Altho' earnestly considering all the arguments brot to sustain this concept, I was never able to see it that way.
The implications are too drastic, far-reaching, shocking. They completely cancel or upset many things that seem transparently clear as a permanent part of God's present order. More about that later.
The first factor that should be considered and which should arouse our suspicion regarding the scripturalness of it is this:
The defenders of this concept do not have one single declarative statement in the Word to base it on. It is solely an inferential conclusion.
When followed to its logical and inevitable effect the result is shocking.
It leads to denial of God's governmental operation in the present affairs of man. It leads to denial of civil authorities having divine authority. It leads to anarchism.
It compels Paul's pre-prison epistles to be classified as Jewish, because they refuse to be harmonized with it. Then these epistles have nothing about the Body of Christ, altho they speak about it a great deal! Does not that seem somewhat peculiar?
"Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and the Gentiles."
Their interpretation of this is as follows:
1. Paul had, before this, written the pre-prison epistles, 1st and 2nd Thess., 1st and 2nd Cor., Gal. and Romans. According to the above quotation he has not mentioned anything but what Moses and the prophets spoke about. CONCLUSION: Everything presented in the pre-prison epistles belong therefore to another administration. It is all Jewish. It applies only to the time before God "conciliated the World unto Himself." Since conciliation was accomplished He has never acted in wrath, or in any kind of judgment whatever! To hold that He acts in judgment is to repudiate the "dispensation of the grace of God" and is to deny the fact that He is now conciliated to the world, and do not count their trespasses unto them.
What about the terrible disasters that overtake: the world time and time again? Are they independent of God's ruling power, or are they sent by Him?
If God does not apply any restraining or corrective measures on man because of his sin and iniquity, what are the reasons for much of man's suffering? I do not now think of what comes as direct results of his actions, as for inst. sickness and premature death, caused by dissipation and excesses in destructive habits, but I am thinking about divers catastrophes, such as earthquakes, tidal waves, droughts, etc.
Such disasters must bear a relation to God's government of the world. If we say that they come as part of His natural laws, then we must explain the irregularities with which they occur. For as far as we know, one — or perhaps better, THE outstanding characteristic of His laws is that they work with an unbroken regularity, a precision which makes it possible to foretell with utmost exactitude what will happen at a given time. But if there is anything characterizing the cosmic disturbances that I have alluded to, it is their unpredictable irregularity. Nobody knows when they will strike.
Do not such disasters have any relationship to human wickedness? Are they not, at least, divine reminders, that there is a God who controls bigger things than puny humans? and that there will come a time of accounting before Him?
They certainly seem to have a shaking up effect on man, for it is a well known fact, that where overwhelming disasters strike, many who never prayed will call upon God. They see and acknowledge God's hand in it. Whether or not it really produces in them repentance is not the point in question.
Few, if any, would maintain that such things come independent of God, and no believer, with a reasonable amount of soundness in faith would say that these disasters, sometimes involving terrible suffering and snuffing out of thousands of human lives, are utterly purposeless. They must be for something.
If not related in some way to human sin and wickedness and to God's government, may we believe that God is much like a young boy setting off explosives just to have a thrill hearing the bang, and seeing the flash?
From a booklet very ably presenting this doctrine that I am dealing with I quote: *
"All acts of God that deal with human sin and failure are acts of justice. Many of these acts of justice can be found thru out the Word of God. However, this being the dispensation of grace we are safe in believing that every act of God since Acts 28:28 has been an act of grace. When God could not act in grace, He did not act at all."
"This dispensation began in an act of grace, and every act of God toward men since that time has been one of grace."
"God's present administration is not one of justice or judgment. It is one of grace."
"In the Acts period it was not so. That thirty-three years was no part of the dispensation of the grace of God. In spite of the marvelous grace that was shown to men, there were acts of justice and judgment that show it was not an administration of grace."—(Italics ours.)
So in an administration of Grace there cannot be acts of justice and judgment! Justice and judgment are curtailed. Not exercised at all. Not a single act of justice or judgment on the part of God for about two thousand years now!
Where does this lead us?
It leads — for one thing — to abrogation of all Civil Authority, because it is by the means of Institutional Authority that God is exercising His rule in the world. This is clear from Ro. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17.
We have believed that human government was a Divine institution, commenced with Noah and maintained thru out all these centuries, and that no. divine order has been manifested, so far, abrogating it. But if the theory we are dealing with is correct, then God's Justice is lying dormant, then Civil authorities have no divine authority at all. It is an invention of man, foisted upon us, and contrary to the character of the present divine administration.
