I want to say a quick word about dispensationalism because there is something that looks like dispensationalism floating around which is correctly called hyper-dispensationalism (although it has various names – ultradispensationalism, mid acts dispensationalism, and a few other variants). This system of interpretation tries to rigidly define when the “Dispensation” of grace began, not by anchoring it to Jesus Christ, but to Paul. The idea is that Church didn’t start until Paul’s ministry began, and that books like Hebrews and Peter and others were not for the Church but for Jews, and that the gospel to the Jews is a mix of faith and works. They go so far as to say that Israel used to be under works for justification and during the tribulation it will be works again for salvation.
While these systems claim to be Pauline, their view of justification during different periods contradicts clear Pauline revelation which clearly shows us that justification has always been a matter of faith apart from works. Whether with David or Abraham, whether they were under the law or not under the law it was still Faith apart from works that justified them.
Rom 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Rom 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Rom 4:4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
Rom 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Rom 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
Rom 4:7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
In Romans 4, Justification with Abraham is presented in the light of receiving the inheritance (ultimately the kingdom) (Romans 4:13) and Justification with David is presented in the light of being forgiven of sins. (Romans 4:7)
So what is the difference between justification in the time of Abraham or in the time of David and our justification today? In justification the difference between the different periods is what you inherit. If you were born under the kingdom, what you would inherit as a matter of being a citizen of the kingdom (an Israelite) would be a matter of land (Gen 13:17 Numbers 26:53, Ezek 45:8 for example) and the New Covenant (Jer 31:31).
However the Church, also justified by faith, what we receive is different. Our trajectory is to be conformed to the image of Christ and glorified, (Romans 8:28-29) and what we receive is the life of Christ in our spirit (Romans 8:10), and we are regenerated to become the sons of God and heirs together with Christ (Romans 8:14-17). So our inheritance and our portion is very different but the means of justification is still the same. The Old Testament saints believed in Christ as the seed that was promised (Gal 3:16) and we believe in Christ as the seed that came. They believed in death and resurrection (Lk 20:37-38; Heb 11:17-19– the pophets longed and inquired into the sufferings of the Christ and the glories which would follow(1 Peter 1:11) And that’s what we are beneficiaries of in the church. So the faith that saves throughout the scripture is by the hearing of faith, by believing the gospel.(Hebrews 4:2; Gal 3:8) In the Old Testament believing the gospel meant they were reckoned righteous and made heirs.(Gen 15:16-17) In the New Testament we are reckoned righteous but then we are also sealed with the Spirit (eph 1:13) and a work is begun within us through regeneration (Titus 3:5), renewing (Romans 12:2; 2 Cor 4:16; Eph 4:23), and building up (Eph 2:22; 1 Cor 3:9) so that Christ is wrought into us as an eternal weight of Glory ( 2 cor 4:17) which will be expressed in the next age as the manifested sons of God (Romans 8:19; Col 3:4).
Galatians tells us that the Gospel was preached to Abraham. (Gal 3:8) In that sense nothing has changed. When he was promised the seed and the land, he was promised Christ – the reality of the seed and the land. He is the Seed of David (Romans 1:3) and the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), and He came the first time to confirm the promises that He made to the fathers (Rom 15:8), and He’s coming back to deliver these promises! (Romans 11:26)
We are not looking for the earthly kingdom, for our citizenship is in heaven. (Ph 3:20). When He comes to take possession of the earth,(Rev 11:15) we are coming with Him and will share with Him in that rule as His bride and counterpart.(Jude 1:14;).
So we have a different position and a different portion because of when we got justified. That’s just God’s allotment. He decides. I don’t get to decide what group I can be a part of. All I can do is believe the Gospel that’s presented to me in the age that I’m alive to receive it. (Acts 17:26)
The classical dispensationalists were raised up to bring about a distinction between the Church and Israel. The reason they were raised up to do this was because the Church had been thoroughly “Galatianized.” Half of that had been resolved when Luther and the reformation was raised up – to recover justification by faith. They saw that Christ is the righteousness of the believer(Romans 3:22; 1 Cor 1:30; Romans 10:4; Phil 3:9). So they saw that the qualification to enter and be at peace with God had to do with the blood of Christ and no human merit (Col 1:20) However, when it came to sanctification they went back to the law and to works and tried to put together a patchwork of works from the law, from the synoptic gospels (sermon on the mount), the teachings of Jesus. They had not yet seen what I call “Pauline spirituality” and that’s what the brethren were really raised up to bring back.
To see that Christ is not only our righteousness but He is our sanctification.(1 Cor 1:30; John 17:19; Heb 2:11; Heb 10:10; Heb 10:14). Our sanctification is not a patchwork of works. It’s not growing in the ability to give more, and to love more and to do more and to follow the commandments of Jesus. That’s not our sanctification. All those things are just pictures. (Heb 10:1). Our sanctification is Christ Himself, manifested in us! (Phil 1:20) That’s what Paul came to reveal – all the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
No, Jesus did not reveal that mystery in its depths and clearly teach it while he was on the earth. In John we see Him talking about the organic union and the vine and the branches (John 15:1-5) and in the day when He sends the spirit we will be one with Him as the Father as in Him and He is in the Father, and we are in Him and He is in us. (John 14:20) The mutual abode of God and man is in John, and He spoke it in the upper room and they would not have been able to understand a word of it because they were not regenerated. The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14). But these things were recorded by John, later, 30 years after Paul died.
