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Dispensationalism -- Is there a progressive plan?

Acts 10:43
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

See Acts 10:43. Noting the development of systems such as "Dispensationalism," discuss whether or not the Bible recognizes the progressive development of God's plan through various dispensations. If not, explain your view of salvation.   If so, explain how people were saved in the Old Testament, noting specifically how salvation in that dispensation relates to the salvation of this dispensation, the Church Age. Were there different plans of salvation for different dispensations?

Paul addresses this issue as well in the same chapter of Romans, for his second example is David. Paul’s argument in Romans 4 is based to a great extent upon transposing the concept of “imputation” from the commercial world to the spiritual world. God “imputed” righteousness to Abraham as seen in Genesis 15:6. David is Paul’s example of imputation after the giving of the law. In Romans 4:6-8, Paul refers to David and then quotes from Psalm 32:1-2:

Romans 4:6-8 (KJV)
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

If God forgives our sins in the fashion pictured by Scripture, the conclusion must be drawn that God “forgets” our sins. If the sins are covered, they are no more to be seen. While the covering could potentially be removed, the other Scripture verses strongly contain pictures of the sins being lost forever. Thus, the believer is blessed when God does not “impute” sins to him. Imputation is the idea of counting something based upon a standard or an action. Imputation is at the heart of justification by faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-28). God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Here, David speaks of the blessings of sins not being counted. These are two sides of the same coin, for if sin is present then righteousness must be absent.

In other words, David’s Psalm is in full agreement with the doctrine of justification by faith. If sins are not counted or imputed, then one may be declared righteous. David is preaching the same method of salvation as Abraham. And Abraham teaches the same method of salvation as John 14:6, belief in Jesus [God]. Abraham and David are in agreement on the idea of God imputing or counting righteousness with out accompanying effort on man’s part. Does this blessing flow only to the Jews? If so, then, the Gentile world is still in a heap of trouble! This is the force of Paul’s question. If this imputation is a blessing, does it flow to the Jew only? Do the Gentiles also benefit.

Paul uses the language of circumcision to differentiate between Jew and Gentile. The Apostle frequently does this in Scripture. For the Jew, the rite of circumcision is the proof of Jewishness. Therefore, the use of the term as a description of the Jew is appropriate in Scripture. 

Why is this important? We have noted that Abraham’s faith was imputed or counted to him as God’s righteousness. If, however, this imputation occurs after the circumcision, then Abraham was a Jew before he was righteous. This could imply that Jewishness is a necessary element of justification. But, Paul notes in Romans 4:10, Abraham was counted righteous while he was uncircumcised, long before God gave the sign of the covenant. Being circumcised, that is, being Jewish had absolutely nothing to do with God’s finding that Abraham was righteous. God’s imputation of righteousness to Abraham is all based upon faith, nothing but faith. There is no circumcision involved. There is no ritual involved. There is no Jewishness involved. Only faith is involved.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this simple discovery. First, if Abraham was accounted as righteous before the circumcision then he was still a Gentile. This means that Judaism was not involved. And, if Judaism was not an element in Abraham’s justification, then justification is still available to the Gentiles of the world. They may become a part of God’s family. 

And, secondly, if the justification of Abraham was before his circumcision, then, as we have already discussed, there were no works involved. Justification was based solely on faith! Salvation has always been by the same plan. Salvation has always been based upon faith in Jesus! Every dispensation has the same plan of salvation.


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