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Chapter 8: The “Seven Dispensations” of Scofield’s Bible—continued

We have now come to the discussion of the so-called fourth dispensation of Scofield’s “dispensations.”

Scofield takes his point of departure for this “fourth dispensation” in Genesis 12:1. He captions this section as follows:

“The Fourth Dispensation: PROMISE—from the call of Abraham to the giving of the Law (Gen. 12:1Exodus 19:8).”

Should we inquire more about this “dispensation,” then we read the following from Scofield’s pen:

“(a) The dispensation of promise is connected with the “Abrahamic Covenant” (Gen. 15:18), and by it the “descendants” of Abraham became distinctive heirs of the promise.

“(b) In Egypt the descendants of Abraham lost theirblessings but not the Covenant.

“(c) The Dispensation of Promise extends from Gen. 12:1 to Exodus 19:8 and was exclusively Israelitish. (italics mine)

“(d) The Dispensation must be distinguished from the Covenant. The former was a mode of testing; the latter was everlasting and unconditional.

“(e) Only the dispensation, as a testing of Israel, ended at the lawgiving.”

Now the above-stated propositions of Scofield are not very clear and lucid. What is clear and outstanding is that the promise, as a dispensation, was exclusively for the natural descendants of Abraham: TE means that it excluded all the nations, and did not at all pertain to the elect sons of God both from the “Circumcision” and the “Uncircumcision,” to Jew and Greek both, to those who belong to Christ and, therefore, are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29).

It should be noticed that in the above-quoted propositions, which we will here consider, the terms “promise” and “covenant” are really manipulated in a very strange way. What makes this so grievous is that the clear and sound teaching of the biblical pattern is contorted beyond recognition in so doing. It should be quite evident that here we are not dealing with a mere “literal interpretation” of “Israel” but a systematic reconstruction of such biblical terms as “Promise,” “Covenant,” and “dispensation.” Scofield does not believe all the prophetic Scriptures concerning the truth of the “Promise.” Somehow the “promise is dissected from the covenant-oath of God to the heirs of the promise. There can be a promise which is but for a time, a certain dispensation of trial; however, God’s Covenant is unconditional and everlasting. Even so, it is very clear, upon close consideration, that the “covenant” which is unconditional and everlasting, is not the same as the New Testament in Christ’s blood for both Jew and Gentile, who are fellow heirs of the promised Spirit of Pentecost.

Briefly stated, Scofield teaches:

(a) The promise is really “despensational,” and is a period of trial, testing. Fact is that this promise relates to Israel’s reception of the earthly land of promise. That is why, when Israel went into the land of Egypt, she lost the “blessings” of the promise. For this “promise” is really temporal and conditional.

(b) At the time of the law-giving, Israel said “Amen” to the law of God, and placed themselves under the law, when “they rashly” accepted the law (Exodus 19:8). We read there “And all the people answered together, and said: all that the LORD hath spoken we will do.”

Such is the Scofieldian construction of the Scriptures on this truth of the “law” and the “promise.” We are also certain that with possibly certain modification that is the teaching of nearly all Dispensationalism in our land.

Let us try to analyze this rather strange and unbiblical teaching.

In the first place, it should be repeated, the Bible knows nothing of these “seven dispensations.” These are wholly an invention of Scofield, who here follows the teachings, of the “Plymouth Brethren” of England. As we have shown in an earlier chapter (Chapter V) the term “dispensation” refers to a Divine arrangement of God’s Covenant blessings of Salvation in the New Testament times, wherein all the blessings of God’s Covenant are for all the elect, Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female. In this New Testament Dispensation we see the fulfillment of the Promise of God to Abraham and to his seed forever (Eph. 1:10Eph. 3:2Col. 1:24). Compare also Galatians 3:6, 7 and Galatians 3:26-29).

Secondly, it ought to be noticed that the term “promise” in the Scriptures is no less unconditional and everlasting than is God’s Covenant. God’s covenant-words in the Old Testament prophetic Scriptures were promissory in character. They were oath-bound promises of God, which He swore by Himself, because He could not swear by anyone greater, and thus this was the end of all contradiction (Hebrews 6:13). These were the words of promise to Abraham which God spoke at the Mount Moriah, where Abraham sacrificed Isaac upon the altar (Gen. 22:16, 17Ps. 105:9Luke 1:73). Hence, it is rank heresy to teach a promise, which is only for the natural seed of Abraham, and a promise which God could and actually did abrogate at the time of the law-giving at Sinai, as teaches Scofield.

