In a previous post, I offered some working definitions of Dispensationalism as a system. I defined what it is as well as what it isn’t. In this post, I want to provide a description, an illustration, of what Dispensationalism is.
A House Law
Have you ever noticed this yogurt in a grocery store? If so, you may have been subtly exposed to the foundational principles of Dispensationalism! I speak a little bit in jest. Obviously, Walmart shoppers are not looking for signs of the validity of Dispensationalism in the yogurt section. But…
The Bible translates the word oikonomia (οικονομια) with the word dispensation. This same compound Greek word is also transliterated (exchanging English letters for the Greek letters) into our word economy (look at the words long enough and you can see a similarity). I know what you’re thinking – “I could care less about etymology! What does Greek yogurt have to do with dispensational theology?!”
The underlying Greek word comes from two separate words: oikos and nomos. You have seen the word nomos before in words like Deuteronomy and autonomy. The word means “law, rule.” The word oikos refers to a house. This compound word carries the concepts of a “house law,” a component that is important to understand Dispensationalism.
My wife and I have five daughters, ranging from elementary to dating and nearly finished with college. At the time of this post, all five live in my “house.” Although they all live in my house, the rules – that is, the way that I govern them – differ from child to child. If you think about this, it’s probably true in your homes as well.
My elementary child has an earlier bedtime. I do not leave her at home alone. She is not allowed to sit in the front seat with her mother. She can’t date! No phone calls from boys!
My oldest daughter really doesn’t have a bedtime. She is working, going to college, dating, and is much more independent. She is not “autonomous” – but the way that I govern her – the rules of the house – are different than from my youngest child.
In Dispensational thought, God is governing His “house” but His methods of governing change as the “house” goes through different stages. Consider:
- He ruled over mankind in the beginning by physically visiting them daily in the Garden and holding them accountable.
- He ruled over mankind after the Fall through their conscience.
- He then ruled over mankind through civil government after the flood.
- After the tower of Babel, He had a representative people through whom He governed based upon His promises (through the Patriarchs).
- After the captivity in Egypt, God governed Israel by the law (the Mosaic Covenant).
- Currently, God is governing mankind by the witness of His Spirit who is indwelling each believer during this dispensation.
- Finally, God will once again rule personally by sitting upon the throne of David and setting up His kingdom on earth.
The next time you see a container of Oikos Yogurt, I hope you’ll remember that God is governing His house well! Stay tuned as we look at the basics of this theological system.