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Dispensations: Summary and Definitions


Dispensations are the Divine administration of human history (or period of time) in the progressively revealed


  • Definition by Different Authors  
    • Charles Ryrie (Dispensationalism Today, page 29): A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.
    • Lewis Sperry Chafer (Systematic Theology, Volume VII, Doctrinal Summarization, page 122): Translated from the word oikonomia, meaning primarily stewardship, a dispensation is a specific, divine economy, a commitment from God to man of a responsibility to discharge that which God has appointed him.
    • Robert B Thieme, Junior  (Dispensations, page 8): A dispensation is a period of time expressing the divine viewpoint of human history. In other words, dispensations are the categories of human history, the divine outline of history, the divine interpretation of human history.
  • Definition and Description
    • Dispensations are the Divine administration of human history (or period of time) in the progressively revealed plan of God. Each dispensation is distinguished by doctrine, people, administrators, and events (Ephesians 1:10; 3:1-12). Time (human history) is divided by God into four basic administrations:
    • Age of the Gentiles (Genesis 1-11);
    • Age of Israel (Genesis 12-Gospels and Revelation 4-19);
    • Church Age (Acts-Revelation 3);
    • Millennium, the rule of Christ on earth (Select OT Scripture such as Isaiah 11; Psalm 72; Daniel 2.4-45; and Revelation 20). Dispensational theology is based upon a normal or plain interpretation of the Bible and a recognition of the distinction between Israel and The Church.
    • The word “dispensation” comes from the Greek word oikonomia which means  1.) management of a household, direction office (Luke 16:2-4; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25; Ephesians 3:2; 2.) arrangement, order, plan (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:9) 3.) training (1 Timothy 1:4). (BAGD 559) Another word that has been translated age, world, and dispensation is aiwn (Matthew 13:39,40,49; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 9:26; 11.3). (Tod Kennedy, Dictionary of Bible Doctrine)
  • Scripture with the noun oikonomia, dispensation, administration, stewardship
    • Luke 16:2 "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'
    • Luke 16:2  kai fwnhsav auton eipen autw ti touto akouw peri sou apodov ton logon thv oikonomiav sou ou gar dunh eti oikonomein
    • Luke 16:3  "And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.
    • Luke 16:3  eipen de en eautw o oikonomov ti poihsw oti o kuriov mou afaireitai thn oikonomian ap emou skaptein ouk iscuw epaitein aiscunomai
    • Luke 16:4  'I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.'
    • Luke 16:4  egnwn ti poihsw ina otan metastayw ek thv oikonomiav dexwntai me eiv touv oikouv autwn
    • 1 Corinthians 9:17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.
    • 1 Corinthians 9:17 ei gar ekwn touto prassw misyon ecw ei de akwn oikonomian pepisteumai
    • Ephesians 1:10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, [that is], the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him
    • Ephesians 1:10 eiv oikonomian tou plhrwmatov twn kairwn anakefalaiwsasyai ta panta en tw cristw ta epi toiv ouranoiv kai ta epi thv ghv en autw
    • Ephesians 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;
    • Ephesians 3:2 ei ge hkousate thn oikonomian thv caritov tou yeou thv doyeishv moi eiv umav
    • Colossians 1:25 Of [this church] I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the [preaching of] the word of God,
    • Colossians 1:25 hv egenomhn egw diakonov kata thn oikonomian tou yeou thn doyeisan moi eiv umav plhrwsai ton logon tou yeou
    • 1 Timothy 1:4  nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than [furthering] the administration of God which is by faith.
    • 1 Timothy 1:4  mhde prosecein muyoiv kai genealogiaiv aperantoiv aitinev ekzhthseiv parecousin mallon h oikonomian yeou thn en pistei

Last Update

Sunday, March 24, 1996