A Study of Dispensationalism

by A.W. Pink

Chapter 3

Before turning to the positive side of our present subject, it was necessary for us to expose and denounce that teaching which insists that much in the Bible has no immediate application unto us today. Such teaching is a reckless and irreverent handling of the Word, which has produced the most evil consequences in the hearts and lives of many—not the least of which is the promotion of a pharisaical spirit of self-superiority. Consciously or unconsciously, Dispensationalists are, in reality, repeating the sin of Jehoiakim, who mutilated God’s Word with his penknife (Jer 36:23). Instead of “opening the Scriptures,” they are bent in closing the major part of them from God’s people today. They are just as much engaged in doing the devil’s work as are the Higher Critics, who, with their dissecting knives, are wrongly “dividing the word of truth.” They are seeking to force a stone down the throats of those who are asking for bread. These are indeed severe and solemn indictments, but not more so than the case calls for. We are well aware that they will be unacceptable unto some of our own readers; but medicine, though sometimes necessary, is rarely palatable.

Instead of being engaged in the unholy work of pitting one part of the Scriptures against another, these men would be far better employed in showing the perfect unity of the Bible and the blessed harmony which there is between all of its teachings. But instead of demonstrating the concord of the two Testaments, they are more concerned in their efforts to show the discord which they say there is between that which pertained unto “the Dispensation of Law” and that which obtains under “the Dispensation of Grace,” and in order to accomplish their evil design all sound principles of exegesis are cast to the wind. As a sample of what we have reference to, they cite “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Ex. 21:24) and then quote against it, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39), and then it is exultantly asserted that those two passages can only be “reconciled” by allocating them to different peoples in different ages; and with such superficial handling of Holy Writ thousands of gullible souls are deceived, and thousands more allow themselves to be bewildered.

If those who possess a Scofield Bible turn to Exodus 21:24, they will see that in the margin opposite to it the editor refers his readers to Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21, and cf. Matthew 5:28-44; 1 Peter 2:19-21; upon which this brief comment is made: “The provision in Exodus is law and righteous; the New Testament passages, grace and merciful.” How far Mr. Scofield was consistent with himself may be seen by a reference to what he states on page 989, at the beginning of the New Testament under the Four Gospels, where he expressly affirms “The sermon on the mount is law, not grace” [italics ours]: verily “the legs of the lame are not equal.” In his marginal note to Exodus 21:24, Mr. Scofield cites Matthew 5:38-44, as “grace,” whereas in his introduction to the Four Gospels he declares that Matthew 5-7 “is law, and not grace.” Which of those assertions did he wish his readers to believe?

Still the question may be asked, How are you going to reconcile Exodus 21:24, with Matthew 5:38-44? Our answer is, There is nothing between them to “reconcile,” for there is nothing in them which clashes. The former passage is one of the statutes appointed for public magistrates to enforce, whereas the latter one lays down rules for private individuals to live by! Why do not these self-styled “rightly dividers” properly allocate the Scriptures, distinguishing between the different classes to which they are addressed? That Exodus 21:24 does contain statutes for public magistrates to enforce is clearly established by comparing Scripture with Scripture. In Deuteronomy 19:21, the same injunction is again recorded, and if the reader turns back to verse 18 he will there read, “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition,” etc. It would be real mercy unto the community if our judges today would set aside their sickly sentimentality and deal with conscienceless and brutal criminals in a manner which befits their deeds of violence—instead of making a mockery of justice.

Ere leaving what has been before us in the last three paragraphs, let it be pointed out that when our blessed Lord added to Matthew 5:38, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (verse 44) He was not advancing a more benign precept than had ever been enunciated previously. No, the same gracious principle of conduct had been enforced in the Old Testament. In Exodus 23:4, 5, Jehovah gave commandment through Moses, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” Again in Proverbs 25:21, we read, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.”

The same God who bids us, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath” (Rom. 12:17-19), also commanded His people in the Old Testament, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18); and therefore was David grateful to Abigail for dissuading him from taking vengeance on Nabal: “Blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (1 Sam. 25:33). So far was the Old Testament from allowing any spirit of bitterness, malice or revenge that it expressly declared, “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and He shall save thee” (Prov. 20:22). And again, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Prov. 24:17). And again, “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work” (Prov. 24:29).

One more sample of the excuseless ignorance betrayed by these Dispensationalists—we quote from E.W. Bullinger’s How to Enjoy the Bible. On pages 108 and 110 he said under “Law and Grace”: “For those who lived under the Law it could rightly and truly be said, ‘It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us’ (Deut 6:25). But to those who live in this present Dispensation of Grace it is as truly declared, ‘By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight’ (Rom. 3:20). But this is the very opposite of Deuteronomy 6:25. What, then, are we to say, or to do? Which of these two statements is true and which is false? The answer is that neither is false. But both are true if we would rightly divide the Word of Truth as to its dispensational truth and teaching. . . .Two words distinguish the two dispensations: ‘Do’ distinguished the former; ‘Done’ the latter. Then salvation depended upon what man was to do, now it depends upon what Christ has done.” It is by such statements as these that “unstable souls” are beguiled.