Thirdly, we must most strongly insist, that it is not at all true that Israel “rashly accepted” the law at Sinai, and thereby showed that they did not stand, as standing the “test” of being under promise. This is not true from the very nature of the meaning of the law-giving as a taskmaster to Christ (Gal. 3:24); but it surely does not follow from the very terms of God to The People by Moses in Exodus 19:8. The words of God through Moses are not an abrogation at all of the “promise.” For Israel did not rashly accept a new way of “testing,” but they are saying an “Amen” of faith to the Covenant words of Jehovah, Who declares to Israel: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. They are told that they are God’s peculiar treasure in all the earth. Does not the LORD really promise them that they shall be those who are called out of darkness into His marvelous light? Are they not foreseen as the newborn babes, who are to be God’s spiritual stones in His temple, built upon the Stone chosen in Zion? Thus Peter quotes this text from Exodus 19:1-9 in II Peter 2:4-10. The great prophetical perspective in these words of Jehovah are fulfilled in the gathering of the church, the spiritual strangers “throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto the obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:1, 2).

No, at Sinai God did not abrogate the “promise” but brings in the “law” of obedience of Christ, the royal law of liberty, which has in it the grand covenant proclamation: I am the LORD thy God which had brought you forth from Egypt, the house of bondage! (Exodus 20:2). And now Israel must walk in her “part” of the covenant, claiming the fulfilled promises in Christ, in Whom they are all “yea” and “Amen” to the glory of God the Father.

Fourthly, we should admit that Scofield’s assertion that the “covenant”‘ is “everlasting and unconditional” is the gospel-truth as far as it goes. However, in Scofield’s teaching, this is Dispensational jargon! This does not mean that the Promise is sure to all the Seed by God’s unbreakable covenant mercies in David, but that the covenant of God to fleshly Israel concerning their inheriting the earthly land of Canaan cannot be broken. Israel will surely be delivered from Egypt, will temporarily lose the “blessings” of the land, but will surely return to their covenanted earthly land of promise. Whereas Scofield makes a false contrast between the “promise” and the “covenant” what he teaches concerning the Covenant is not Scriptural teaching at all. He severs, in his teaching, what God has immutably joined together. And, therefore, he teaches the untruth that the promise was abrogated at Sinai, and that Israel “rashly accepted the law” and, thereby, failed to pass the test of the “dispensation of the promise.”

Now, it seems to me, that this is a clever ploy to avoid teaching that the promised mercies of God never end, yea, that they extend to the end of the world, and into the highest heavens, and into the everlasting and heavenly Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ! As Scofield teaches the dispensation of promise, he cannot but fail to connect the promise with the fulfillment of the law at Calvary, where Jesus cried with a loud voice: It is finished! (John 19:30). There is no saving grace in the Promise to Abraham!

In light of this it is no wonder that Scofield speaks of “seven covenants.” These are purported to be: the Adamic (Gen. 3:15); Abrahamic (Gen. 15:18); Mosaic (Ex. 19:25); Palestinian (Deut. 30:3); Davidic (II Sam. 7:16); New (Heb. 8:8). Without going into the fallacy of these “covenants” we observe in passing that these covenants do not mesh chronologically with the “dispensations.” We observe here a very obvious arbitrariness of divisions, even if they were true. Here we are treating with mere whim and fancy of a mere man. My point is that when once he has severed the “Covenant” from the “Promise” of God, there is no end to these cunningly devised fables, and erroneous constructions.

Meanwhile, let us be thoroughly convinced in our heart and mind that it is indeed false doctrine to teach that the “promise” in Genesis 12:1 was the first time that God announced His sure gospel promise to the elect church. The gospel-promise was first of all revealed by God Himself in Paradise to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15) and it was further shown in its meaning to Abraham as one of all the prophets (Gen. 20:7) and it was portrayed in the shadows and types of the Old Testament tabernacle and the ceremonial ordinances and feast days, and it was finally fulfilled in God’s Only-Begotten Son (Rom. 10:4).

Besides, let it not be overlooked, we, in the New Testament dispensation, are not left in the dark concerning the Divine connection between the “law” and the “promise.” Jesus came to fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 3:15) and He also gives His word of warning, that He is come to fulfill the law in its deepest spiritual sense as He tells us in detail in Matthew 5:20-48.

We must never read the Scriptures through the “notes” of Scofield. Ever blind leaders lead the blind. Let us be as those who cling to the sound teaching of the Bible, also in regard to such truths as the “Promise” of God, as the Oath-bound Word of God, fulfilled in Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord.