Dispensationalism and the Two Testaments
by Rev. R. C. Harbach
This writer, while being taught the whole scheme of Dispensationalism, was so instructed as to see great diversity in Scripture, but was never grounded in the underlying unity of Holy Writ. In those days, his teachers did not inculcate the truth that the Bible contains one system of truth, one doctrine, one salvation, one standard of righteousness, one rule of faith and conduct, one God, one Mediator, one divine covenant, one divine purpose, one people, one promise, one Gospel, one general assembly and church, one election of grace, one true Israel, one Zion, one nation, and one kingdom. The Scripture with its different parts is one organic whole. It originated with one controlling Mind. God used many mouthpieces and many pens to produce it (Heb. 1:l; II Pet. 1:21), yet He is its sole Author: The light is manifold in its many constituent colors, yet is one. God is a trinity, which means that He is a tri-unity and a unity that is trinal. Christ has two natures, the humanity and the Deity united in one Person. The Scripture has two testaments forming the one Word of God. Its message is therefore one!
We may then expect the Bible to be self-consistent and its various passages harmonious, not in conflict. When we read that passage which the world invariably misunderstands, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” (Ex. 21:24) we are not to think that Jesus proposed an actual physical interpretation either of it or of His own words relative to the passage: “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Mt. 5:39) The judgments “eye for eye,” etc., are to be understood in the sense of fines exacted and compensation paid, as the context shows (vv. 22, 30), i.e., in the sense of “an eye (fine) for an eye (damaged or lost).” Nor are we to suppose that Jesus’ words in Matthew do cancel the Exodus passage. That would not be justice to the injured party, especially one being a woman with child. Both fines and compensations in connection with the dictates of justice are even in the Christian dispensation expected to be paid. It is therefore far from what these two passages teach to claim that they can only be reconciled by viewing them as belonging to different ages and different people. That would render most of Scripture no longer “profitable” (II Tim. 3:16f) and the O.T. no more valuable than an out-of-date catalog.
The Scofield Reference Bible on this passage remarks in the margin, “The provision in Exodus is law, and righteous; the N.T. passages, grace, and merciful.” Such a mutually exclusive antithesis do Dispensationalists make between law and grace that the implication is, as in this note, that under the law men were saved because of obedience, while under grace they were saved without obedience. This makes the gospel clear antinomianism, and the law nothing but a covenant of works, i.e., pure legalism. The note also makes Scofield inconsistent, for there he refers to Matt. 5:38-44 as grace, whereas in his introduction to the four gospels he states that “the Sermon on the Mount is law, not grace.” Which assertion are we to believe, the one on page 97, or the one on page 989? In addition to the latter statement, Scofield writes that “the doctrines of grace are to be sought in the epistles, not in the gospels...” This takes the doctrine of Christ away from this present dispensation and assigns it to that of “law,” thus making Jesus an O.T. teacher and one of Judaism, not of Christianity.
There certainly is no clash between Ex. 21:24 and Mt. 5:38-44, for the one passage deals with rules of justice administered by judges (cf. Ex. 21:22 with Dt. 19:18-20) and the other with rules of conduct required of individuals. When Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” (Mt. 5:44) He was not teaching some higher ethic than that found in the O.T., but the same O.T. virtue. Then, too, it was commanded, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Prov. 25:21) Paul taught nothing different from Jesus. “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath.” (Rom. 12:17-19) This is nothing new, for the O.T. teaching is the same. See Lev. 19:18. David was thankful for being kept from taking vengeance. (I Sam. 25:33) The same spirit is found often in Proverbs: “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.” (20:22; 24:17, 29)
It is also maintained by the dispensationalist that the imprecatory Psalms breathe another spirit than that of the gospel of grace. Reference is to, “The enemies of the Lord shall...consume away.” (Ps. 37: 20) “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him flee before Him.” (68:l) “O Lord...Thine enemies shall perish.” (92:9) “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” (137:8, 9) But the N.T. has its own aspect of severity. Peter in exposing a false prophet in the Church denounced under the sanction of the Head of the Church, “thy money perish with thee.” (Acts 8:20) Paul, too, pronounced a curse upon every one who does not love Christ. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema...” (I Cor. 16:22) He pronounced a blessing upon all who love Him. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” (Eph. 6:24) Then there is the double curse denounced against any who preach another gospel. (Gal. 1:9, 9) Of the Concision, or Mutilators of the doctrine of sovereign grace, he said, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” (Gal. 5:12) Concerning Alexander the coppersmith who did him much evil, he prayed, “the Lord reward him according to his works.“. (II Tim. 4:14) As to Babylon, the antiChristian world-power, the cry is from heaven against her, “Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double, according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double!” (Rev. 18: 6) The law of retaliation is not only the same in both testaments, but is part of the faith of the saints (13:7, lo)! Dispensationalists hold to such strange contrasts that one wonders whether they ever read their Bibles carefully!
