Is there a consistent definition for a “Dispensationalist”? If so, what is it? Thank you.
The word dispensation is used four times in the Bible.
I Corinthians 9:16,17 says, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, A DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL is committed unto me.”
Ephesians 1:9,10 says, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 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.”
Ephesians 3:1-6 says, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
Colossians 1:24-26 says, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to THE DISPENSATION OF GOD which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”
The word dispensation means “the act of dispensing; a system of revealed commands and promises” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary).
As you consider that definition with the above verses, you can see that God dispenses certain things in His own perfect timing. Paul was responsible to dispense (to give out) the gospel that the Lord had called him to preach. One day, God will dispense His Son (He will send Him back to earth) to take His Bride. At certain times, God dispensed certain truths (things which were before a mystery), like that the Jews and Gentiles would be one in Christ.
There have been study Bibles and books printed which try to state certain dispensations. I would not worry about memorizing a list of dispensations outlined by man. I would just center on reading the Bible and teaching it through verse by verse. In that way, people can see for themselves what God dispenses to man, and when.
The greatest danger in making too much out of dispensations is readily seen in those who go so far as to say that there were different ways to be saved in different dispensations. That is totally false, and shows their error. There has always only been one way to get saved — through the blood of Jesus Christ. Old Testament saints looked ahead to His sacrifice, and we look back to it. That is the only way that people have ever gotten saved. Acts 10:43 says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Have you placed you faith in Christ alone? Are you dispensing the gospel that has been committed to you?