Dispensational-Premillennial teaching, which follows in the footsteps of the Scofield Bible “notes,” teaches “seven dispensations.”
We have thus far taken notice of the first four of these so-called dispensations, in which God then deals from a different principle with man, as a “means of testing.” These four “dispensations” which we have studied are: the dispensation of “Innocence,” of “Conscience,” of “Human Government,” of “Promise.”
Presently we come to our investigation of what Scofield calls “the Fifth Dispensation”: LAW. Writes Scofield, “This dispensation extends from Sinai to Calvary, from the Exodus to the Cross.” Writes Scofield, “The history of Israel in the wilderness is one long record of the violation of Law. The testing of thenation by law ended at the Cross.”
Furthermore, we read in the “notes” (idem) the following details.
“(1) Man’s state at the beginning (Ex. 19:1-4)
Now it ought to be kept in mind that the Scofield presentation of “law” is understood as a principle of testing. It is each time a different manner of dealing with man as he is given a kind of “New beginning.”, according to Scofield, depicts man’s state at the beginning. Of course, in the “notes” no exegesis is given at all. These are all mere statements, allegations with some appended Scripture references.
The principle of testing here is “law,” just as the period from Abraham till Sinai was the principle of testing of the promise to receive the inheritance of the earthly land of Canaan. To substantiate this position of “law” as a “testing device” of God, reference is made to Romans 15:5, where we read, “For Moses describeth (writes: graphei, in Greek) the righteousness which is out of law: that the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” Paul is here quoting Moses from Leviticus 18:5: “Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” The Westminster fathers refer as explanatory texts to ; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12. It is evident from these passages that here the LORD comes as the unchangeable JEHOVAH, the I AM THAT I AM.
Hence, these passages indicate not a new and different principle of testing man, but refer to the new and unchangeable ordinance of God to His covenant people in Christ Jesus.
We will come to explain this more fully later.
At this point we merely are interested to demonstrate that it is fair and just to say that the “law” in Scofield’s teaching is a law-principle, as it stands opposite to saving grace, excluding it; that in so doing Scofield refuses to believe all the prophetic Scriptures, as they find their perfect end in Christ, the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes, the Jew first and also the Greek! Does not Paul write in Galatians 3:12, “Now the law is not out of faith, but the man which doeth them shall live in them?'”
It is good to understand an opponent’s writings, and that, too, rather thoroughly. We must, therefore, also inquire into what Scofield calls man’s “responsibility” (see above). For this responsibility he refers to Exodus 19:5, 6. Does this beautiful and rich passage from the mouth of God Himself refer to a work-righteousness whereby man may save himself, a certain law-principle? Read Exodus 19:1-6 from your own Bible. It is evident that this is the false teaching which Dispensationalists would distill from this passage. But this is nothing less than foisting their own opinion, private notion, upon the text which clearly does not sustain such false constructions. When Israel replies, “all that the LORD hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8a), is it a rightly dividing of the Word to jump at the conclusion that Israel is assenting to a mere law-principle, whereby the promise of God’s grace to the church of all ages is abrogated? To ask this question is to answer it.
Far be that from us thus to teach!
The trouble with Scofield is that he has both an erroneous interpretation of what he calls “Man’s State In The Beginning” (Ex. 19:1-4) and of man’s “Responsibility” (Ex. 19:5, 6; Rom. 10:5). Let us bear in mind that Exodus 19:1-4 does not at all speak of “Man’s State In The Beginning.” The text does not speak of mankind, but refers to the new state of Israel in God’s Covenant of grace. It speaks of the wonderful place of Israel of God in the tender mercies and loving care of Jehovah God, as He is fulfilling the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of whom God is not ashamed to be called “their God” since He has prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:16).
Briefly we should notice the following main points inExodus 19:1-8:
(1) That at this point in Israel’s history they have been already delivered from the cruel bondage of Egypt by the mighty saving hand of Jehovah. They had been saved pinpointedly in and through the tenth plague upon Egypt, which laid Pharaoh prostrate, and which culminated in his utter destruction in the Red Sea. God had passed over Israel with the angel of death in that awful night over Egypt land, and had said, “when I see the blood I will pass over.” And Moses had instituted the passover by faith (Heb. 11:28; Ex. 12:40-51). God had fulfilled His covenant promise to Abraham spoken of inGenesis 15:8-18. Hence, Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai was not simply in a state and condition of “Man’s State of Beginning.” They stood in the covenant mercies as the firstborn sons of God (Num. 23:22; Num. 24:8; Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15). God has called His firstborn out of Egypt land!
(2) That at this point Israel had been baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; already they had eaten of the manna of heaven, angel’s food, and they were under the divine pedagogy where they must learn that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. And these are covenant words of Jehovah! They must walk in newness of life, in simple childlike faith (Ps. 78:22-25; Ex. 16:15; Ex. 24:7, 8; I Cor. 10:1-13).
(3) That Israel now receives the law of the ten commandments, as this word of God’s covenant comes directly, orally, from the mouth of the great, righteous, holy, and merciful Jehovah, Who will shew His mercy in thousands of generations of those who love Him. And they hear: I am the Lord thy God, thy Redeemer; walk before Me in sincere and godly thankfulness (Ex. 20:1ff.).
We are of the settled and holy conviction that we rightly divide the word of truth, as outlined above. And we therefore humbly submit that the Israel here addressed, and which answers to Jehovah, is the elect people of God, as they are destined to bring forth the Christ, the Seed, called out of Isaac (Gen. 21:12; Rom. 9:7b).
When we look at the disobedience of the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, and when we attempt to answer the soul-searching question as to the real character and nature of this “disobedience,” we must not jump at hasty conclusions. We must patiently listen to the Scriptures, believing all of them. And then it is crystal clear from Hebrews 3:19 that the Israel which did and could not enter into the promised rest were those who apostatized from the living God, as revealed at Sinai, after being delivered by God’s outstretched hand out of Egypt, the house of Satan’s cruel bondage. They would not walk as those walked who were redeemed by the blood. They were those of Massa and Meriba, those in the provocation in the desert. They could not enter because of their unbelief. God had sworn with an oath that they should not enter into His rest. They were not the true Israel of God (Num. 14:30; Heb. 3:18, 19). This was true of all those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness (Num. 14:22, 23; Ps. 106:26).
It was not merely disobedience to some “law-principle,” but it was the disobedience of stark unbelief, a falling away from the living God!
This we must keep in mind for our very life’s sake!
The substructure of the law-giving is that Israel in the way of faith and obedience of faith will inherit the promise, while it is called “today.” In this way they will exhibit that they are a new creation of God, a kingdom of priests. Ever there was the remnant according to election of grace. These kept God’s covenant, they faithfully fulfilled their holy vow before the face of God; they kept the vow uttered as recorded in Exodus 19:8: “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” These vowed and paid unto Jehovah, their God. These endured to the end.
The “failure” of Israel to keep the law was not that the saints had only a small beginning of the new obedience. These the Old Testament saints too had, just as we. These were the sins and weaknesses of the people, for which God raised up merciful high priests, who bore the sins of the people in the sacrificial offerings, particularly on the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:16; Heb. 2:17; Heb. 5:2; Heb. 7:27, 28; Heb. 9:7). No, this “failure” was the sin of unbelief, which refuses to look for redemption in the Blood, which speaks better things than Abel. It is the sin of those who “were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift”—have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and who have fallen away from the living God in stark and hopeless unbelief. And their carcasses fell wilderness . . . .
They vowed and did not pay unto Jehovah!
Let us believe all of the Scriptures!
(to be continued)