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The Epistle to the Hebrews is of such importance that I rank it beside the Epistle to the Romans (which is excelled by no other book). I have wondered how to give this magnificent Epistle to the Hebrews the introduction it deserves. Before me are excellent expository works that other men have written, and I have decided to let four of them introduce this Epistle to the Hebrews to you since each of them makes statements that are all–important. They have said what I would like to say. First I will quote from G. Campbell Morgan’s book, God’s Last Word to Man:
The letter to the Hebrews has an especial value today because there is abroad a very widespread conception of Christ which is lower than that of the New Testament. To illustrate what I mean by this, a recent writer has said:
“One of the best things we can say about human nature is this, that whenever a situation occurs which can only be solved by an individual ‘laying down his life for his friends,’ some heroic person is certain to come forth, sooner or later, and offer himself as the victim—a Curtius to leap into the gulf, a Socrates to drink the hemlock, a Christ to get himself crucified on Calvary.”
I am not proposing to discuss that at any length, but at once say that to place Christ in that connection is to me little short of blasphemy. We may properly speak of “a Curtius,” “a Socrates,” but when we speak of “a Christ,” our reference to Him is not only out of harmony with the New Testament presentation, but implicitly a contradiction of what it declares concerning the uniqueness of His Person.
This is a tremendous beginning for the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Dr. William Pettingill, in his book Into the Holiest: Simple Studies in Hebrews, has a different emphasis in his opening statement:
From Adam to Moses, through 2500 years, and from Moses to Malachi, through 1100 years, the prophets were speaking for God to man. But at the end of the 3600 years their revelation of God was only partial. Then after a silence of 400 years, when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, and in that Son the revelation of God is perfect.
That is another tremendous statement.
Now I’m going to give a third introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews. It comes from the excellent book by E. Schuyler English, Studies in The Epistle to the Hebrews:
The Epistle to the Hebrews, one of the most important books of the New Testament in that it contains some of the chief doctrines of the Christian faith, is, as well, a book of infinite logic and great beauty. To read it is to breathe the atmosphere of heaven itself. To study it is to partake of strong spiritual meat. To abide in its teachings is to be led from immaturity to maturity in the knowledge of Christian truth and of Christ Himself. It is to “go on unto perfection.”
And here is a further statement:
The theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the only book of the New Testament in which our Lord is presented in His high priestly office, is the supreme glory of Christ, the Son of God and Son of man.
This is tremendous!
Now I turn to the fourth author, Sir Robert Anderson, and quote from his book, The Hebrews Epistle in the Light of the Types. As we go through this epistle I trust I shall be able to emphasize this which he emphasizes so well, and I also trust that this introduction will clarify the thought:
That the professing Church on earth is “the true vine”—this is the daring and impious lie of the apostasy. That it is “the olive tree” is a delusion shared by the mass of Christians in the churches of the Reformation. But the teaching of Scripture is explicit, that Christ Himself is the vine, and Israel the olive. For “God hath NOT cast away His people whom He foreknew.”
This Epistle to the Hebrews was not accepted by the western church for a long time, and the reason is found at this particular juncture: the church wanted to usurp the place of Israel. They adopted all the promises God had made to Israel and spiritualized them, applying them to themselves and rejecting God’s purposes in the nation Israel. As a result, you’ll find that the church in those early days became actually anti–Semitic and persecuted the Jew! Therefore, to say that God is through with the nation Israel is a sad blunder, and I trust that this episode may be helpful in our understanding the great truth that a Hebrew is a Hebrew, and when he becomes a Christian, he is still a Hebrew. When any person becomes a child of God, it does not change his nationality at all, but it brings him into a new body of believers called the church. Today God is calling out of both Jews and Gentiles a people for His name. When that is consummated, God will take His church out of this world, and He will pursue His purpose with the nation Israel, fulfilling all of His promises to them and through them to the gentile world in that day. I am indebted to these four wonderful expositors of the Word of God for helping us to get on the springboard so that we can plunge into the water of the Word.
