Dispensationalism is a theological system for describing how God interacts with people in different periods of history, called dispensations. There are seven dispensations. The dispensation of grace is sixth after the dispensations of innocence (face-to-face interaction between God and humans), conscience (humans expected to follow their God-given consciences), human government (human institutions to enforce God's expectations), promise (focus on God's promise to Abraham and his descendants), and Law (focus on Israel and God's provision through rules and laws).
The dispensation of grace is what we, as believers, experience today.
Each dispensation is said to have six parts. The elements of the dispensation of grace are:
Managers: The Church / all believers in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9–10) Time Period: Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) until the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18), nearly 2,000 years and counting Human Responsibility: Be perfected by God's work of sanctification<; love one another; exhibit ever-increasing godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 John 1:5) Failure: Lack of maturity; worldliness; many falling into apostasy (Galatians 5:4; 2 Timothy 3:1–5) Judgment: The blindness of apostasy and false doctrine (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3) Grace: Forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3–7; John 14:20)
The dispensation of grace, also called the Church Age, refers to the creation and expansion of the church (Matthew 16:18). God bestowed grace to humans through the death of His Son and the coming of the Holy Spirit into believers' lives (John 19:30 through Revelation 3:22). The central Scripture related to this dispensation is found in Acts 2. Acts 2:38–39 says, "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'" The offer of salvation is extended to all people, both Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:23–29).
The Church is made up of individuals experiencing God's saving grace through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8–10; Romans 5:2). Grace is the undeserved benevolence of God offered to people. The Bible tells us that God uses grace in many ways, including to support us (Romans 5:2), teach us (Titus 2:11–12), and discipline us (1 Corinthians 11:28–32; Hebrews 12:5-11).
As the Church grows and matures (is sanctified) in Christ, a picture of a perfect relationship with God is viewed (Ephesians 2:21–22). Though that perfection will not be realized until heaven, the Holy Spirit provides us a relationship with God through Jesus now (Romans 8:14–17; Ephesians 2:10; 5:17–18; Philippians 1:6; 2:13).
The Church, that is, the body of believers, will return to earth with Jesus at His second coming (Revelation 19), after which will come the seventh dispensation, that of the millennial kingdom of Christ.
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