Paul was given the task of clearly teaching the doctrine of the mystery of Christ. So, you cannot overstate the uniqueness of Paul’s ministry. If you take it out, you don’t have Christian Sanctification. You don’t have that Christ as my sanctification and it’s no longer a matter of taking up the cross and following Him, but I have been buried with Him into baptism into His death and the crucifixion of Christ was my death(Romans 6:4). I died with Him on the cross.(Galatians 2:20) Now I have His Spirit and that Spirit is the Spirit of life, the Life Giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45), who is in me with the reality of everything Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection to be applied to my members and to my spirit so that my body is dead because of sin, and my spirit is life because of righteousness because I have the spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:10) HE dwells in me, and by having a heart full of thanksgiving and reaqlizationof what He has done for me, which is called the Gospel, I spontaneously am filled with the Spirit which subdues my flesh (it doesn’t make me sinlessly perfect) (Romans 8:13; Gal 5:16; 1 John 1:18) – that is how sanctifiaction is walked out – He subdues my flesh and renews my inner man, renews my mind and fills me with life and peace.(2 Cor 4:16; Romans 8:6) Then I walk and my walk is “no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life that I now I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) That is the Christian life. The Christian life is just living Christ (Phil 1:21)
The Christian life is not a patchwork of trying to get better at being a better giver, or loving God more, or not committing adultery, or not doing this or that – that’s not growth in sanctification because you can stop doing all those things and not be sanctified. Buddhists do that. To be sanctified means to be on the altar. (Romans 12:1) I’m crucified with Christ. I’m dead with Him and joined to Him. He is my holiness. I don’t have a holiness apart from Christ. There is no such thing as sanctification apart from Christ.
Look at Leviticus with all the offerings, and the tabernacle and the priesthood. There is only the offerings and the bloodshed for sanctification, and the altar which sanctified these things because it was sprinkled with blood seven times and was most holy (compare Ex 30-28:29; Matthew 23:19) . There is no sanctification apart from Christ, even in the pattern under the law.
So, we have to see that our sanctification is Christ. Then we sound like hyper-dispensationalists, because we talk about Pauline Spirituality, but people do not see this. They do not see that Christ is our sanctification. They look at it as a patchwork of works. So they can speak strongly about justification but then they’re confused about sanctification. In contrast to works based sanctification, what Paul revealed is that Christ is to be magnified in my body. Not I’m striving to do this and that and become a better person or do anything. It is a matter of beholding Christ by faith and seeing what He accomplished. It is a matter of seeing that not only did He shed His blood for me but I was crucified with Him and I died with Him and now I’m walking in newness of life by His Spirit as I believe in what He’s done and have a heart full of thanksgiving about it. (Gal 3:1-3)
This is areal sanctification that “works.” What do I mean? It fills me with thanksgiving and makes me love the Lord. What else can there be? The real sanctification makes you love the lord. (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 6:24) The point isn’t to make you a better person, although it will clean you up because Christ is the living water and He washes and refreshes and fills us up. But that’s not the focus. The focus is that I would be won to Christ and attracted to Christ and would gain Him and would count everything as loss that I might lay hold of Him (Phil 3:8). He can be manifested in us. That’s the Christian life. The real sanctification is Christ magnified in me. That’s the only thing that matters. You can clean up your act and not be more sanctified. (Mt 23:25)
Regarding the Brethren, everyone is familiar with Darby because they know they got the rapture from him, but that’s all they know, because they haven’t read the brethren. You cannot really improve their ministry when it comes to grace. They really brought all of this out. When I talk about Pauline Dispensationalism, people accuse of hyper-dispensationalism. But this is classical dispensationalism. This is what the Brethren were raised up to bring to light – to recover this emphasis in Paul’s ministry of Christ in us in contrast to the law and the kingdom teachings which belonged to another time. They were shadows and Christ is the reality. And there are literal promises of a New Coveannt that will be fulfilled for Israel when she comes to be restored and inherit her kingdom. That’s really going to happen. The Brethren are known for their recovery of the understanding of the prophetic word. But that was an outworking of their focus on grace. Unfortunately, in the western church we’re familiar with what we think is their ministry because people have read “Left Behind” and think they know what the rapture is, but they don’t understand that the Brethren were a recovery of Pauline theology, which has been lost again. It’s not in the institutional churches, and you’ll find no one talking about it.
People tell me all the time that they don’t hear language I speak anywhere else, of nourishing the inner man, or Christ in me, or how to “go on” in this thing. And that’s not something good about me, that just shows the tragic situation and the famine for the word. So even when I find someone who can speak strongly about justification, I typically find out that when it comes to sanctification, they’ll actually argue with me to get me back in a works mentality for sanctification. So it’s justification by faith and sanctification by works. That’s the way the institutional churches are today and most grace believers. And they are grace believers- they are regenerated. However if you think that sanctification is a matter of works you are going to build with wood, hay and stubble. That will impact things. Christ is our sanctification. That’s really one of my main focuses.