What is the difference between Law and Grace?
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.”
Dispensation is word that I have refrained from using on the program purposely, simply because too many people have heard nothing but bad things about the word, even though they don’t have any idea why. So I’ve known from day one that I had to be careful how I use this word, because I would turn people off before they would give me a minute to listen. But I think by now I have built enough credibility across the country that people won’t get turned off when I use the word dispensation. Remember Paul uses that word even in chapter 1 verse 10, so it’s very Scriptural.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of time…”
We dealt with that several lessons back, but now in chapter 3 he deals with the dispensation of the Grace of God. Well to qualify a dispensation, it’s just a simple word from which we get the word stewardship or dispensing. If we go to a pharmacy and give him our prescription, he then dispenses what the doctor has ordered, but along with dispensing the product he also gives you explicit instructions. You don’t just take that medicine haphazardly, but rather you follow the instructions that came with the dispensing. Now bringing it back into the Scriptures, a dispensation was a period of time during which God laid particular dispensational instructions to the human race.
The best way I can illustrate dispensation from the secular world is our own presidential administration. And the one I like to use on this is the administration of Jimmy Carter and the one followed by Ronald Reagan. These were men with two totally different ideologies, but yet they both led the country under the same constitution. For a moment let’s go back to the Carter years, as he builds his own administration. He appoints his own cabinet, he appoints men who have the same ideology that he does concerning how the country should be administered to. It wasn’t so much the 4 years he was in the White House that made his administration, but rather what made the Carter administration was the ideology that he promoted by whatever he suggested to congress or how he handled foreign affairs, that’s what marked the Carter administration, but it ended.
Then there was transition period, and from that dispensation of the Carter years we went to someone with a totally different view and that was Ronald Reagan. He too was under the same constitution, and his term of office also came to the place where it ended. Whether he served 4 or 8 years is moot. What counted was the kind of ideology that his administration promoted for the country. So in short what makes an administration was, “What were they dispensing?” Now you can bring that into Scripture and I think you have a beautiful analogy.
When God called Moses and the Nation of Israel out of Egypt, he brought them around Mt. Sinai. He called Moses up into the mountain. What did He give to Moses? Law. And Law was a dispensation. It was a dispensing to the Nation of Israel, God’s demands upon the Nation as to how they were to worship, how they were to live; and all these things were part of that dispensation of Law. Whether it went 500 years or 1500 years is moot. What’s important is, what did God give Moses to tell the children of Israel? The Law.
And of course the Law was in 3 parts. It was first and foremost the moral Law, the Ten Commandments. It was the ritual law – how to worship, and how to approach God with the sacrifices, and priesthood and so forth. Then it also had the civil law – how to deal with your neighbor and how to settle disputes and so forth. That was all dispensed at Mt. Sinai. But the Cross ended all of that. The Cross ended the Law, because that was when everything was fulfilled dispensationally of Law. But you see God in His wisdom could keep things secret as we see in Deuteronomy 29:29.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God:…”
That means God can keep things totally secret as long as He wants to. And then He will reveal certain things when He is good and ready, and we’ve seen that all the way up through human history. So even though all the ramification of the Law was fulfilled at the Cross, yet we find that when we come into the early chapter of Acts, not a word has been said, “That you’re no longer under the Law.” There’s not a word that’s been said, “That you no longer have to go to the temple, or keep the commandments as a system.”
That doesn’t come until this man Paul comes and says, “That if you have heard the dispensation of the Grace of God.” This is in total opposition to Law, and is now dispensed by Paul. Now if you will come back with me to I Corinthians chapter 4, and while you’re looking for it let me remind you how dispensation was used in the Old Testament. When God was approaching Abraham, about beginning a nation through him and he didn’t yet have a son, and so what did Abraham say to God?
“And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?”
