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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

 1 Corinthians 9:17 Ephesians 1:10 Ephesians 3:2 Colossians 1:25 oikonomia  Luke 16:2-4 Ephesians 3:9  1 Timothy 1:4 oikonomia

The New American Standard translates oikonohymia as “stewardship” in all but the   Ephesians 1:10 passage which translates it “administration.” New Revised Standard Version translates it “commission” except for   Ephesians 1:10 for which the translation is “plan.” The New International Version translates oikonomia differently in each passage:   1 Corinthians 9:17 , “trust”;  Ephesians 1:10 , “put in effect”;  Ephesians 3:2 , “administration”;  Colossians 1:25 , “commission.”

The New Testament thus uses oikonomia to refer either to Paul's ministry in his apostolic office or God's administration of the world and of His plan of salvation for it. Paul thus had a part in working out God's eternal plan of salvation.

Modern Technical Usage The word “dispensation” became prominent in biblical studies in a recent eschatological movement which dates back to 1830 in Scotland. This movement called “dispensationalism” can be traced back to the visions of Margaret McDonald, a member of the Plymouth Brethren Church. She believed that the return of Christ would be in two distinct stages. The believer would be caught up to the Lord in the air before the days of the antichrist. Then there would be a final revelation of Christ at the end of the age.

The Role of J.N. Darby This two-stage return of the Lord, unheard of before 1830, became the platform for a movement called “dispensationalism.” Miss McDonald's pastor J. N. Darby (1800-1882) picked up on her idea and began to make use of it in his sermons. Darby was responsible for developing the two-stage coming of Christ into a fully developed eschatology or theology. He had been an Anglican clergyman until 1827 when he left the church to join the Plymouth Brethren.

Darby set forth the idea that God has set up seven time periods called dispensations for His work among human beings. The seventh or last dispensation will be the millennial reign of Christ ( Revelation 20:1 ). In each dispensation, people are tested in reference to the obedience of God's will according to a specific revelation of that will.

The Role of C. I. Scofield Darby visited the United States on several occasions and won many advocates to his theology. However, C. I. Scofield popularized the dispensational system in his study Bible of 1909. He set forth seven dispensations in God's dealing with human beings.

1. Innocency ( Genesis 1:28 ) This is the period of time in the Garden of Eden.

2. Conscience ( Genesis 3:23 ) This is the awakening of human conscience and the expulsion from the garden.

3. Human Government ( Genesis 8:20 ) This is the new covenant made with Noah, bringing about human government.

4. Promise ( Genesis 12:1 ) This is the new covenant made with Abraham.

5. Law ( Exodus 19:8 ) This is the period of acceptance of the Jewish law.

6. Grace ( John 1:17 ) This dispensation begins with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

7. Kingdom ( Ephesians 1:10 ) This constitutes the final rule of Christ.

Program of Eschatology Beyond the seven dispensations, the Darby movement had a definite program of eschatology in five steps.

1. A two-stage coming of Christ—rapture and parousia.

2. Seven years of tribulation on earth for those not raptured. The last three and a half years will be the time of the antichrist. One hundred forty-four thousand Jews will accept Christ and become evangelists.

3. Christ will return with the church, conclude the battle of Armageddon, and rule for a thousand years.

4. Belief in an unconditional covenant with Israel. Thus God is working through Israel and the church. In the millennium, national Israel will be restored.

5. All Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled literally.

Some of the more popular advocates of dispensationalism have been C. H. MacKintosh, W. E. Blackstone, H. A. Ironside, A. C. Gaebelein. More recently Hal Lindsey has made the system a best seller in The Late Great Planet Earth . The Book of Revelation has become a key book in the dispensational approach. Dispensationalists see the rapture taking place in  Revelation 4:1 and the rest of the book (  Revelation 4-18 ) dealing with the seven years of tribulation. Thus the book has very little significance for Christians who will not be on earth during that time. See  Revelation 4-18;  Revelation 4-18 .

James L. Blevins

Morrish Bible Dictionary [2]

οἰκονομία. This is literally 'administration of a house,' an 'economy,' and hence an ordered dealing with men by God in the varied administration of his ways at different times. In reviewing God's administrations with man, we may notice the state of innocence in Eden, though it hardly partook of the character of a dispensation. One law was given to Adam and Eve, and obedience was required, the penalty being announced if they failed.

