Ephesians 3: 2-7
:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: :3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, :4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) :5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; :6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: :7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
This group of verses is one that should be read more than once. It's meaning is not usually grasped on the first read but should be read carefully until you have considered exactly what it is that Paul is trying to explain here. I've highlighted the words I want us to focus in on today but before we get to them let's talk about the subject Paul is speaking of. He is speaking of the mystery that was revealed unto him, which is revealed in verse 6:"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:" The mystery was that God's intention had always been to include the gentile's in His redemptive plan and it was Paul's calling to deliver that good news(gospel) to the gentile nations. Many would say today that this is no mystery but evident truth from the scripture, while that is true today and a well known fact, in that day it was a mystery. Often times when Paul would begin to preach and reveal this mystery the Jewish leaders would accuse him of blasphemy and throw him in prison. This truth was being revealed threw Paul and Paul was penning down the things that God was revealing to him through The Holy Spirit. Paul holds a high calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles and God gave him revelation into the truths God had not revealed in other ages but through Paul he was now revealing his mercy and grace not only for the Jewish nation but for all men of every creed, every race, for the world. Which brings us to our highlighted words today dispensation, revelation, other ages and now revealed. We'll attempt to deal with these one at a time and let me say that how you understand this will determine how you understand your Bible and God's revelation to man.
Dispensation "Other Ages"
A dispensation is a period of time in which something is being dispensed. That something that I am referring to today is God's revelation to man. Our words in verse five "other ages" correlates with our word dispensation. I understand a dispensation to be periods of time throughout the ages in which God was progressively revealing Him self . There are plenty of people who would disagree with this idea and there are just as many who agree with this line of thinking but the important thing is what the Scripture has to say about it. I think we can all agree that God is revealing himself in a different way now than He was in the OT tabernacle, or in The Garden of Eden or in the days of the Prophets. When you study the Bible you can see that through these different dispensations God is using different methods of revelation to deal with man. Now in a sense it was the same, His Spirit would move upon a man and that man would relay the message to the intended people but what He was revealing was progressing to the full revelation of Jesus as the messiah of the Jewish nation and savior of all who will believe on Him. That revelation was not understood by the Jewish leaders then and to this day but to many Jewish people it was accepted and the Apostles( all jewish) went forth preaching this new revelation that God was giving them. Now I won't go into the details of the dispensations but the main idea is that God has progressively revealed himself to men through the ages in different means.
Revelation "Now Revealed"
Revelation is God revealing truth to men and revealing Himself and His will to men.
One thing that is especially important to note is that God never throws out old revelation for new but it has always built upon and fulfilled the revelation He has already given. For example; The New Testament doesn't do away with the OT but it is built upon and fulfills it. Jesus said he didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. This is true of all of God's revelation to man. He revealed to Moses the first five books of the Bible, that wasn't made obsolete when Joshua came along, as a matter of fact I challenge you to read the Book of Joshua and see how many times God instructs Joshua to refer back to the law Moses had written and the instruction Moses had given. God is pointing Joshua back to the revelation he had already given. This is true for the Whole Bible. Throughout the ages God would reveal Himself and His will to men and they would pen it down from Genesis up to The Revelation of Jesus Christ, these writings are what we call the scripture and is God's revelation to man of Himself and His will. I believe this revelation is completed at the close of our bible in The Revelation of Jesus Christ, or also commonly known as the Book of Revelation. It is God's revelation of the things which are to come in the ages after this one. The book of Revelation I believe is God's final revelation to man in this age and therefore I am not looking for new prophecies or visions or new revelation from God. I can rest in what He has told me and let my faith rest fully and completely on the scripture and not on what other men have claimed that God has revealed to them in visions and dreams and other manners of extra biblical revelation. In short I believe that the Bible is Gods revelation to man and any thing outside of scripture cannot be trusted.
Many people don't know where they stand on this and a unsure stance on this will cause you to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. Many people rely more on a vision they heard someone say they had or on a dream they had than on what the scripture teaches. Some think that we are in the days of the prophets where God revealed Himself solely to one man and that man relays the message to the masses. We are not in the age of prophets or even apostles because we have the full revelation of God, The Bible. God, through His Spirit, reveals Himself to us as individuals through the scripture. His Spirit will lead us in to all truth and that truth will be found in God's word.
Coming Back to Paul, I want to close with this. God revealed to Paul the mysteries of the Church and His writings are especially for the Church and the church age. I think of it like this; What Moses and the Prophets were to the OT Israelites, Paul is to the NT believer. His writings are directed to the church and should be read and applied as they are written. I can't take what Moses spoke to the Israelites and directly apply it to people in the church age 100% of the time but I can with the fuller revelation Paul received for the church age. Paul is to us what Moses and the Prophets were to the OT Israelites.
According to the Riches of His Grace!!