What was Abraham saying? Eliezer was the man who managed all of Abraham’s wealth. Not only did Eliezer dispense orders to the servants, but he also dispensed when to sell and when to buy. Now you want to remember Abraham was wealthy. Now why am I saying all of this? Because this is what Paul claims to be concerning the Grace of God. Have you got I Corinthians chapter 4? Let’s start with verse 1.
I Corinthians 4:1
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and (what’s your next word?) stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Now if you’re a Bible student you will catch on real quick that Paul is always referring to the mysteries that were revealed to him. And what are mysteries? Secrets. And Who kept them secret until revealed to this man? God did. And when God called Paul out of the religion of Judaism, and saved him on the road to Damascus, He sent him down to Mt. Sinai and poured out on him for 3 years all the revelations of the mysteries. There are all kinds of mysteries that Paul speaks of in his writings, and since they were revealed to him he then became the steward of those mysteries. And if he was the steward of them then he was the administrator of them. When we understand that, then this Book becomes as plain as a 300 watt light bulb. It just lays right out in front of you. Of course this is a whole new administration or dispensation.
You’re going to find doctrinal things in Paul’s writings that you won’t find anywhere else in Scripture. But he doesn’t cancel what went before, it’s just an advance on it. Because now we’re coming from the very small knowledge that they had way in the beginning, and it’s just building, and building, and finally the promised Messiah came, and the Nation of Israel was in the promised land, they had the temple, but yet what did they do with the Messiah. They crucified Him, and the Jews continued to reject Him in those early chapters of Acts, and in so many words God says, “That’s the end of that dispensation of Law, we’re now going to dispense something totally new.” It was just like moving from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan. If you know anything about politics, it was as different as night and day between those two administrations. Well so is Grace and Law! You cannot mix them because they are so diverse, but it’s the same God. God never changes, but He changes His programs. Now God says, “Instead of all of the things that the Law demanded, I’ve already settled it on the Cross, now if you will just believe it I’ll do everything that needs to be done.” People write constantly and proclaim, “Oh what freedom they have found!”
We’ve come now all these 2000 years and we’re still reveling in this same Gospel that was
begun by this apostle, and that is it’s by faith and God’s Grace alone. Now I’m talking about salvation. I’m not saying that you’re saved by Faith + Nothing, and then you just go on and drift. No, No. But for salvation it’s Faith and Faith alone, and then when that happens, God begins to work in and through us, and He doesn’t expect us to become tremendous saints over night.
Editor’s Note for clarification: It is the “drifting” (maintaining a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s will) that is objectionable here. Salvation is by Faith + Nothing.
Paul Dispenses Grace – Ephesians 3:1-7
Now we’ll be going right back to where we left off in the last lesson and that will be in verse 2. This Bible is for everybody not just for a certain group of people, and we want to be able to teach it in such a way that you can study it on your own, and search the Scriptures and see if these things are really so. The Book of Acts calls people who do that Bereans.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
So after these believers hear Paul they searched the Scriptures (of course that was the Old Testament in those days) to see if what Paul was teaching was in accord with the Scriptures. So now let’s just pick the Scriptures apart word by word,
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God…”
Now that’s where we stopped in the last lesson, and we’re going to stay stopped for a bit, because I’m still not quite through with what I wanted to get across so far as, “why does Paul define this dispensation of the Grace of God?” Now always remember every word that Paul writes, as well as every word that the Old Testament writers write, was inspired by the Holy Spirit. None of these writings was just the will of a person. Even when Paul in so many words says, “this is my idea” it’s still inspired, and never lose sight of that. Every word is here because the Holy Spirit wants it here. So when Paul says in Romans.
“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,…”
Now that’s not an egotistical man talking, but rather that’s the Holy Spirit speaking exactly what He wants Paul to write. So in verse 2 let’s see what he says.