But what we have just shown, especially in the light of the last supporting texts of Scripture, will not be acceptable to the tastes of the natural man, nor the sentimental-minded, who will not be governed by the Word of God. This effeminate age would.do away with capital punishment, turn prisons into country clubs, furnish convicts with cells and dining rooms on the hotel order, provide them with radio and television, and grant them conjugal rights. In such we will not find a holy hatred against anything which happens to be dishonoring to God. Nor will they agree with this: “Surely Thou wilt slay the wicked, O God. (Depart from me, therefore, ye bloody men!) For they speak against Thee wickedly, and Thine enemies take Thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? Am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Ps. 139:19, 22)
As we previously showed, the law of God and the grace of God cannot be opposites, for that would put God in conflict with Himself. It is not merely law, but also grace that “it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us.” (Deut. 6:25) However, the “dispensational teaching” is that this is the very opposite of what we read in the N.T., viz., “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” (Rom. 3:20) The Deuteronomy passage is said to teach a salvation dependent upon what we do, while the gospel teaches salvation by what God has done. Law and grace are then made to be one hundred and eighty degrees to each other. Then if they are opposite statements, what was once true must now be false. But since they are not in any conflict, they are both true! ‘The two passages must not be pitted against one another. It has never been true that salvation depended on what man could or should do. Salvation was never by works. The ground of salvation has never been human merit or creature performance. That goes for the so-called Dispensations of Innocence (Job 25:4,5; 15:15; 4:18), Conscience (Gen. 4:4), of Human Government (6:8), of Promise (15:6), of Law (Ex. 20: l-17, 24), and of the Kingdom (Eph. 1:l0). The truth of Deut. 6:25 is also insisted on in Matt. 5:20; James 2:20-26 and I John 2:29. It sets forth the godly conduct and Christian walk of the believer. Romans 3:20 keeps the matter straight; It affirms that the rule of conduct can never become the ground of acceptance before God.
Harmony between the two testaments is further evident in, “He believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness,” (Gen. 15:6) and “By Him all that believe are justified.” (Acts 13:39) There is the same doctrine of justification by faith. Of old God addressed His people, “Ye are strangers and sojourners,” (Lev. 25:23) just as He does now, “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims.” (I Pet. 2:ll) Under law, “The Lord’s portion is His people: Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” (Deut. 33:9) Under grace it is no different; we know “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” (Eph. 1:18) Moses knew that “all His saints are in Thy hand,” (Dt. 33:3) just as John knew “they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” (Jn. 10:28) The exhortation then was, “Yield yourselves unto the Lord,” (II Chron. 30:8) and, under the gospel is, “Yield yourselves unto God.” (Rom. 6:13) Who is not familiar “Lydla...whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul?” (Acts 16:14) It was always so! “And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles.” (Neh. 7:5) Jesus promised, “the spirit of truth...will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) Still it was a fact in the old covenant, “Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them.” (Neh. 9:20) John refers to a future blessing, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2) David had the same outlook, “I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” (Ps. 17:15) We are now “strengthened with might in the inner man.” (Eph. 3:16) But the O.T. saint had, principally, the same blessing. “Thou answerest me and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” (Ps. 138:3) The Bible knows but one Gospel !