If I could be convinced of this being the truth I sure would join the Anarchists.
If this is so, then God has curtailed all His governmental operations in relation to the human race. He is letting the wicked run wild with no restraints.
But does not Ro. 1:18 say that "the wrath of God IS revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness?"—Yes, but that epistle does not belong to this administration, you see!
The writer of the booklet referred to quotes several passages from Romans to prove this. In connection with Ro. 11:21-22 he says:
"Under an administration of absolute grace no warning of judgment such as found in Ro. 11:21-22 will ever be heard:
*I see no need of mentioning names. It is not persons that I am combating,
it is a DOCTRINE. I have no doubt but that the author of the booklet is a
sincere, lovable brother, striving to apprehend the truth of God in purity.
"For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare thee not. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but on thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also will be cut off."
Notice: No warning of judgment can be heard in the dispensation of grace! — Then the disasters that occur, wreaking destruction on man is not even a warning of judgment.
According to this it is wrong for us even to warn men as to the consequences of their wrongdoing.
But it can be made too elastic. It can be stretched so far that it turns into lasciviousness. It can be stretched so far that it runs into plain Antinomianism.
The conclusions that the writer referred to above draws from the declared fact that this is an "administration of grace" — Eph. 3 — is that nothing but grace can be administered during this time.
Now if this holds good because this is an administration of grace, then the same principle must work when an administration is of a different character.
Thus the time from the giving of the Law at Sinai was an Administration of Law. It was a "dispensation of death" — 2 Cor. 3. — Then, on the same principle, there could not be anything but law and death administered during that time.
The grace administration allows nothing but grace.
The law administration allows nothing but law.
If one is true, both are. If one is wrong, both are.
But the writer has admitted (properly) that grace was operating all the way thru, even from Adam.
The reason it was an administration of Law was that law was the predominating factor, but it did not exclude grace.
Just as little does the administration of grace exclude "law." By this I do not mean the Mosaic law, which is excluded, but I mean that grace does not eliminate "law" — provide lawlessness.
But that is just what the system of doctrine that we deal with now does. It must be plain and clear above all debate, that where there is no exercise of justice and judgment and "no judicial and punitive action against human sin" (quoted from booklet), there is lawlessness.
Mainly in the subjects of grace — the people to whom it was granted. Also the measure of it.
During the Mosaic law administration that law was not applied to any other people but Israel. But "law," in the meaning of God's governmental principles, were applied to all peoples. Grace was also applied to both Israel and gentile nations — in a certain measure.
But when the time of the Mosaic law was past, grace was diminished for Israel, and it was increased for the nations. Israel was given over to judicial blindness, the nations had a theretofore unknown and unexpected measure of grace made known to them. To the nations grace became the dominant factor. To them grace blossomed out in a degree that exceeded all previous expressions of it. It became overwhelming. It broke all previous boundaries. Its expressions became so amazing that even now, after the revelation of it has been made accessible for all believers for many generations, very few dare believe that it is as abundant and overflowing as it really is.
Human government was established by God as an agency by which to keep evildoers in restraint and to administer justice in His behalf. The fact that almost all human government institutions have been corrupted and turned into selfish uses for those in authority, is no proof of them not yet being divine agencies. The Master said to Pilate when he said: "Are you not aware that I have authority to release you and have authority to crucify you?" "No authority have you against Me in anything, except it were given to you from above."— Pilate was no angel. To this day all the "powers that be are ordained of God" — Ro. 13. If this is contested, Scripture proof should be given to show when, where and how there ever was issued a divine order cancelling or abrogating this ordinance of God. If it is not cancelled, or discontinued, it is in operation. And if it is in operation then God is, thru these, dispensing Justice and Judgment every day. It is impossible to believe that such an all-important feature as world-wide, God-instituted government has been set aside without the slightest hint from Him that it has been done.
Parental love is, perhaps, the kind of human love that comes nearest to the love of God.
How many a parent has not had their love ignored, their desires for their offspring trampled under foot, their young rebelling against any and all restrictions placed upon them, going headlong into sin and wickedness, to the shame and disgrace of the parents!
Plenty of such these days.
But the ideal parent, or should I say, the natural parent, will not turn against the wayward youngsters with hatred and ill-will. Love, prayer, patience and advice (even when rejected), will gladly be offered, in hopes that the ignorant and headstrong will heed and turn.
And more than that will be exercised.