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God…”
We spent nearly the whole last lesson defining a dispensation, and I hope it was clear enough. Now what is so different about Grace? In Exodus chapter 3, up on Mount Sinai, God, spoke to Moses, and gave to him the Law, and then Moses takes the Law down the mountain and dispenses it to the Nation of Israel. So this was the dispensation of Law, and that’s the way we look at it in Scriptures. Now some 1500 years later after the Damascus Road experience for Paul, the same God does something different, which is His prerogative, because He’s Sovereign. Now He calls out to Mount Sinai, a different man whom we know as the apostle Paul. And to Paul God reveals these doctrines of Grace, and Paul in turn dispenses these doctrines of Grace, not so much to the Nation of Israel, but to the Gentile world.
(Mt. Sinai – Moses – Law – Nation of Israel)
(Mt. Sinai – Paul – Grace – Gentile world)
Now of course in both cases the Law is going to have an influence on Gentiles, and Grace is going to have an influence on the Jew. But as a group the dispensation of Law was given through Moses to Israel, and the dispensation of Grace was given through the apostle Paul to the Gentiles. Now there’s only one other place in the New Testament where that term is used explicitly, and that will be in Acts chapter 20, and let’s look at verse 24. Now in all the other places in Paul’s writings he may refer to this Gospel as the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of God, My Gospel, and various others, but here in Acts chapter 24 and in Ephesians he refers to it as the Grace of God.
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Do you see how plain that is? Paul’s whole ministry was to proclaim the Gospel of the Grace of God. Now I think it may be appropriate if we come back to Ephesians chapter 3, that now for a moment we can look at the word “Grace.”
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace…”
Now like I said in the last lesson, “very few people have any idea of the Grace of God.” I don’t claim to know all that much, because it’s beyond human understanding. How a Sovereign, Eternal, Creator God would do what He did simply because He loved the human race. He took on human flesh, walked among men for three years on the dusty roads of Israel, and then ended up going to the Cross to suffer the most horrible death ever invented, all because of His love for mankind. And through that death on the Cross He was able to pay the price of redemption for the whole human race, not just for a few chosen ones, but for the whole race. Now listen, that’s GRACE!
And that’s beyond our comprehension. He didn’t have to do that. He could have just zapped the human race and started over. But from day one, from the time that Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, on up to the rebellious multitudes just before the flood, on up to the tower of Babel when again that group of humanity met in pagan consort, God could have zapped them, but He didn’t. He let them go on until He was able to find one man 200 years later in the Ur of the Chaldees we know as Abraham, and begin again something totally different, all because He refused to give up on the human race. And why didn’t He? GRACE!
So everything that God does, and the patience of God toward the human race is all because of His Grace. Now I call that one of God’s attributes. It is something that is in the very make-up of the eternal God that prompted Him to pour out all this unmerited favor and love on a rebellious human race. All we have to do is just look around us today, and just stop and think for a moment, why does God put up with it when every thing is flying in His face in total rebellion? All God would have to do is speak the Word and we’d all be gone. But God doesn’t do that, and why doesn’t He? GRACE!
Now you see under the Law that wasn’t the case. Law was demanding, Law as I’ve said so often is what? Severe! It was severe, and there was no bending it. If you broke the Law back in it’s pure early stages, invariably the penalty was death? So that was the Law, and there wasn’t Grace in that except it was the Grace of God getting a way for man to come back, but in reality Law was legalism, it was severe, it was the very opposite of Grace. But now on this side of the Cross we have the same God who gave the Law and all of it’s severity to Moses for Israel, God now opens the window of heaven and through this apostle’s writings we have the opening of the door of GRACE!
Now some people say, “Well don’t you make too much of Paul?” No. Paul knew only one thing, and that was “Christ crucified for our sins, and risen from the dead,” and you can’t find that anywhere else in Scripture that you are to believe that for salvation except in Paul’s writings. So we don’t elevate Paul above that. But you see God, as He kept things secret as we saw in our last lesson, has decided that it’s through this man that He would reveal the things that had been kept secret. That’s why Paul, over and over, uses the term “revelation,” how God revealed to me such and such, and he writes over and over again.