The human author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has always been a moot question. Although the Authorized Version has the heading, “Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” there is still a question as to authorship. The Revised Version and other later versions correct this and simply entitle it the Epistle (or letter) to the Hebrews. If you are acquainted with the literature of the Scriptures, you recognize that there is no unanimity of thought and no agreement as to who is the author of this epistle. When I was a seminary student, I wrote a thesis on the authorship of Hebrews, and I attempted to sustain the position that the apostle Paul is the author.
When I wrote my thesis I thought I had solved the problem and that the world would be in agreement that Paul wrote Hebrews! But I find that there is just as much disagreement today about the authorship as there was before I wrote my thesis! Neither John Calvin nor Martin Luther accepted Paul’s authorship, and neither did many others of the past. On the other hand, many do accept Paul as the author. However, the human author is not the important thing, but the fact that the Epistle to the Hebrews is part of God’s inspired Word is important.
In spite of the fact that the Pauline authorship cannot be stated in a dogmatic fashion, there is abundant evidence that Paul was the author. Both internal and external evidence support the authorship of Paul. The writer had been in bonds (see Heb. 10:34). He wrote from Italy (see Heb. 13:24). His companion was Timothy (see Heb. 13:23). The writing is Pauline. Also, in my opinion, Peter identifies Paul as the writer (see 2 Pet. 3:15–16). I believe that there is good and sufficient reason for Paul’s changing his style and for not giving his name in the epistle. I’ll call attention to these things as we go along. (See the Appendix for a full treatment of the subject of authorship.)
The date of writing is particularly important in the case of the Epistle to the Hebrews because of the authorship question. Many scholars, even sound scholars, have taken the position that it was written after A.D. 70. Some give the date of A.D. 85, A.D. 96, and others up in the 90s. However, as you read this epistle, you are forced to the conclusion that the temple at Jerusalem was still standing at the time it was written. This means it had to have been written before A.D. 70, since Titus the Roman destroyed the temple in A.D. 70 and Paul had already gone to be with the Lord. I believe that it was written by the apostle Paul and it was written before A.D. 70.
Coleridge said that Romans revealed the necessity of the Christian faith but that Hebrews revealed the superiority of the Christian faith. This thought, running all the way through, is expressed in the use of the comparative word better, which occurs thirteen times. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that the Law was good, but that grace, under Christ, is better and that the glory that is coming is going to be the best. The Epistle to the Hebrews presents that which is better. The word perfect occurs fifteen times (with cognate words). It is an epistle that challenges us. Let us occurs thirteen times, and let occurs five times.
Two verses especially convey to us this “better” way: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). We are to consider Him. Then in Hebrews 12:3 we read the challenge: “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” That is exactly what we are going to do as we study the Epistle to the Hebrews. We are going to consider Him, the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced that that is the most important thing which any Christian can do.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 51: Hebrews (Chs. 1-7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)
Transcription of Dr. McGee’s Series on the Dispensations
“Now, we’ve come to an epistle that many of you have already discovered is one of the most spiritual epistles that are in the entire Word of God. There are many people that feel that the epistle to the Ephesians is the Mount Whitney of the mountain range of the books of the Bible. That’s probably true, but as far as being spiritual, there is none that compares to the epistle to the Hebrews. There’s a reason for that. You see, it’s written to the Hebrews. Who were they? They were a people who had had the law for about 1500 years, and if there ever were a people that were prepared to take a step forward with God, these people were. That doesn’t mean all of them were. It’s always been a remnant and this epistle is directed to that remnant who had turned to Christ. We need to keep that in mind. And I say that because today, I want to introduce a word that I have not used in our Bible teaching so far, that is, in this 5-year program. It’s a Bible word, by the way. It’s the word ‘dispensation.’ Now, it’s necessary to understand what the dispensations are in the Word of God or you become hopelessly confused. I thank God for the Sunday school teacher who put into my hands a Scofield Reference Bible. It opened up the Word of God for the first time to a poor theological student. Now the Word ‘dispensation,’ (and I’m going to be a little technical today, but I want to introduce you to the word and then we’re going to talk about it as we go along from time to time), theologically, the word means the distribution of good and evil by God to man. Now that’s a definition that’s in Webster’s Dictionary. And, further, the definition is amplified, and we’re told it’s a system of principles, promises, and rules ordained and administered, as ‘the Christian dispensation’ that we’re in today. And it means a specific arrangement or a provision; it means to dispense or to distribute, it means an economy, a political economy. We have one in this country, and communism has a political economy, and the backbone of the political economy is atheism, that’s what communism teaches. That’s basic to everything. There’s some in this country, some in high places that are trying to change our government today. We are a nation under God. George Washington said that you could not rule this nation without the Bible. That may be the real problem in Washington today. That’s the problem with Democrats and Republicans, that’s the problem with the entire crowd. And may I say to you, these in high places are attempting to make America an atheistic nation, but this action was built actually on the Word of God. Those who came here at first, they came here to find a place that they might worship God. ‘What sought they thus, afar, bright jewels of the mind, the spoils of war? They sought a faith’s pure shrine.’ That’s the reason that they came to this country.”
