For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. – Ephesians 3:1-5
The Apostle Paul was charged to steward the dispensation of the grace of God. During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ ordained twelve apostles. These were however focused on another aspect of His program, ministering to the remnant of Israel. Paul did not necessarily have that same scope. Paul speaks of receiving jurisdiction to the Gentiles. His message was to the heathens among the nations. To them, Christ sent Paul to minister an undisclosed aspect of God’s program up until that point in human history.
In the enlightened Paul, we find a new apostolate, as well as a new set of terms to explain what this gospel is. Paul’s usage of the term “grace” — what we call his “charis concept” — does not refer to the term to simply mean unmerited favour. He speaks of grace or “charis” as a form of Christology. The Charitology of Paul presents that in Christ, God has made Himself visible and sharable.
In the third chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians Paul speaks of the New Creation as being jointly embodied together with Christ. There is a new body wherein all believers of all ranges and categories of humanity Jew and Gentile, are no longer to be considered under those previous covenantal terms. There is no longer Jew or Gentile when it comes to God but there is a New Creation where we are beyond human. We are identified in the revelation of Christ Jesus beyond our earthly origin. It is a New Creation, of which Christ is the Head. Before this, the twelve apostles understood Jesus Christ to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, the rightful heir to the throne of David, the One to whom the promises of Abraham were made, according to prophecy as the “HaMashiach”, the Christ. But what Paul reveals is a new role previously undisclosed concerning Jesus.
Jesus is the Head of the new body Christ and this many-membered governing body includes us. We are all involved and are an intricate part of something new, so new that 2000 years later, our minds haven’t yet caught up with its newness.
The Apostle Paul uses the term “dispensation”, from the Greek term “oikonomia” to describe his ministry. A dispensation does not necessarily refer to a period of time as many have thought. It, however, may occur within a period of time. From the term “oikonomia”, we get the word “economy”. It referred to a popular practice of the ancient world where a household would give charge of the riches and resources of the house to its most faithful steward. The steward would use the resources of the house at his discretion to supply all that would be needed in each season.
Everything that we have in the Bible points to Christ Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. But although He is the overarching theme of the Scriptures not everything portion of it addresses us as the New Creation race directly. Not to say we cannot benefit from these other portions, but if they are to be properly grasped, comprehended, and applied, we need to know what is addressed to us. The reason for Paul’s apostleship was the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:6-8). Grace is the new term to describe God’s ongoing plan of salvation. In Grace, God has taken that which was His and made it ours in Christ. He has shared Himself with us. The Gift God bestows to us in Christ is none other than Himself. He became what we were to make us what He is in Himself and that is what is called grace. If your concept of grace is anything less than that, then it is not necessarily Pauline.
“Oikonomia” therefore means to dispense, to make available. Grace is given freely in Christ Jesus but Paul was appointed for its administration, to unfold all that the generous giving of the Son has brought to us.
This article is an extract from the series, “The Glorious Generosity of God” by Dr. Shawn Smith. For the complete series, please, visit gcmonlinestore.com