Now the other argument that we sometimes get, and praise the Lord we don’t get many. We get very few arguments from all the mail we get, and when we do get an argument its usually over water baptism. And in every instance the party will try to make it sound that if you’re not baptized in water, then you can’t be saved. And when I write back and answer that this is what Paul has said, then they’ll come right back and say, “But we go by what the Bible says, not what Paul says, or we use the whole Bible, we don’t just use Paul.”
Well if that be the case, and you’re going to argue that you do what the whole Bible says then I take you right back to Leviticus chapter 5. This is a fun exercise, it really is, because it says it so plainly. Now I could use any other portion of the Old Testament, but this one says it so clearly, and it’s not real deep theologically. It’s just an everyday possibility for anyone of us.
“And if a soul (or person) sin, and hear the voice of swaring, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it: if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. (he has to tell the priest what someone has said or he’s guilty.) 2. Or if a soul (or person) touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcass of an unclean beast, or a carcass of unclean cattle, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty. Now for sake of time come on down to verse 5.
“And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: 6. And he shall (that’s a command) bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he that sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.”
Now do you know what I say? That’s what the Bible says. Isn’t it? Just as plain as day. Do you bring a sacrificial offering when you touch anything dead? No. Does God expect you to do it? No. Why? Because this was Law. This is all part of what Moses instructed Israel, and we’re not under that economy. But we’re under the economy of Grace with the apostle Paul. So when people say I go by what all the Bible says, they get their foot in their mouth before they can turn around, because there are so many things back here that cannot be done today. So what’s the difference? You’ve got to separate Law from Grace.
Paul will never tell you that if you touch something dead, you go and offer a sacrifice some place does he? No. So always keep these things straight that when I say we have to listen to the apostle Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), that doesn’t mean we don’t read the rest of Scripture. That doesn’t mean it isn’t profitable – of course it is, because it shows us the very mind of a Holy God. It shows us what it was like to live under the yoke of bondage which was what the Law really was. It’s what Peter called it in Acts chapter 15, and it’s what Paul called it in Galatians. It was a yoke of bondage, but now under Paul’s teaching of Grace, we’ve been set free from all that. Now coming back to Ephesians chapter 3 for a split second, and I know I used some of this in the last lesson, but let it sink in. It’s so important!
“If ye have heard of the dispensation (or the economy, or the administration) of the grace of God (and like I’ve shown that Law came to Israel through Moses. How in the world did the doctrines of Grace get to the Gentiles? Well the next part of the verse tells us) which is given me to you-ward:”
Do you see what that says? You have no idea how many times I’ve had someone at my now famous kitchen table, and I will tell them this very concept, that all of our doctrines of Grace come from Paul. They’ll always say, “Well where do you get that?” Well here’s one good example, and this is just one. They’ll read that verse, and say, “I don’t see what you’re getting at.” Then I always come back and say, “Well then you didn’t read it.” And they always come back with, “Yeah I did.” So I have them read it as many times as it takes, usually about 3 or 4 times, and then they normally say, “Oh I never saw that before.” I dare say there are multitudes just exactly like that. And here it is, “The dispensation of the Grace of God which was given to Paul, and Paul through inspiration and by the Grace of God have brought it to us Gentiles.
Now isn’t that easy? Now let me show you from Scripture what we’re talking about. My there’s so much of it I hardly know where to start. Come back with me to II Corinthians. I was debating whether to use Galatians first or Corinthians, but just for sake of chronological order of the Bible we’ll start here in II Corinthians. Remember just like Paul had to deal in I Corinthians with the Corinthian believers who wanted to follow Peter’s teachings rather than Paul. Others wanted to follow Jesus’ earthly ministry teachings rather than Paul, and their whole concept was that Paul was something less than those fellows at Jerusalem. And this is what Paul had to overcome and we covered this in detail when we taught the Corinthian letters. But this is just review.
II Corinthians 11:5
“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.”