As long as the young are in the class of minors, good parents will not give up attempts to rule them. The fact, that they (the Parents) are, just like God towards the world, in a conciliatory attitude towards the wayward offspring does not induce them to let the young run wild with no restraint and no restrictions. Like God, they will exercise GRACE, but not to the extent of letting down all the bars, cancelling all use of deterrent measures, allowing no judicial regulations and no penalties to be imposed on the wrongdoer.
Or is GRACE such an attribute that it cannot permit any interference with sin and ungodliness?
Is divine LOVE an attribute that cannot, without violating its own nature, do anything but to stand quietly and inactively by and look upon man going on a raving, riotous rampage in wickedness to his own destruction?
To me this is a caricature of Love and Grace. Such an attitude of divine love and grace would more properly be called an administration of lawlessness, not of grace.
Is Grace at variance with Justice? Are God's attributes in opposition to each other? As there is no inconsistency in a parent exercising grace and justice to the same youngsters during the same year, month, week or day, so I can see no inconsistency in God giving expression of these attributes during the same age.
If it is inconsistent for God to exercise justice and judgment during this age then it is equally so for anyone else to do so. It must be clear beyond a question that if it is the highest ideal of God not to use judgment and justice on rebellious man, then anyone who does otherwise, be it parent, judge, or any other authority, is out of line with God's. will for the present.
If judgment and justice is according to the plan of God, totally at rest at present, then any and all and every attempt to deter, correct and discipline by such means are contrary to the present purpose and methods of God, a violation of His will. Then we should abolish all police power, close the courts, eliminate all disciplinary measures from home and school, and let each and everyone do just as they please, because every sentiment, desire and inclination to hold sin in check, except by grace, is contrary to God and a violation of His will.
I wonder how life would be in Seattle, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and every other town and hamlet in this country if all authority were dispensed with? Would you like to live in a great city with no police protection? Not I. Let it be that law enforcement systems here and all over the world are corrupt, I do not believe that very many people would see these systems set aside. I have noticed that some folks who refuse to acknowledge any governmental authority will be very quick to apply to the prosecuting attorney if they feel that they are being mistreated. Even they feel the need of police protection — and they are glad to have it when someone steps on their toes.
A criminal under human laws is under the hand of justice when he has been apprehended and put in jail, or is out on bail. This is preparatory and temporary exercise of justice. When he has been in court and received the sentence he commences to serve it out. Similarly the Sinner is under the hand of Justice all the time until he has been released by identification with Christ. His sentence has already been pronounced, but it is deferred. "He who is not believing is judged already" — In. 3:18. Everyone of Adam's race is under condemnation — Ro. 5:18-19. In fact, he is under a threefold condemnation. If this condition has been ended, now and here, then everyone is under GRACE to the extent that no justice is in operation towards them, only grace; but I do not find such to be the testimony of Scripture.
Furthermore, God has not suspended His universal law that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" — Gal. 6. Experience proves it every day, that this law is imposing its inflexible sentences on everyone of the race, saint and sinner alike.
The question is then: Is this God's work in grace, or is it justice?
Of course, it is justice. We might properly call it gracious justice, looking towards the objective of it, but it is justice just the same.
Now someone might object that this is not God acting in justice; it is only the inevitable operation of His laws.
Well, can we separate the effect of His laws from His personal work? Is it not a part of His work?
When man makes a machine to serve him automatically, do we then consider the work of the machine something entirely independent of man, or is it man's work that is being done by the machine?
Everyone with sound sense must admit that it is man's work.
So, likewise, is the justice that comes as consequences of man's sin an expression of God's justice. It is His way to deter, and check man's, wickedness. It is His way of teaching man. It is His way of reminding man, and persuading him. It is His way to discipline.
If God terminated His action of justice, as some try to teach us, when the administration of Grace commenced, then He suspended His natural laws of the universe, at least as far as consequences of wrong-doing is concerned. If. He did not, His justice has been in operation every day, every hour, upon every individual since Acts 28:28 and will continue to be so until there is no more need for correctives and disciplinary measures.
We thus conclude, that Ro. 1:18, — "the indignation of God is being revealed from heaven on an the irreverence and injustice of men who are retaining the truth in injustice" is as true today as it has always been, altho the exercise of justice is not to the full measure or extent that it will be later.
And for this we ought to be deeply thankful to Him. When He ceases to exercise justice then man will utterly destroy Himself by his inordinate appetite for sin.
Woe unto the place where God lets sin go unrestrained!
E. A. L.
Last updated 27.10.2008