The Berean Expositor
Volume 39 - Page 193 of 234
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Acts Thirteen or
Acts Twenty-eight?
When did the present dispensation of the Mystery begin?
pp. 81 - 100
"When does a dispensation begin?" The question is important because of its bearing
upon the claims of Acts 28:, or of Acts 13:, to be the beginning of the dispensation
of the Mystery, and of the Church which is the One Body. From one angle we may say
that, inasmuch as "known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world"
(Acts 15: 18), every dispensation and every movement in the great outworking of the
purpose of the ages must have begun in the mind of God before time. This however
scarcely answers the intention of "When does a dispensation begin?" Again, every
dispensation of grace and mercy is founded in the cross of Christ, and inasmuch as the
middle wall of partition and the enmity contained in ordinances were abolished at
Calvary, one could say that the dispensation of the Mystery, even as the dispensation of
the kingdom of Israel, began at one and the same time, namely when Christ was
crucified.  This again does not meet the intention of the question "when does a
dispensation begin?"
There are certain features foretold that must synchronize before a dispensation can
begin, and these features are of such a unique character that they cannot be missed or
ignored. What these features are in connection with the dispensation of the Mystery,
most readers know. To lift two out of the many:
Israel will become lo-ammi, not My people, and God will cease (temporarily) to be
their God (Hos. 1: 3). Did this take place at Acts 13:?
Paul received the dispensation of the grace of God by revelation when he became
the Prisoner of Jesus Christ for us Gentiles (Eph. 3: 1-13). Did this take place
at Acts 13:?
There can be but one answer to these questions. They did not take place until the
events recorded in Acts 28: became history. A dispensation is a "stewardship" (see
"The Key of Knowledge"). A stewardship implies a steward who receives a commission,
and a dispensation "begins" when that steward receives the command "Go . . . . . tell this
people" (Isa. 6: 9), even as Paul waited until words of the Lord were recorded, "unto
whom now I SEND thee" (Acts 26: 17).
For the moment it is immaterial whether Paul himself knew wholly or in part, the
contents of this new dispensation before the time came for its announcement; what is
material is to discover when he and his message were "sent", and this can be discovered
by reading Acts 26: 16-18 and Acts 28: 28. While we must therefore stress the
dispensational importance of Acts 28:, that does not mean that Acts 13: is of no or
of little importance to us, for to ignore Acts 13: while emphasizing Acts 28:, would
be as foolish as being indifferent to the foundations of a skyscraper in New York, simply
because one occupied a suite of offices hundreds of feet above ground! What however is