“I introduced you to a word last time and attempted to define it. It is the word, ‘dispensation.’ It’s a word that’s hated in some quarters by the church. I graduated from a seminary, my denominational seminary, where the Scofield Bible was forbidden and it was ridiculed. May I say to you that the word ‘dispensation’ is a very important word, and therefore it is a word that we need to know about because it actually, in one sense, is a key to the entire Word of God. I’d like today to let us see how the Bible uses the word ‘dispensation.’ Now, you find in Hebrews, the first chapter, it says: ‘God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.’ And that word ‘worlds’ might give you the wrong impression if you think that the writer there was referring to the planets. The word that he uses is the word ‘aion,’ and it’s a word that means ‘ages.’ You put one age down and another age down and another age down, and it is a period of time in which God actually deals with the human race in a certain way and then He changes that and deals with it in a little different way. And I’m sure that you recognize that Adam in the Garden of Eden was in a little different arrangement than he was when he got outside of the Garden of Eden. God changed things, you see. Now that word is used not only here in Hebrews, but you’ll find it used back in Matthew, and Matthew’s a Gospel where you need to be very careful in the way words are used. And here we’re told in the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, verse 38, ‘the field is the world.’ What does he mean? Well, he uses the word ‘cosmos.’ I think that he means this universe we live in today, this little planet we call earth, covered with humanity. I think that the field is the world, the whole world of humanity. That’s a tremendous statement, by the way. The Lord Jesus used it, He says, ‘the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one. The enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. ‘As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at the end of this world. Well, are we talking now about the cosmos, the word He used up at the top when He said 'the field is the world?' No, this is the word ‘aion.’ Age, He’s talking now about age—a period of time on this earth. Therefore, at the end of the ages, and I think He’s speaking here about eternity and that’s not an age, because it has no beginning and no end. Now, we can see that it means a period of time, but if you hold it to just that, I think you’re going to miss one of the finest understandings of the word as it’s used in Scripture. It actually means, really, a stewardship. That’s a good word for it, and it’s used in Ephesians the 3rd chapter. Will you listen to the first two verses, ‘For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of the Lord Jesus for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery as I wrote before in few words.’ Now that is the assignment that was given to the apostle Paul. He was to present a system, a provision God had made—a specific arrangement, and the word here is ou-ku-ma-nay, and it means, just simply that. And he amplifies this when you get down to verse 8 in this third chapter of Ephesians, and if you’ll listen to it, he says here, ’Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ What is his dispensation? The dispensation of grace in which we live today, and he’s doing something that no Jew had ever done in the Old Testament—preach grace to the nations! And several of them had preached judgment to the nations, but none had ever preached the grace of God to the nations. And he says, ‘Therefore, there was given to me this dispensation to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, that is, of the church, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent, that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’ God’s revealing His love to us in giving His Son to die and saving men by grace, but by that He is revealing His wisdom to His other created intelligences. And so, the epistle to the Hebrews was written to people who had been brought through a great transition. In the book of Acts you have all that given. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, preaches a sermon and it’s to Israel. And the first church there was one hundred percent Israel, but God made it clear to Simon Peter that he was going to save some other folk besides just that crowd. And He sent him over to Cornelius, a Roman, a Gentile, that Simon Peter had been taught to hate. He was a ‘gentile dog’ to begin with, and he was also a Roman soldier that had his heel on Israel, and that made him doubly hated. And when Simon Peter went over to preach, he said to them, 'To Him gave all the prophets witness, that through His name, that is the Lord Jesus, through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sin.’ Now that is something brand new. Israel had never had that before. They brought a sacrifice. That sacrifice looked to Christ, but now, you receive remission of sins, not by bringing a sacrifice to the temple, but through the Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, that was brand new back in those days and this is a great transition and the Book of Hebrews will lift us higher, I think, than any other book if we will just let it. And that’s the reason I’m talking about dispensations here at the beginning.”
