The Dispensation of the Mystery
1. The declaration.
We believe that since the setting aside of Israel (Acts 28) God has ushered in a new
dispensation, called the 'dispensation of the grace of God' to the Gentiles, and the
'dispensation of the mystery'. We believe that this new dispensation was originally
revealed by God to Paul the prisoner, and that its teaching is to be found in his
prison epistles alone. The company of believers called during this dispensation is called
the church which is His body, of which Christ is the Head.
Its sphere of blessing, its constitution, and its hope are unique, and neither the
Abraham, nor the characteristics of the Pentecostal church belong in any way to this
2. Scriptural grounds.
' ... By revelation He made known unto me the mystery ... that the Gentiles should
heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:
whereof I was made a minister ... to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation
R.V.) of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid (has been hidden since the ages) in God' (Eph. 3:3,6,7,9).
' ... For His body's sake, which is the church: whereof I am made a minister, according
dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil (complete) the Word of
God; even the
mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest
to His saints' (Col. 1:24-26).
'Praying ... for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that
I may open
my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador
in bonds' (Eph. 6:18,20).
' ... blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according
as He hath
chosen us in Him before the foundation (overthrow) of the world' (Eph. 1:3,4).
' ... The church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all' (Eph.
3. An explanation of some special features of the dispensation of the mystery.
This present dispensation is connected with a series of facts that influence its character
1. Its chosen apostle and minister is Paul the prisoner.
Paul, the prisoner, in Acts 28, spent a whole day with the leaders of Israel in Rome,
when it became evident that Israel of the dispersion were as obdurate as their brethren
in the land,
blindness settled upon the nation and the door of grace was opened wide to the Gentiles.
' ... the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it'
Israel's hope (Acts 28:20) and Israel's signs (28:1-9) did not cease with Matthew
28 or Acts
2, but remained to the end of the Acts. Till then, the Gentile believer had been
but a wild olive graft into the stock of Israel. In Acts 28, the Israelite stock
is cut down; the axe, so long laid to the root of the tree, does its work. A new
dispensation with new terms is ushered in -- the dispensation of the grace of God for the Gentiles
committed to Paul the prisoner of the Lord (Eph. 3:1).
2. Its special sphere of blessing.
This church has a unique sphere of blessing. Israel's inheritance is the land of
Abraham and those who walk in the steps of his overcoming faith look forward to the
heavenly City; it is reserved for the church of the One Body to be blessed in heavenly
places. These heavenly places are at the right hand of God, far above all (Eph.
1:20,21); the church of the One Body is spoken of, not merely as attaining that high place,
of standing there, or serving there -- unspeakable blessings as these would be --
but of actually being 'seated together' there at the right hand of God. Nothing
like this had ever been made known before.
3. The time of its election is unique.
Three times in Scripture do we read the words, 'Before the foundation of the world'.
these passages speak of Christ, viz., John 17:24 and 1 Peter 1:20. The other reference
speaks of the election of the church of the One Body 'before the foundation of the
The etymology of the word 'foundation', katabole, and its usage elsewhere (e.g., 2
Cor. 4:9; 2
Sam. 20:15 etc., etc.) lead us to adopt the rendering, 'Before the overthrow of the
world'. Linking this passage with Genesis 1:1 and 2, and, by the analogy of faith,
with Ezekiel 28, we discover that before the judgment upon Satan and his angels which
involved the original earth in chaos, this church with its heavenly destiny was chosen.
4. The time of its manifestation was deferred.
This dispensation is called the dispensation of the mystery. We are told that it
in God' from the ages and the generations, and was only made known when Israel failed
temporarily set aside. This revelation completes the Word of God. Nothing further
is to be expected, but from now until the end what has been promised shall in due
time and order come to pass. Judged from the record of the rest of Scripture this
dispensation of the mystery is a parenthesis in the outworking of the purpose of the ages,
but from the standpoint of Him Who knows the end from the beginning, and worketh
all things after the counsel of His will, the church of the One Body and its dispensation
fall into their predestined place, and complete the whole.
