rom. 3. 22. Gentiles do not have to seek God via Israel. Jews need not approach God through the law.
What are the ‘house rules’ under this system?
Firstly, grace is the means of salvation.
‘Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they’, Acts 15. 10, 11 NKJV.
Secondly, grace is our guiding principle for godly living.
‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age’, Titus 2. 11, 12 NKJV.
We saw previously that, when God introduces a new dispensation, if the new arrangement is contrary to the old, the old arrangement is removed. Clearly, the dispensation of conscience was opposite to the dispensation of innocence. Logically, you cannot have both together, so innocence was discontinued.
However, if the new system is complementary to the old, God leaves the old system in place, and adds the new one. The law was added to the promise but did not nullify the promise, Gal. 3. 17.
So, when men fail under law, and God wants to inaugurate a new dispensation, what does He do? Does grace complement law so that law stays in place? Or does grace contradict law, so that law must be removed?
‘For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace’, Rom. 6. 14 NKJV.
No one can be under law and grace at the same time, any more than they could be under innocence and conscience at the same time. The two systems are logical opposites. If one applies, then, by definition, the other cannot apply.
‘Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work’, Rom. 11. 5, 6 NKJV.
The system of law has been abolished, Eph. 2. 15. It has been wiped out, Col. 2. 13, 14. It has been rendered obsolete, Heb. 8. 13.
Does grace work? Yes! We have been saved by grace, Eph. 2. 8, and we can live by grace, Col. 1. 6.
However, man has failed in the past, and man will fail even under grace. The world has failed under grace, because, despite the gospel of grace being a free offer of salvation, most people reject it. Even those who have received the gospel of grace sometimes fail, either by turning back to law, ‘You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace’, Gal. 5. 4 NKJV, or by using grace as a licence to sin, ‘For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another’, v. 13 NKJV.
Because grace is grace, even when we fail God still loves us. He may discipline us for our own good, but grace will never let us go.