We believe that the dispensations are stewardships by which God administers His purposes on the earth through man under varying responsibilities. We believe that the changes in the dispensational dealings of God with man depend upon changed conditions or situations in which man is successively found with relation to God, and that these changes are the result of the failures of man and the judgments of God.
We believe that different administrative responsibilities of this character are manifest in the biblical record, that they span the entire history of mankind, and that each ends in the failure of man under the respective test and in an ensuring judgment from God. We believe that three of these dispensations of rules of life are the subject of extended revelation in the Scriptures—the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, the present dispensation of the church, and the future dispensation of the millennial kingdom. We believe that these are distinct and are not to be intermingled or confused, as they are chronologically successive.
We believe that the dispensations are not ways of salvation nor different methods of administering the so-called Covenant of Grace. They are not in themselves dependent on covenant relationships but are ways of life and responsibility to God which test the submission of man to His revealed will during a particular time. We believe that if man does trust in his own efforts to gain the favor of God or salvation under any dispensational test, because of inherent sin, his failure to satisfy fully the just requirements of God is inevitable and his condemnation sure.
We believe that according to the "eternal purpose" of God (Eph. 3:11), salvation in the divine reckoning is always "by grace through faith," and rests upon the basis of the shed blood of Christ. We believe that God has always been gracious, regardless of the particular dispensation in effect at any point in history, but that man has not at all times in past history been under the dispensation of grace (the Church is presently under this dispensation of grace) (1 Cor. 9;17; Eph. 3:2, 9 [NASV]; Col. 1:25; 1 Tim. 1:4 [NASV]).
We believe that it has always been true that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6), and that Old Testament saints were saved by faith in a coming Savior and Redeemer. However, due to the progress of revelation, it was historically impossible for them to comprehend to the same extent as we do, the nature of the prophecies and sacrifices that they portrayed, the incarnate, crucified Son, the Lamb of God. We believe that they did have some understanding of the prophecies and types of the suffering Savior and other details (1 Pet. 1:10-12). This faith, vague as it was, was counted unto them for righteousness (Rom. 4:3-8; Gen. 15:1).