5. Its constitution is unique.
The Gentile members of this church were told to remember that once they were hopeless,
Christless, Godless and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. This church was no
development, adjustment, or evolution of the company that was formed during the Acts
(though, of course, many of the individuals who composed the early church passed
over by faith into the other), but was a new creation.
' ... for to create in himself of the two, one new man, so making peace' (Eph. 2:15,
In this new company there is an equality of membership never known before. Even when
writing the epistle to the Romans, Paul speaks of 'the Jew first'. But in the new
company we have an entirely new constitution :
'Fellow-citizens with the saints' (Eph. 2:19).
'That the gentiles should be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers
of his promise in Christ by that gospel, whereof I (Paul) was made a minister' (Eph.
6. It is characterised by the supremacy of Christ Himself; the substance eclipsing
and removing all shadows.
In this dispensation there are no 'healings', 'tongues' and other supernatural sign-gifts.
ceased with the setting aside of the people of Israel. There is only one baptism
in this church, that of the Spirit -- not that of water. The baptism of the Spirit
must not be confused with the earlier
manifestation of spiritual gifts, but associated with the identification of the believer
with His Lord in His death, burial and resurrection, which is not necessarily set
forth typically by immersion in water. Water baptism is closely connected with Israel. Peter could never have said as did Paul, 'Christ sent me not to baptise, but to
preach the gospel' (l Cor. 1:17), for Peter's gospel and baptism are inseparable.
The church of the mystery has no warrant to observe the Lord's Supper.* Its institution
(Matt. 26) shows that it is directly linked with the New Covenant, in which the church
of the One
Body can have no place. The New Covenant is not a vague term to be spiritualized
dimension. It is defined in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 as being essentially to do
with the restoration of the house of Israel and the house of Judah, a blessed theme,
but with no relation to this church of heavenly places.
All fasts, feasts and observance of days find themselves fulfilled in Christ :
'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day,
or of the
new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body
is of Christ' (Col. 2:16,17).
The prison epistles of the apostle Paul -- Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and
-- constitute the charter of this church of the mystery.
These epistles are written to and about us. The rest of Scripture is absolutely necessary
to us -- just as the foundation of a building is necessary to its topmost stone --
but these epistles are
peculiarly our own. It is a misrepresentation of our teaching to say that we have
reduced our Bible to four epistles. We might as well charge the whole Protestant
Church with cutting the Bible in half, because it professes to be under grace and
not under law.
7. There is a sacred trust connected with this new calling.
In Ephesians 4:3-6 we are enjoined to keep the sevenfold unity of the Spirit, of which
the One Lord, is the centre.
One HOPE. One FAITH.
One SPIRIT. One BAPTISM.
One BODY. One GOD AND FATHER.
In both 2 Timothy 1 and 2 Paul's teaching is the pattern: 'Which thou hast heard of
In 2 Timothy 1:12 and 14 Paul speaks of 'that good deposit', a sacred trust of truth
first of all
'committed' to Paul, then to Timothy, and subsequently 'to faithful men who should
be able to teach others also' (2 Tim. 2:2).
It is to this commitment that we desire to respond. For this we seek grace, strength,
understanding, and endurance. To this end we put pen to paper and publish books,
seeking to buy up every opportunity of making known these unsearchable riches of
We know not when the last member of this blessed company shall be called and the church
completed, but this we do know, that the signs of the times indicate to us that the
end of the age draws near. We see the movement beginning among the 'dry bones' of
Israel; we see the fig tree once more beginning to put forth its leaves, and the
signs of the apostasy spoken of by Paul in 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3 and 4 appearing. We
believe, therefore, that our hope draws nearer still. May we 'live ... looking for
that blessed hope' (Tit. 2:12,13).
* See The Dispensational Place of the Lord's Supper -- same Author and Publisher.