Wow! What does that say? I was not a half of step behind Peter. See, they were trying to put Peter up above him. And that the chiefest apostle would have to be Peter most people would say. Now if Paul’s not behind him, where is he? Well he’s either beside him or ahead of him. Now for the next one, stay in the same chapter and come down to verse 22. Now this verse puts Paul out a step ahead. This is speaking of the Jerusalem leadership which would include the twelve, as well as some of the other head people of the Jerusalem assembly.
II Corinthians 11:22-23a
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more:…”
See how plain that is? That’s the Holy Spirit writing through the pen of the apostle Paul, that Paul is more the minister of Christ than anybody back there at Jerusalem. And this is what we have to understand. Now let’s go on to one more in the next chapter.
II Corinthians 12:11
“I am become a fool in glorying; (and Paul didn’t like to boast, but he had to in order to convince especially the Corinthians that he was a special instrument in God’s hand) ye have compelled me: (you’ve forced me) for I ought to have been commended of you: (it was this man who had brought these people out of their abject paganism. It was his message that set them free, and brought them into a relationship with Christ. It was this man’s Gospel that brought these pagans into a life of morality and hope for eternity) for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”
Evidently there were some Jewish believers in the congregation who knew all about Peter and the eleven, and were stirring up these Gentile believers saying that Paul didn’t have the authority to lead the Corinthians. So Paul tells them he’s not behind Peter one bit, in fact he’s in front of him. So that should tell you that Paul is the man that is given, and ordained of God to go to the non-Jew, the Gentiles, and he claims it over and over, the same as God did back when He was talking to Ananias back in Acts chapter 9.
“But the Lord said, unto him, (Ananias) Go thy way: (to Paul) for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…”
Now turn on over to the Book of Galatians chapter 1, and this is all to back up his claim in Ephesians chapter 3:2:
“…the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” And the you-ward is speaking of Gentiles. So now let’s look in Galatians 1.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. (Paul is saying he’s not following in some other man’s footsteps) 12. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it. But by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul got all of his doctrines of Grace, to include this Gospel we must believe for salvation, from Jesus Christ Himself. It was a revealing, a secret that had been kept secret in the mind of God according to the verses we looked at in the last lesson. So here in verse 12 that’s what Paul is claiming. That what had been kept secret and is now revealed to this apostle, came by revelation of Jesus Christ. Now when I teach Paul’s epistles I always emphasize that this revelation was after our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection, and that makes all the difference in the world.
See Jesus couldn’t even preach His death, burial, and resurrection for salvation, because it hadn’t even happened yet. He tried to tell the twelve about it, but they never got it, according to Luke 18:31-34, but it just wasn’t in the economy of that system of Law for Israel and the Jews to understand the Gospel of Grace. It just wasn’t meant to be! So now let’s look at what Paul says in verse 15.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,”
The other night I took the Strong’s concordance, and I counted all the times that Grace was used between Matthew 1:1 and Acts chapter 9. How many times do you suppose it was? Sixteen times, and then it wasn’t even used as a doctrinal term, but rather as the word Grace. From Acts chapter 9 until the end of Paul’s letters I counted eighty-four times Paul had used that word. Six times more is the word Grace referred to in Paul’s epistles than everything that went before his writing. Now that’s shocking isn’t it? And yet it shouldn’t be, because this is the apostle of Grace. I have a book at home, I think the title is The Apostle of the Soul Set Free. It was a biography of the apostle Paul. I didn’t like the book all that much, but I sure did like the title. Now that says it all doesn’t it? Now in the short time we have left let’s look at verse 16.
“To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;…” (Gentiles)
That’s Paul specific calling, to take this Gospel of Grace to the Gentile world. And that’s why I put it this way over the years, that as the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai for Israel, Paul goes out to Mt. Sinai, and God gave him the doctrines of Grace for us. Now that’s beyond human comprehension. Now finishing the verse.
“…immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia…” (that would be Mt. Sinai)
Then Paul goes on to say that this whole mystery of the Gospel was revealed to him, and that why I’m always stressing Paul’s apostleship, and spending most of our time in his letters.