The question:

In your study on false teaching you mentioned the error of Dispensationalism in dividing scriptures between Christians and Jews. Could you elaborate please? I am confused.

[This question was asked in relation to a statement made in the How to Deal with False Teaching studies on this website. In the study on contemporary false teaching, under the heading of ‘Errors Concerning the Last Things’, the following is included in a dot-point list of errors in which there is clear divergence from the Scriptures: Dispensational teaching that divides the scripture into verses/passages for Jews and verses for the church, and divides the people of God into ‘Jews’ and ‘the church’.]

The answer below is brief. It is not an attempt to address Dispensationalism as such. Its purpose is to briefly explain why that aspect of Dispensationalism which divides the scripture and the people of God is included in the list of contemporary errors.

Answer:

Dispensational teaching [see footnote for a brief explanation] divides history into various 'dispensations' - that is into various eras in which God's rule of the world and revelation of his will is seen to be different.
To some extent and at some levels some division is biblically legitimate. The Bible divides itself into the ‘prophets’ [the Old Testament] and the ‘apostles’ [New Testament], into anticipation on the one hand and fulfilment on the other.

The dispensational division of the scriptures to which I refer as an ‘error’, is the teaching [1] that there are verses and sections of the Bible that refer only to a future physical restoration and blessedness of the nation of Israel, and [2] that, therefore, these verses and passages do not refer to the church and the spiritual blessings which Christians individually and corporately have in Christ.

Such teaching holds that there are some parts of the Bible that are not relevant and not applicable to the church and to Christians, and that there are some promises, principles and commands in the Bible that Christians cannot take and apply to themselves. This includes sections from both Old and New Testaments. For example, some dispensationalists maintain that the Sermon on the Mount is not meant for the church corporately or Christians individually.

This teaching is based on the dispensational assumption that the church was not part of God’s purpose, and was not predicted in the Old Testament, and that Jesus came to offer the kingdom of heaven only to the Jews. The church is viewed as God’s Plan B, a temporary parenthesis that resulted from the Jews’ failure to accept Jesus as their Messiah and the kingdom which he offered them.

Why is this division of the Scripture and of the people of God ‘error’?

It is error because the New Testament teaches:

[1] That all the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ [2 Corinthians 1:18-20].

[2] That all the scriptures speak of Christ [Luke 24:25-27,44-45; John 5:39-40,45-46].

[3] That the eternal purpose of God, the mystery hid from all ages, but now revealed in and through Christ, is that Gentiles and Israel together share in the promises in Christ [Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:4-6].

[4] That Jew and Gentile who believe in Christ together constitute the people of God [Ephesians 2:11-22].

[5] That, in Christ, there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile [Romans 3:22-24; Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 3:11].

[6] That Gentile believers are also the children of Abraham and inherit the promises given to Abraham, that is to Israel [Romans 4:16-25; Galatians 3:6-9,14, 29; 4:28; Ephesians 2:11-22].

[7] That the same descriptions which were applied to Israel as the people of God in the Old Testament apply to all who believe in Christ [Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11; 1 Peter 2:9].

In addition the Old Testament teaches:

[1] God’s covenant with Abraham promises blessedness to all the nations of the earth in and through his descendant [Genesis 12:3; 22:18], whereas dispensational teaching promises to Israel special blessings which are unavailable to the nations.

[2] The anticipated Messiah’s mission was to always intended to impact the whole world, not just to the Jews [Isaiah 40:5; 42:6,7; 49:6; 52:15]. Hence: there was no need to instigate ‘Plan B’ [that is, offering salvation to the Gentiles] when the Jews failed to acknowledge him.

To deny, or, at the very least, ignore, all of the above, as this aspect of dispensational teaching does, is serious indeed. Not only does it deprive the church – you and me, and all others who believe in Christ – of many of the promises of God, it also, at a fundamental level, undermines or interferes with:

      • The plain meaning and clear teaching of the Bible
      • The unity of the Bible
      • The one eternal purpose of God established in and by Jesus Christ
      • The role of the death of Christ in the purposes of God
      • The total sovereignty of God over the flow of human events
      • The ability of God to bring his purposes about
      • The eternality, relevance and absoluteness of the Word of God
      • The symbol/reality perspective between Old Testament anticipation and the New Testament fulfilment
      • The New Testament perspective of fulfilment and finality established by the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
      • The finality and perfection of the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ

Footnote: Dispensationalism was not taught in the church until it was forcefully promoted by the early Brethren leader, John Darby [1800-1882]. Some historic antecedents of Darby’s views are found in the writing of a sixteenth century Jesuit, Francesco Ribera, which was translated into English by another Jesuit, Manuel Lacunza, in the early nineteenth century. [Source: A History of the Brethren Movement, Paternoster Press, Exeter, 1968]. Darby’s views have been popularised by The Scofield Reference Bible [1909], and the updated The New Scofield Bible [1967], which contains biased interpretative headings and footnotes promoting a dispensational understanding of the Bible’s meaning and application. It limits certain sections of the Bible to apply only to a restored nation of Israel in a future physical millennial kingdom. Those sections are seen to have no reference or relevance either to events in Israel’s history, or to the Christian church.

[Until the influence of Darby and Scofield historic premillennialism did not contain dispensational teaching. Under the influence of Darby and Scofield, that is, starting in the second half of the nineteenth century, and escalating in the twentieth century, a significant number of premillennialists are also dispensational in their understanding, some without realising either the recent origin of this teaching or the dangers inherent in some of its concepts.]

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007