Is it not amazing that one so renowned for his erudition and knowledge of the Scriptures should make such manifestly absurd statements as the above? In pitting Deuteronomy 6:25 against Romans 3:20, he might as well have argued that fire is “the very opposite” of water. They are indeed contrary elements, yet each has its own use in its proper place: the one to cook by, the other for refreshment. Think of one who set up himself as a teacher of preachers affirming that under the Mosaic economy “salvation depended on what man was to do.” Why, in that case, for fifteen hundred years not a single Israelite had been saved. Had salvation then been obtainable by human efforts, there had been no need for God to send His Son here! Salvation has never been procurable by human merits, on the ground of human performance. Abel obtained witness that he was righteous, because he offered to God a slain lamb (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4). Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works (Romans 4). Under the Mosaic economy it was expressly announced that “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). David realized, “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3); and therefore did he confess, “I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only” (Ps. 71:16).

By all means let the Word of Truth be “rightly divided”; not by parceling it off to different “dispensations,” but by distinguishing between what is doctrinal and what is practical, between that which pertains to the unsaved and that which is predicated of the saved. Deuteronomy 6:25 is addressed not to alien sinners, but to those who are in covenant relationship with the Lord; whereas Romans 3:20 is a statement which applies to every member of the human race. The one has to do with practical “righteousness” in the daily walk, which is acceptable to God; the other is a doctrinal declaration which asserts the impossibility of acceptance with God on the ground of creature doings. The former relates to our conduct in this life in connection with the Divine government; the latter concerns our eternal standing before the Divine throne. Both passages are equally applicable to Jews and Gentiles in all ages. “Our righteousness” in Deuteronomy 6:25 is a practical righteousness in the sight of God. It is the same aspect of righteousness as in “except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” of Matthew 5:20, the “righteous man” of James 5:16, and the “doeth righteousness” of 1 John 2:29.

The Old Testament saints were the subjects of the same everlasting covenant, had the same blessed Gospel, were begotten unto the same celestial heritage as the New Testament saints. From Abel onwards, God has dealt with sinners in sovereign grace, and according to the merits of Christ’s redemptive work—which was retroactive in its value and efficacy (Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 1:19,20). “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). That they were partakers of the same covenant blessings as we are is clear from a comparison of 2 Samuel 23:5, and Hebrews 13:20. The same Gospel was preached unto Abraham (Gal. 3:8), yea, unto the nation of Israel after they had received the Law (Heb 4:2), and therefore Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56). Dying Jacob declared, “I have waited for Thy salvation, 0 Lord” (Gen. 49:18). As Hebrews 11:16 states, the patriarchs desired “a better country [than the land of Canaan, in which they dwelt], that is, an heavenly.” Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:24-26). Job exclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer liveth…in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25,26).

When Jehovah proclaimed His name unto Moses, He revealed Himself as “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious” (Exo 34:5-7). When Aaron pronounced the benediction on the congregation, he was bidden to say, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:24-26). No greater and grander blessings can be invoked today. Such a passage as that cannot possibly be harmonized with the constricted concept which is entertained and is being propagated by the Dispensationalists of the Mosaic economy. God dealt in grace with Israel all through their long and checkered history. Read through the book of Judges and observe how often He raised up deliverers for them. Pass on to Kings and Chronicles and note His longsuffering benignity in sending them prophet after prophet. Where in the New Testament is there a word which, for pure grace, exceeds “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18)? In the days of Jehoahaz “the Lord was gracious unto them” (2 Kings 13:22-23). They were invited to say unto the Lord, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously” (Hosea 14:2). Malachi bade Israel “beseech God that He will be gracious unto us” (1:9).

The conception which the pious remnant of Israel had of the Divine character during the Mosaic economy was radically different from the stern and forbidding presentation made thereof by Dispensationalists. Hear the Psalmist as he declared, “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (116:5). Hear him again, as he bursts forth into adoring praise, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases…He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (103:2,3,10). Can Christians say more than that? No wonder David exclaimed, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (73:25,26). If the question be asked, What, then, is the great distinction between the Mosaic and Christian eras? the answer is, God’s grace was then confirmed to one nation, but now it flows out to all nations.

What is true in the general holds in the particular. Not only were God’s dealings with His people during Old Testament times substantially the same as those with His people now, but in detail too. There is no discord, but perfect accord and concord between them. Note carefully the following parallelisms. “His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18): “The Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance” (Deut. 32:9). “Beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13): “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 3 1:3). “In whom we have redemption” (Eph. 1:7): “With Him is plenteous redemption” (Ps. 130:7). “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:2 1): “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength” (Isa. 45:24). “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ” (Eph. 1:3): “Men shall be blessed in Him” (Ps. 72:17). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7): “Thou art all fair, My love, there is no spot in thee” (Song 4:7).

“Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16): “In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Ps. 138:3). “The Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13): “Thou gayest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them” (Neh. 9:20). “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18): “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11): “Ye are strangers and sojourners” (Lev. 25:23). “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7): “The just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). “Strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10): “I will strengthen them in the Lord” (Zech. 10:12). “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28): “All His saints are in Thy hand” (Deut. 33:3). “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5): “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8). “He which hath begun a good work in you will finish it” (Phil. 1:6, margin): “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psa 138:8). Innumerable other such harmonies might be added.