This was followed by the lengthy period of nearly 1600 years till the flood — a time of no ordered dealing of God with men, during which men corrupted their way, and the earth was filled with violence. Then the world was 'spoken to' by God in the person of Noah, who was 'a preacher of righteousness;' and their repentance was waited for in long-suffering mercy while the ark was preparing.  1 Peter 3:20;  2 Peter 2:5 . They repented not and the old world was destroyed. In the post-diluvian world government of man by his fellow was established by God, while a knowledge of God, as a God who judged evil, was spread abroad by the descendants of Noah; traditions of the Flood being found all over the earth. This was an additional testimony for God. Then followed the division of the earth into various nations and tribes, according to their families and tongues. Among these ignorance of God prevailed in spite of the testimony of God's power and divinity, and the admonition of conscience spoken of in  Romans 1,2 .

About 360 years after the deluge the Patriarchal Age was begun by the call of Abraham, a new and sovereign dealing of God; but this was confined to Abraham and his descendants.

The Dispensation of the Law followed, strictly the first publicly ordered system of God's dealing with men, and administered by angels. The oracles of God were given to a nation, the only nation in all the earth that God had known in this way.  Amos 3:2 . It was the dispensation of 'Do this, and live and be blessed; disobey, and be cursed.' This dispensation had three phases:

a. About 400 years under the Judges, when God would have been their king, but during which time every one did that which was right in his own eyes.

b. 500 years as a kingdom under royalty.

c. 600 years from the captivity to the coming of Christ. Connected with this was prophetic testimony: the law and the prophets were until John.  Luke 16:16 .

During this 'Dispensation of Law' the Times of the Gentiles commenced in the political supremacy of Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold and king of kings.  Daniel 51:37,38 . They still run their course, and will continue until the Lord Jesus commences His reign.

2. The Dispensation of Grace and Truth commenced, after the preaching of John, by the advent of Christ. During this economy the gospel is preached to every creature under heaven, and the calling out of the Church takes place, extending as a parenthesis, from the day of Pentecost to the rapture of the saints.  Acts 2:1-4;  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 . Paul had a special 'dispensation' committed to him by God, both as to the gospel and to fulfil the word of God by the doctrine of the church as the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 9:17;  Ephesians 3:2,3;  Colossians 1:25,26 .

3. The Dispensation of the Reign of Christ over the earth during the millennium. It is also called 'the dispensation of the fulness of times.'  Ephesians 1:10;  Revelation 20:1-6 . See Millennium

Under these varied administrations the goodness and faithfulness of God shine out, and the failure of man is everywhere made manifest.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Οἰκονομία (Strong'S #3622 — Noun Feminine — oikonomia — oy-kon-om-ee'-ah )

primarily signifies "the management of a household or of household affairs" (oikos, "a house," nomos, "a law"); then the management or administration of the property of others, and so "a stewardship,"  Luke 16:2-4; elsewhere only in the Epistles of Paul, who applies it (a) to the responsibility entrusted to him of preaching the Gospel,  1—Corinthians 9:17 (RV, "stewardship," AV, "dispensation"); (b) to the stewardship commited to him "to fulfill the Word of God," the fulfillment being the unfolding of the completion of the Divinely arranged and imparted cycle of truths which are consummated in the truth relating to the Church as the Body of Christ,   Colossians 1:25 (RV and AV, "dispensation"); so in   Ephesians 3:2 , of the grace of God given him as a stewardship ("dispensation") in regard to the same "mystery;" (c) in  Ephesians 1:10;  3:9 , it is used of the arrangement or administration by God, by which in "the fullness of the times" (or seasons) God will sum up all things in the heavens and on earth in Christ. In  Ephesians 3:9 some mss. have koinonia, "fellowship," for oikonomia, "dispensation." In   1—Timothy 1:4 oikonomia may mean either a stewardship in the sense of (a) above, or a "dispensation" in the sense of (c). The reading oikodomia, "edifying," in some mss., is not to be accepted. See Stewardship.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [4]

The act of dealing out any thing. The two different methods of revealing the truths of the Gospel before and after Christ's death are called the Old and New Testament Dispensation. The dealing of God with his creatures in his providence is called a dispensation. The state of supernatural or revealed theology may also be divided into six dispensations.