“We’ve made it very clear that a dispensation is not only a period of time but it also has to do with the method of God’s dealing with mankind. And it’s very easy to see that in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were under a dispensation, they were created innocent—they didn’t know good from evil, and therefore, they were given a test and that was relative to eating the fruit of a certain tree. And as we’ve said before, it wasn’t the apple on the tree but the pair on the ground that was the problem. The fruit was good (and it was not an apple tree either, by the way). And obviously when they were put out of the Garden of Eden, that was no longer a test. And you find a man following his conscience now and doing that which comes naturally, as the song has it. The worldly song has it—doing that which comes naturally. And when man does that, why he produces a world of violence, lawlessness, and a world that we’re living in right now that has tried to get rid of God’s law. And therefore, conscience was not a safe leader. It led to the flood. And then, man was put under a human government at the time of the flood. He said, ‘Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ In other words, when a man kills another man, men should then make that man pay the penalty. That, by the way, is basic to all governments, and the reason that our legal system is in such a hopeless mess today. It’s because of the fact that one basic principle is not put down and held to. God’s tried that, and of course that did not lead to a perfect race by any means. And man revealed that he was incapable of ruling himself. And then, God took aside a man by the name of Abraham and made a promise to him and man held on to that promise. In fact until the law was given. And when they became a nation, the seed of Abraham became a nation, then God gave the law at Mount Sinai, and man then was under law until the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. And as John wrote, that the law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. And therefore, we were then introduced into the age we are in now—the dispensation of grace. God is saving men by that means. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t grace under law, and it doesn’t mean that there’s law under grace, as we’ll see. And then, after this age, there is the kingdom age. Now you and I are living at a strategic time in the history of the world, and we need to see exactly where we are, by the way. Back of us is the law. That ended at the cross of Christ. From that day down to the present we are under grace. After this age ends then the kingdom will be established here upon this earth. And those are the 3 dispensations that concern this earth. Now, the reason I make the book of Genesis one of the key books of the Bible is because you can’t understand the first four dispensations unless you understand the book of Genesis. And then I say Matthew is another key book of the Bible, and I think maybe the main key book of the Bible, and the reason for that is that you have before you the 3 dispensations laid before you there, and especially the one that is to come. One is past, one is present and one is to come, and I, therefore, put a lot of emphasis on the Gospel of Matthew. And the reason today I think there’s so much misinterpretation, hopeless confusion, is because of a misunderstanding of the Gospel of Matthew. Now, again let me say that John the Baptist said the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, that’s John 1:17. Now the writer of the Hebrews directs his message to those who had been under the law. Now we want to talk about that next time in a little bit more detail and fashion.
