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.’”
HERE IS MY REPLY:
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.”