1. From the fall of Adam to the flood.

2. From Noah to the giving the law.

3. From that time to the time of David and the prophets.

4. From David to the Babylonish captivity.

5. The period from that, to the time of Christ, finishes the Old Testament dispensation.

6. From Christ to the end of time, the Gospel dispensation. The superiority of the fast dispensation, as Dr. Watts observes, appears, if we consider that it contains the fairest and fullest representation of the moral law; and which is more particularly explained here than in any of the former dispensations.

2. In this dispensation the Gospel or covenant of grace is revealed more perfectly and plainly than ever before; not in obscure expressions, in types and carnal metaphors, but in its own proper form and language.

3. The rites and ceremonies under this dispensation are preferable to those in former times, and that in this respect: they are fewer, clearer, and much more easy.

4. The Son of God, who was the real mediator through all former dispensations, has condescended to become the visible mediator of this dispensation.

5. This dispensation is not confined to one family, or to one nation, or to a few ages of men, but it spreads through all the nations of the earth, and reaches to the end of time.

6. the encouragements and persuasive helps which Christianity gives us to fulfil the duties of the covenant, are much superior to those which were enjoyed under any of the former dispensations. Watts's Works, vol. 1: ser. 47. 8vo. Gill's Body of Div. Introd. Robinson's Sermons, p. 147. Ridgley's Div. qu. 35.

King James Dictionary [5]

DISPENSATION, n. L. See Dispense.

1. Distribution the act of dealing out to different persons or places as the dispensation of water indifferently to all parts of the earth. 2. The dealing of God to his creatures the distribution of good and evil, natural or moral, in the divine government.

Neither are Gods methods or intentions different in his dispensations to each private man.

3. The granting of a license, or the license itself, to do what is forbidden by laws or canons, or to omit something which is commanded that is, the dispensing with a law or canon, or the exemption of a particular person from the obligation to comply with its injunctions. The pope has power to dispense with the canons of the church, but has no right to grant dispensations to the injury of a third person.

A dispensation was obtained to enable Dr. Barrow to marry.

4. That which is dispensed or bestowed a system of principles and rites enjoined as the Mosaic dispensation the gospel dispensation including, the former the Levitical law and rites the latter the scheme of redemption by Christ.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) The act of dispensing or dealing out; distribution; often used of the distribution of good and evil by God to man, or more generically, of the acts and modes of his administration.

(2): ( n.) That which is dispensed, dealt out, or appointed; that which is enjoined or bestowed

(3): ( n.) A system of principles, promises, and rules ordained and administered; scheme; economy; as, the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations.

(4): ( n.) The relaxation of a law in a particular case; permission to do something forbidden, or to omit doing something enjoined; specifically, in the Roman Catholic Church, exemption from some ecclesiastical law or obligation to God which a man has incurred of his own free will (oaths, vows, etc.).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

  • A commission to preach the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 9:17;  Ephesians 1:10;  3:2;  Colossians 1:25 ).

    Dispensations of Providence are providential events which affect men either in the way of mercy or of judgement.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Dispensation'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/d/dispensation.html. 1897.

  • American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

    The charge of proclaiming the gospel of Christ,  1 Corinthians 9:17   Ephesians 3:2 . Also the scheme or plan of God's dealings with men. In the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations, God has commenced, enlarged, and perfected his revelation of himself and his grace to this world,  Ephesians 1:10   Colossians 1:25 . The whole development of his great plan has been gradual, and adapted at every stage to the existing state of the human family.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

    ( Οἰκονομία , management, prop. of household affairs, hence Engl. economy; "stewardship,"  Luke 16:2-4; "edifying,"  1 Timothy 1:4, apparently reading Οἰκοδομή ).

    (1.) By the divine dispensations are generally meant those methods or schemes which are devised and pursued by the wisdom and goodness of God in order to manifest his perfections and will to mankind, for the purpose of their instruction, discipline, reformation, and advancement in rectitude of temper and conduct, for the promotion of their happiness. These have 'varied in different ages' of the world, and have been adapted by the wisdom and goodness of God to the circumstances of his intelligent and accountable creatures. Divines designate these various dispensations as the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or Jewish, and the Christian; the first commencing with Adam, and reaching to the giving of the law; the second from the giving of the law to the death of Christ; the third from the death of Christ to the end of the world. All these were adapted to the circumstances of the family of man at these different periods: all, in regular succession, were mutually connected, and rendered preparatory to one another: all were subservient to the design of saving the world, and promoting the perfection and happiness of its rational and moral inhabitants (Watson, Theol. Dictionary, s.v.). "There is, perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines so much differ, as in stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ" (Jona. Edwards, On Full Communion, Works, N.Y. 1848, 1:160). See Pye Smith, First Lines of Christian Theology, book 4, chapter 3; Fletcher, Works (N.Y. ed.), volumes 2, 3, and the art. (See Federal Theology).