“I am in a quandary because I’ve come to a section that is especially precious indeed to a child of God, and I feel totally inadequate to deal with it and that’s the reason I’ve been talking to you in the preliminary part of our study about the dispensations of Scripture. And I want to continue that today. It’ll be, I’m sure, some preparation for the understanding of this great epistle. We said that in the New Testament and in the gospel of Matthew we are brought face to face with 3 dispensations—the dispensation of law, and the dispensation of grace and the dispensation of the kingdom. They are all mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. You see, the Lord Jesus in the gospel of Matthew was born a king. Matthew emphasizes that. Wise men came from the east, not seeking a Savior, but one that was to be a king. And He was introduced by John the Baptist, not as a Savior, but as a king, because he began by saying, ‘Repent, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ And you can’t have a kingdom without a king. And the fact was—the great fact of that day was—the King was present. And they rejected the King, by the way, and the kingdom was, we have heard people say, postponed. It wasn’t anything postponed, my friend. It all happened in the perfect will of almighty God. And so the kingdom was postponed in the sense that it is delayed, and it was still in the future when you come to the end of Matthew. Now there was the dispensation of law that these people were under at that particular time. They were going out of that dispensation of law into the dispensation of grace. And then beyond that would be the dispensation of the kingdom. You see you have that which is past, that which is present and that which is future. Now in the gospel of Matthew the emphasis is on the kingdom—‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ That is the ultimate goal of the Gospel of Matthew. Now you have 3 major discourses in Matthew. You have what is known as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. And that’s the law of the kingdom. Unfortunately, the liberal always brought the Sermon on the Mount up to the present and said that we were living under the kingdom and the law of the kingdom and that was Christian living. I say to you that kingdom living and Christian living are altogether two different things. And the Sermon on the Mount causes hopeless confusion when you try to put the church under it, and the reason is that the church is called to a higher plane than you find here on the Sermon on the Mount. There is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount about repentance, about faith in Christ, about the work of the Holy Spirit, and apart from that there’s no such thing as Christian living, you know. Christian living is by the work of the Holy Spirit—by walking in the Spirit, by being filled with the Spirit. Now the second major discourse is the mystery parable discourse in Matthew 13, and the key to that, I’ve always felt, is that woman who made bread and slipped a little leaven into it. Leaven sure helps the taste, and believe me, the Word of God that’s being given out has a lot of leaven in it. It’s sweetened to satisfy the natural man. A lot of carnal Christians like to get the bread if it’s got leaven in it, and leaven is evil—always has been evil. Speaks of that which is wrong. The Lord Jesus said to beware of the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’ and that was their doctrine. It was wrong, it was evil, and you can’t make leaven to be good on any condition whatsoever. But we’re living in a day when evil is good, good is evil. Isaiah said we were going to have days like that, and they’re around us right now, even in the church. Now we come now to the third discourse which is the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 and 25, and that speaks of the second coming of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. That’s a question He’s answering there, and there’s nothing in the Olivet discourse about the rapture and nothing in there that’s about the church, and we’ll see that a little more clearly as we, later on, are going to come back and talk some more about these dispensations. We need to understand them and especially if we are going to understand the epistle written to the Hebrews.”
“I want to continue that which I began some time ago about the dispensations. That it is necessary to understand the dispensations of Scripture, and especially when we come to an epistle like we’re studying now—the epistle to the Hebrews. This is an epistle that was directed to a nation that had been under law, and it was answering questions to them. It was saying all the way through that Israel, with all the ritual that God had given them, and He’d given them a great deal, all of that is being fulfilled in Christ now. In other words, Christ is the end of the law in the sense that He is the one that the law is really pointing to. You see, God gave to Israel what we call the Mosaic system, and that Mosaic system was just for a period of time—we’ll see that in a moment. It wasn’t a permanent arrangement at all and it was in three parts. Actually there were the commandments—they governed Israel’s moral life. And then there were the judgments which governed Israel’s civic life. Then there were the ordinances which governed Israel’s religious life. And that is the way God has dealt with man. God is a holy God. He demands certain things of His creatures, and He has demanded certain things of man and He’s put him under these different economies, these different administrations, and they actually are in contrast. Law and grace are definitely in contrast. And we see that this nation that had been under that are now told that Christ is the fulfillment of everything that had gone before, and that now God was saving man by what Christ had done for them. And it was difficult, may I say, for them to get that. Then after the age of grace there was to be the age of the kingdom—the dispensation of the kingdom, and that kingdom is coming upon this earth. And we saw that there are those today that run ahead, but not seeing the great movement in the Gospel of Matthew, they run ahead and try to put the church under the kingdom and we’re not there yet, so that’s in the future. Now, there’s another group of folk, they attempt to keep us back under the law. They say there was no change of dispensation, the law is still for today, and they, of course, like to say, ‘Well, can you break the Ten Commandments?’ And the very interesting thing is, if you’re a child of God, you can’t break the Ten Commandments because God hasn’t gotten rid of the Ten Commandments, by any means, but that’s not the method of salvation for today, you can be sure of that. And so, we have these different systems that have been given to mankind and we are under this dispensation of grace today. Somebody says, ‘Well if we are under grace we can break the Ten Commandments.’ Well the very interesting thing is, that every one of the Ten Commandments, with the exception of the Sabbath day, is mentioned in the epistles as applying to us, too, you see. God says, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me’—first commandment. And we are told by Paul, ‘We preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities, that is, idols, unto the living God.’ And, ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,’ and John in his first epistle, 1 John 5:21 says, ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols.’ And ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,’ and James wrote and said, ‘Above all things, my brethren, swear not neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath.’ And then the Sabbath day, well that’s just never been given to Christians at all. And then, ‘Honor thy father and they mother,’ we are told in Ephesians 6:1 ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.’ And ‘Thou shalt not kill’—1 John 3:15, ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.’ “Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ‘Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, not idolaters shall inherit the kingdom of God.’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ and then Paul says in Ephesians 4:23, ‘Steal no more.’ ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’ Paul says in Colossians 3:9, ‘Lie not.’ And ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and in Ephesians 5:3 we read, ‘Covetousness—let it not be once named among you.’ So friends, the Ten Commandments are there, with the exception of the Sabbath day—and may I say, someone is going to raise the question about the Sabbath day. Aren’t we to keep the Christian Sabbath Sunday? No. The Christian is not given a Christian Sabbath at all. We are told very definitely in Colossians, ‘Let no man judge you in respect to these ordinances, and ceremonies and days and months and that sort of thing.’ Paul says, ‘One may observes one day and another day,’ and we today are pleased to observe the first day of the week because that’s the day the Lord Jesus came back again from the dead. And every day ought to be a resurrection day for the Christian, and celebrate it in that way. We are now in this marvelous age, wonderful age of grace, and I just can’t emphasize that enough. You see, the church didn’t come into existence until the Day of Pentecost. In fact, there could never have been a church before Pentecost at all, and we today have one group of people who put us back in the Old Testament dispensation, and others that are hyper-dispensational, they want to divide up this dispensation in several different groupings. And may I say to you, if we’d just follow the Scripture, we won’t fall into either trap. There could not have been a church until Pentecost because of the fact that there couldn’t have been one until Christ died. That our relation to that event is the basis of our salvation, and there could be no church until Christ rose from the dead to provide resurrection life for us. And we are told there could be no church till He ascended up on high to become head of the church, the new creation. And there could be no church on earth until the Holy Spirit came in a ministry to call out the church, which He did on the Day of Pentecost. So there could have been no church. The law actually was temporary. We are told in Galatians 3:19, ‘Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgression till the seed should come until the promise was made, to whom the promise was made.’ May I say to you, it was temporary you see, and it was done away with in Christ when He came to this earth and went to the cross, and died on the cross, and therefore we belong to a new creation. A new creation needs a new day of commemoration. May I say to you, the Sabbath day represents the old creation—it was given under the law, it was a special arrangement of God with the nation of Israel. So that we today are in a unique dispensation, and if I get time while we’re still in this epistle, I want to talk to you about how marvelous this dispensation is, and that is exactly what Paul is saying in the fourth of Hebrews where it actually is the only reference in the epistle to the Sabbath day, and as we saw at that time, what he’s talking about is ‘rest.’ And under the law, a man, as I see it, could never have been at rest. He never could have felt that everything’s worked out; he continually must go and make these sacrifices. Today, we are to enter into a rest, and that’s the rest of redemption that Christ has provided for us. If we have time later I want to come back to that, but today we’ll have to come to our study now and I want you to have this background because it’s so important to the understanding of these people who came out of the law into grace. It was a difficult change for them and an altogether different way and that’s what he’s trying to tell them in this marvelous Hebrew epistle.”
