But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15)
Over the year’s various people of differing denominations or non-denominations have used this verse to ask me just what do I believe in or to ask me if I believe in this or that. (Actually they are not really looking for an answer, for they assume they already know what I believe; and the moment I say something, then they feel justified in trying to make me feel sorry that I engaged in the conversation.)
For example: They may ask me if I believe in the “Word of Faith”; if I say yes, then they attach all the negative assumptions on me that they have heard about the Christian movement called “The Word of Faith or WOF”.
They never hear me say “Yes, but!” Not giving me a chance to clarify my answer from what the scriptures says about Faith or the word of faith mentioned in Romans 10:8. And the next thing I know is, they have just placed me on a stake where I’m being burned alive as a heretic! Or, in the very least I’m ridiculed for what they call, “an unscholarly view”. (As if all scholars are on their side.)
Then, if I should say,”No, that I don’t agree with the Word of Faith movement”. Then again they will not hear me say, “No, but!”; no, I don’t fully agree with all that is being said or done within the WOF belief system, but there are many things that I do agree with.
Whereby now, they expect me to jump on the bandwagon and start attacking the people in the Word of Faith movement or those who listen to their message. And soon one starts to feel like a dog chasing its tail trying to weed out what you believe or what you feel is in error.
Sometimes it’s hard to escape their cleverly laid trap, because at the moment they really look sincere when they asked their questions. Then the next moment you find yourself being judged or you’re forced to judge others. Where finally you just have to say , “Stop I’m not going there!”
“If ye have heard of the “dispensation” of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (Ephesians 3:2 KJV)”
“and to bring to light for everyone what is the “plan” of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. (Eph.3:9 ESV)”
I’ve been asked if I’m a Dispensationalist or do I believe in differing dispensations. My answer is, “Yes, but!” There are something’s that I fully believe in, while in some areas I think many dispensationalist may be taking it too far of adding things that really don’t have to do with being a Dispensationalist!
In most places in the N/T the Greek word used has to do with mans stewardship over the things placed in his hands or how he manages those things.
Paul says his purpose was to reveal God’s grace (Eph.3:2) and to show how God has (a managed plan) or how he has worked in the background working out his plan that was kept hidden until now.(Eph.3:9)
Dispensationalism tries to show how God has dealt his grace out somewhat differently during different periods of time or what he accepts and what he does not accept, starting with Adam until the end of time; such as, after the fall and before the law of Moses, or during the time of the Law up to the Cross of Jesus and then after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; likewise, how it will differ during the physical reign of Christ or the Millennial Kingdom.
Of course, a great number of dispensationalist are “pre-millennial” and they explain everything through their millennial view; therefore, those who are not pre-millennialist will not agree, because they differ on what the 1000 years is in the book of Revelation or the timing of Christ’s return; whether that is before or after the 1000 years, (or if there will be an actual 1000 years).
Many newer translations don’t use the word “dispensation” when they translate the Greek word “oikonomia”, instead they use the word “stewardship or administration” when Paul writes his letters to the Churches. A simple definition of dispensation is: a system of order, government, or organization of a nation, community, etc., especially as existing at a particular time.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, (the Septuagint) and other Jewish writings this word has been translated to mean a person’s: station, office, authority, government, a plan. So, when the King James translators used the word dispensation, it fits quite will as Paul describes what has been given him.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8)”
With this in mind; a dispensationalist first believes that Jesus is God’s plan “A” and not some other plan of compromise. Before anything was created God had a plan that he would orchestrate; before Adam was created God had a plan; before the fall of Adam God had a plan; and so on, God had a plan to deal with mankind, but it would take time for all of the pieces to come together. Therefore, even though God created Adam & Eve in a state of innocence, (God knew he would have to eventually deal with Adam through this plan and not through Adam’s ability to remain innocent.)
Even after the fall and Adam is now aware of sin (conscience); after God clothed them God knew he would have to deal with Adam through his plan and not through Adam’s ability to abstain from sin through his knowledge of right and wrong.
Some dispensationalists believe there are seven dispensations, while others believe there could be as many as twelve: depending on whether they see 7 as the number for perfection or completion; or 12 as the number for God’s government. It’s not actually about any set number of dispensations, but rather that no matter how God for the moment may be dealing with a certain people, (through covenant or Law), eventually it all leads back to God’s plan “A”.
Unfortunately, there are things thrown into the mix that has nothing to do with dispensationalism; such as whether there is a rapture or not; or whether one is to be pre-millennial, post-millennial or amillennial. Because so much stuff has been thrown in, many don’t know what dispensationalism really is.
I have always believed that there is room for me to be wrong or for others to be wrong within the differing Christian eschatological views; and still be Christian. Likewise, there are other areas where I believe we can not be wrong; which could determine whether or not a person is actually a Christian.
False or wrong doctrine in some areas of faith doesn’t automatically change the fact that a person could still be a brothers or sisters in the Lord.
However not everyone is of this opinion or at least they don’t practice it in everyday life. Where they write blogs, books or articles so they can rally up their troops to point the finger of accusation against those who differ from them in beliefs.
Where they claim a person can be wrong in non-essential doctrinal beliefs and still be Christian; yet in practical application, they attack the person as if it is an essential doctrinal position, bringing doubt whether they are in fact Christian because of their belief!
Yes, I’m ready to give an answer or reason to why I believe what I believe. Yes, but!! I hope you’re not just looking for a reason to start a bonfire to burn me or others as a heretics! There are some real issues that may need to be reasoned out in order to keep the unity in the Body of Christ or before we start claiming heresy, but let’s be sure it is truly heresy and that we’re not destroying a brother or sister just for the sake of trying to prove ourselves right.
There is always the possibility that a person is wrong, but what if it turns out that it is you who is wrong? Are you willing to see yourself in the same judgment that you placed on them or that it is you who is causing harm to the body of Christ, by causing division or calling someone a heretic that wasn’t a heretic?
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6)”
Sometimes it’s best not to answer those who ask you questions about what you believe, because their purpose is only to judge you or to get you to join their judgment of others. (No matter how you answer or how well you can give your answer, their purpose is for destruction and not for edification. Whether that destruction is pointed to you or others.)
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)”
Sometimes I find that it’s those who call themselves Christian, in fact act as wolves! So be wise how you engage in these questions that are asked of you. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he sent them to those who should have been friendly to their message, but many weren’t; so, don’t be shaken if you don’t get the response that you hoped for if or when you decide to give your answer.