    (2.) Dispensations of Providence are any particular or unusual modes of visible treatment to which, under the divine government, mankind are subjected. They are either merciful or in judgment, though what appear to belong to the latter class are often blessings in disguise (Buck, Theol. Dict . s.v.). (See Providence).

    (3.) The word dispensation is used in ecclesiastical law to signify a power granted by the Church authorities to do or leave undone something which otherwise is not allowed. The Roman ecclesiastical law grants to the pope the right and power of dispensing with the law in certain (and numerous) cases, and of deputing this power to bishops and other church officers. "The limits of the dispensing power have been the subject of much discussion, not only in controversy with Protestants, but among Roman Catholics themselves. It is held by the extreme advocates of papal power that the pope may dispense in any divine law, except the articles of faith; by others, that his dispensing power does not extend to express precepts of the New Testament; some say that his dispensation is valid only when it proceeds upon just cause; some, that it is not properly a relaxation of the law's obligation, but merely a declaration that in the particular case the law is not applicable. The usage of the Church of Rome, however, agrees with the opinions of her theologians in making the pope supreme in releasing from oaths and vows; and a decree of the Council of Trent anathematizes all,who deny the power of the Church to grant dispensations for marriages within the prohibited degrees of the Mosaic law; while the multiplied prohibited degrees of the canon law give much occasion for the more frequent exercise of the same power" (Chambers). The dispensations in the Church of Rome are divided by Roman Catholic writers into papal and episcopal, pro foro externo et interno (according to the public or secret character of the impediment to be removed), dispensationes justitice et gratiae. Roman Catholics generally admit the fact that in former times it was common for bishops and provincial councils to dispense from general Church laws, and that only since Innocent III the canon law provides in what cases bishops and provincial councils may grant dispensations, while in all cases a special authorization by the pope is required in cases pro foro externo through the apostolic Dataria, and in cases pro foro interno through the Poenitentiaria. (See Curia Romana).

    If the communication with the pope is interrupted, or if there is danger in delay, and the granting of the papal dispensation be highly probable, the bishop may exceptionally grant a dispensation which ordinarily is reserved to the pope; but in such cases the papal sanction must be solicited as soon as possible. The authorization of the bishops to grant dispensations is partly renewed every fifth year (facultates quinquennales), and partly given as a personal distinction (facultates extraordinariae); but they can only exercise it as papal delegates. "The only kind of dispensations now in use in England are those granted by a bishop to a clergyman to enable him to hold more benefices than one, or to absent himself from his parish. Formerly the pope's dispensations in England, as elsewhere, prevailed against the law of the land, not in ecclesiastical matters only, but in all that large department of civil affairs which, by an interested fiction, was brought within the scope of ecclesiastical government. This abuse was swept away at the Reformation by 25 Henry VIII, c. 21. The power of the pope was then conferred on the archbishop of Canterbury, in so far as it was not contrary to the law of God. The granting of special licenses of marriage, and the like, is the only form in which it is ever exercised. In former times, the crown claimed a dispensing power in civil, similar to that of the pope in ecclesiastical matters. The power was grossly abused by James II, and was consequently abolished by the Bill of Rights. The privilege of granting pardons in capital cases is the only form in which the dispensing power of the crown still exists" (Chambers).

    In the Protestant churches of the Continent of Europe, the right of dispensing with ecclesiastical laws has devolved upon the princes, who generally exercise it through the Consistories. If the prince needs an ecclesiastical dispensation himself, he usually calls for the opinion of a theological faculty.-Herzog, Real-Encykl. 3:423; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirch.- Lex. 4:178; Barrow, Works (N.Y. ed.), 3:204 sq., 278.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

    dis pen sā´shun oikonomı́a  1 Corinthians 9:17 Ephesians 3:2  Colossians 1:25  Ephesians 1:10