“I’ve been taking time out in Hebrews to talk to you about dispensations, and a word that I have used very little in our study, but it’s an important word, it’s a Bible word. And today I want to state the thing that we’ve said before, that there are three dispensations that are brought before us in the New Testament, and a failure to make a proper distinction and division leads to a hopeless and confused interpretation of Scripture. God, you see, is the One who runs the ‘dispensary,’ and a ‘dispensary’ is where dispensations are dispensed with. And He’s given certain systems, certain administrations, certain economies to man down here upon this earth. Now these three that we’ve been concerned with, the first one was the dispensation of law. It began with Moses and it ended with the Lord Jesus. ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ That’s the way John puts it in his Gospel, and that is so clear, it seems to me, that even any seminary professor ought to be able to get that. And we, today, find in many churches the so-called Lord’s prayer used. There’s no sin in using it, but I feel like it’s sort of a useless procedure. It’s just a ritual to go through. The Lord gave it to His disciples to teach them to pray, and in it it says, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Now obviously the kingdom has not arrived yet if we are to pray this prayer, because we are to pray for it to come. And I find today that the liberal, the amillenialist, and the paranoid premillenialist are the ones who think we ought to pray this prayer today. I believe that the Lord’s brought us up to a little higher ground than that prayer, by the way. Now we have seen that there are these three dispensations, or three distributions, or three economies, or three administrations—any way that you want to term it. One is law, and that is past. One is grace, and that is for the present. You and I live in the dispensation of the grace of God and as far as I am concerned it’s the most wonderful dispensation to live in of all of them. Then there is the future—the kingdom, and that is not yet come. Now these three different administrations have rules and regulations that are different. They have three standards of conduct, and we’ve heard so much today about love, why not look at these three dispensations and how love is used. Now under the Mosaic law, Moses said, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ That was the law. And by the way, he said to hate your enemies. And we go to the kingdom, and you’ll find that in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43 He said, ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy, but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you that you may be children of your father which is in heaven.’ Well may I say to you, that’s a higher standard than the Mosaic Law. But under grace it’s even higher than that. The Lord Jesus said, ’A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ And He made that very clear. If you go over to 1 John you’ll find there He had a great deal to say about this and He put it in no mistakable terms. You can’t miss it at all and having discussed a great deal about love there, we find in 1 John 3:16, and I’d like to turn and just read that. ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’ My friend, that’s a much higher standard than you have under the mosaic system or even for the kingdom. The standard is, on the basis the way Christ loved us, so much that He gave Himself for us. And that is the standard of love today. Now how are you and I going to come up to that standard? I know there are a great many folks saying right now, ‘I can’t come up to that.’ And I’ll let you in on something, I can’t either, I can’t come up to that high standard. Now under grace what provision has God made for us? Well you stay with us and I’m going to come back to this again, maybe time after next, I’m not sure, but I want to lead you through this very wonderful, wonderful age in which we are living.”
