A wrong view of law and grace

A wrong view of law and grace
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, September 18, 2009 at 12:41pm

TODAY I RECEIVED the following (edited) inquiry:

“In a Bible study, a member asked me about (I can’t recall the exact names, but I believe she said) ‘star, morning and evening’ dispensations. I don’t recall the exact terms. A previous minister had taught on these dispensations. I know he is a Premillennial Dispensationalist. Is this part of dispensational theology, or am I forgetting something? I can’t find any reference to these in the Bible, and neither could I find them in your book, ‘The Faith Once for All.’”


In this view the three “dispensations” are starlight, moonlight, and sunlight. In the Christian Church context this language is probably not learned from premillennial dispensationalism; I’m not sure if these folks use it. The one place I have seen it is in a very widely used study booklet from Standard Publishing called “Training for Service: A Survey of the Bible,” Student Handbook, by Orrin Root (rev. Eleanor Daniel, 1983). It is from lesson 6, “Three Dispensations.” The terminology is applied thus: the starlight dispensation is the Patriarchal age, the age of promise; the moonlight dispensation is the Mosaic era, the age of law; the sunlight dispensation is the Christian era, the age of grace.

In my course on grace I use this as an example of one of the FALSE ideas of grace that permeate the Restoration Movement, i.e., that the distinction between law and grace is a matter of historical sequence, with salvation by law applying to the Old Covenant era and salvation by grace applying only to the New Covenant era. I describe this view and give a longer quotation from the booklet in my new book on grace, “Set Free! What the Bible Says About Grace” (College Press). Then I make this comment: “I cannot emphasize strongly enough just how WRONG this idea is, and how critical a hindrance it is to a right understanding of grace” (p. 111). And then I explain why it is false. (Perhaps your Bible study group would profit from a study of “Set Free!”)

I do not refer to this view or to this booklet in “The Faith Once for All.”

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