Dispensationalism and Missions

Often in many of our schools the study of missions and the study of theology are considered parallel disciplines. This usually works out to missions becoming one of many programs in the local church rather than it being the heart and soul of the church. Our faith should be more than a creed and a list of commandments. It should center on the person of Christ and His eternal purpose. The eternal purpose of God is the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:8-11). This eternal purpose is clearly manifested in the dispensations of Scripture. We see God through Christ pursuing mankind in every age (dispensation). The culmination of these dispensations is found in Ephesians 1:10, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”

From the very beginning of Scriptures the Spirit of God displays the heart of God in the sweet fellowship that must have taken place between Adam and Eve and God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8, The Age of Innocence). In the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15) The Age of Conscience begins. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Here is the first mention of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve must have enjoyed such sweet fellowship walking with God in the cool of the day; yet, in one vile stroke, Satan, sin and self-will had severed that sweet relationship. Praise God, the LORD immediately stepped in with the promise of a Redeemer. Satan would be defeated. Sin would be paid in full. And self-will would be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

In The Age of Government the Self-Existing God institutes something new. He establishes a covenant with a diseased and dying mankind (the law of first mention applies here). Genesis 6:18, “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” Here we learn of the sacredness of blood and life (Genesis 9:4-6), and it is here that Shem, Ham, and Japheth are told to multiply. Nations (people groups) come into existence (Genesis 10:5). God has made the first move in His eternal purpose (a people for Himself through Christ). Subsequently, the concept of a blood-sealed covenant has become a part of every people and every culture.

Even though The Age of Promise rests in the foundational covenant of God with Israel (the Abrahamic Covenant), the heart of God for a peculiar people from all nations is again revealed. One of the blessings that Abraham received was that all nations or people groups would be blessed in his seed. Genesis 22:18a, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…” The seed of the woman found in the protoevangelium is now promised through Abraham. God is proactive and ever on the move toward His eternal purpose, redeeming mankind.

The Age of Law begins with God establishing a conditional covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:7-8). We know that Israel did not keep this covenant (the Mosaic Covenant) and as a result were exiled from the Promised Land. God allowed them to return to the land, but eventually they became known as the Diaspora after their final rejection of Christ in the book of Acts. Their abnegation of the Mosaic Covenant does not negate the unconditional promises made to Israel through Abraham, but it vividly illustrates the inadequacy of man and the all-sufficiency of Christ. Galatians 3:24 is clear, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Mankind is cursed by the law; yet we have life through Christ. Hebrews 9:15, “And for this cause he [Christ] is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Again, God’s eternal purpose is clearly seen in the law, to bring mankind unto Christ.

In this Church Age, The Age of Grace, God has incorporated the church into His eternal purposesinto missions! Since the day of Pentecost, the baton has been passed to believers in Christ. God does not desire us to do; He simply asks us to surrender to Christ so that He may use us to procure a people for Himself. Like Paul, the dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto every believer in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2-6, Colossians 1:25).

The result shall be a holy and peculiar people worshiping and serving God in The Age of the Kingdom (foreshadowed and promised in the Davidic Covenant). Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” John saw a peculiar and holy people called out of every tribe, tongue, and people group. He saw the eternal purpose of God, the glorious work of missions, fulfilled!

Oswald J. Smith said it succinctly, “The mission of the church is missions.”

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