“We have another word today friends, on the subject of 'dispensations.' Maybe some of you are getting tired of hearing about it, but I trust not, because it's so important, but it's very much like the young man who was proposing to his girlfriend and he concluded his speech by saying, 'I do not have a Cadillac convertible like Harry, and I do not have a yacht like Harry, but I love you.' She said, 'I love you too, but tell me more about Harry." So we're going to tell you more today about dispensations. There are three dispensations that concern us in the New Testament, and there's apt to be confusion. The dispensation of law, which ended with the coming of the Lord Jesus and His death upon the cross and the Day of Pentecost. Then we have the dispensation of grace, and that dispensation of grace is where we are today, but ahead of us is the dispensation of the kingdom, when God's kingdom will be establish here upon the earth. And there are certain standards and certain rules and regulations that concern all of these. Now the wonderful dispensation of grace that we are in, and I want to talk first about this standard that God has given to those of us who are saved by the grace of God. The standard here is above all human ability. For instance, let me give you just some verses that reveal that standard under grace. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5, 'Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exults itself against the knowledge of God, and bringeth into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Have you reached that high level of living today? Well that's what set before believers and in 1 Peter 2:9 we are told that, 'Ye should show forth the praises [that is the characteristics] of Him that called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.' Honestly friend, if you're a Christian you represent Jesus Christ down here. You're His signboard. You're His salesman. You're His bag of samples that He has. And that's a high standard, wouldn't you think? And then we read again in Scripture in Ephesians 5:20, 'Giving thanks always for all things unto God.' My, that's a high plane to come to. Again in Ephesians 4:1, 'That ye walk worthy of the high calling wherewith ye are called.' And then we are told in 1 John 1:7, 'Walk in the light.' Ephesians 5:2, 'Walk in love.' And then we are told to ‘Walk in the Spirit,' in Galatians 5:16. And then we are told, 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.' And then we are told to 'Quench not the Spirit.' And then we are told 'to be filled with the Spirit.' So actually we are called to a much higher plane than we were under law--that Israel was, under law. Or that they'll be even under the kingdom. You and I have been called to a very high plane indeed. And the question arises, 'How are you and I going to attain unto this?' Because I don't know about you, I can't do it with human ability. I tried it and fell on my face, but God has provided the method and the means to attain that high standard. Over in Galatians in the fifth chapter, verse 22, he says, 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control, against such there is no law.' Wouldn't you love to have all these fruits in your life? And they are attainable we are told. How? Well if you'll just keep reading in that epistle. 'And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh.' When did we do that? Well when Christ died. You and I can't crucify ourselves. 'With the affections and lust, if we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit.' Now there it means, walking in the Spirit means to learn to walk in the Spirit, and I think that is something that is so neglected today by Christians. It's probably the most neglected truth that there is. God has asked you and me to walk by the Spirit, not in our own strength. I can't represent Christ in my own strength. It's only by walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. And how does that come about? The word 'walk' here means 'learn to walk.' And how do you learn to walk? Have you ever seen a little fellow that's just learning to walk? I had the privilege of watching my two grandsons learn to walk, and I'm telling you, one of them fell on his nose, I know, a hundred times, but he learned to walk and today I can't catch him. May I say, that's the way that you learn to walk, by the Spirit of God. Each day is to say, 'Lord, I want to walk today by the power of the Holy Spirit.' That means there's to be no unconfessed sin in your life. That means today that you're willing to do God's will, and if you're willing to do that and step out and say, 'Now Lord, help me to take the next step.' And the Spirit of God will be there to help you in that. This is the grace method--God provides His own. 'What the law could not do, in that it was weak.' Weak how? Was the law weak? It certainly was not weak. It was weak in the flesh. You and I are the weak ones. We couldn't attain to it, not even to the law standard, and certainly we cannot attain to the grace standard, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we can, and should do that. Now, grace saves us and teaches us how to live and I haven't mentioned the fact, grace you know, not only teaches us, but it saves us. That's what Paul told a young preacher. When he wrote to Titus he said in the second chapter, verse 11, 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.' I like to change that to 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared.' Salvation is for all men. That's the reason I don't buy this new doctrine of election that's going around where you don't have to give out the Word of God. I say to you, we are called to give it out there for everybody because it's for everybody. And he says, 'Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldliness we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.' It not only saves us but it teaches us, as we see, to walk by the Spirit. Now when God saves us you come to Him. He does not require any character, or any conduct. In fact, He doesn't accept that ‘because He says your righteousness is filthy rags, and there is none righteous, no not one, and there is none that meets His standard. And so God provides it all. When you come, I know today that the average unsaved man, I remember playing golf with a man, and a man was invited to church by one of my officers that was playing with me, and he said, 'Oh no, I don't want that preacher telling me what to do!' And I told him, I said, 'I haven't anything to tell you what to do.' He was amazed. I said, 'You know, God's not asking you to do anything.' He said, 'You don't mean it!' I said, 'I do mean it. God's not asking you to do a thing. God's done it all for you, brother, and He'll save you by grace.’ You can come to Him, and the hymn says, 'Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me. Oh Lamb of God I come.' And you come on that kind of basis and God saves you that way. And when you trust Him He'll save you by His wonderful grace.”