February 7, 2002 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org) - The following is an excerpt from our new book "How to Study the Bible," which is scheduled to be printed in the next couple of months. For more about Dispensationalism, see the article "Study the Bible Dispensationally," which we published on January 24.
"Hyper-dispensationalism" is characterized by making a sharp division between the ministry of Christ and that of the Apostles, and of further dividing Paul's teaching from that of Peter and the other apostles. Some of the well-known teachers of hyper- or ultra-dispensationalism are E.W. Bullinger, Cornelius Stam, J.C. O'Hair, Charles Welch, Otis Sellers, A.E. Knoch, and Charles Baker. There are many varieties of hyper-dispensationalism, but the following are some of the characteristics:
(1) The four Gospels are entirely Jewish and contain no direct teaching for the churches. Yet, the writer of Hebrews said that the same gospel of salvation that was preached by the apostles was preached by Christ (Heb. 2:3-4). Though we know that Christ presented Himself to the Jewish nation and we do understand that there are differences between the gospels and the epistles, yet in Hebrews 2 we do not see a sharp delineation between the gospel preached by Christ and that preached by the apostles who followed. In fact, the Gospel of John presents exactly the same gospel as that preached by Paul. Further, 1 Tim. 6:3 shows that Christ spoke directly to the church age.
(2) The book of Acts is also largely Jewish. Hyper-dispensationalists commonly believe that after Christ was rejected by Israel in the Gospels, that they were given a second chance to receive the kingdom in the first part of the book of Acts. Thus, they teach that there are two different churches viewed in the book of Acts, and the true Pauline church only started after Acts 9, 13, or 28. Thus, the church mentioned in the first part of Acts allegedly refers to a different church than that of Paul's prison epistles. The earlier "church" in Acts is simply an aspect of the kingdom preached in the Gospels. Most of the book of Acts is therefore discounted as a guideline for the churches today. Yet, at the very end of the book of Acts we still find Paul preaching about the kingdom (Acts 28:23). In fact, he was still preaching about it in his epistles! (2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:1). While we can see an obvious transition in the book of Acts, this does not mean that there are different gospels and different churches in various parts of Acts.
(3) The mysteries given to Paul contained a different revelation from that given to Peter and the other Apostles, and only Paul's writings are for the church today. The other epistles, such as Hebrew, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and the epistles of John are not for us today. Yet, Paul himself said that the church is built upon the "apostles" plural and not merely upon himself (Eph. 2:20). And Peter also referred to the writings of Paul and made no distinction between Paul's teaching and the teaching of the other apostles (2 Pet. 3:1-2, 15-16). Peter said Paul wrote to the same people and preached the same message.
(4) The gospel preached by Peter in the early part of the book of Acts is different from the gospel preached by Paul. Yet, there is actually no difference between the gospel preached by Peter and that which Paul preached. Peter preached salvation through the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:2), salvation by God's free mercy (1 Peter 1:3), the new birth (1 Peter 1:3), eternal security because of the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Further, Acts 15 plainly states that all of the apostles, including Peter and Paul, agreed on the gospel. And Paul states in Galatians 1, that anyone who preached a different gospel was cursed. If Peter were truly preaching a different gospel in those days, he would have fallen under this curse.
(5) Baptism and the Lord's Supper were given to Paul before he received the church age mysteries; thus they are not for the churches today. Dispensationalists differ about this point. Some accept both baptism and the Lord's Supper; some reject water baptism and the Lord's Supper altogether; while others reject only baptism and keep the Lord's Supper.
Harry A. Ironside wrote a helpful little booklet about this problem called "Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: Ultra-Dispensationalism Examined in the Light of Holy Scripture." He deals largely with the error of Bullingerism. This is available on the Internet at http://www.brethrenonline.org/books/ultrad.htm.
A more recent form of hyper-dispensationalism is presented in ONE BOOK RIGHTLY DIVIDED: THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE BY DR. DOUGLAS STAUFFER (2000, McCowen Mills Publishers). Stauffer's teaching is largely the same as that which has been promoted by Dr. Peter Ruckman for many years, though Stauffer gives Ruckman no credit. He does mention that he received "the principles of right division" from Dave Reese. I sat under Reese's hyper-dispensational teaching in a course on prophecy at Tennessee Temple Bible School in the mid-1970s. It was a blessing when Reese left part way through the course, and we had the joy of finishing the rest of the course under the sound and profitable teaching of Dr. Bruce Lackey.
Stauffer's book comes with recommendations from some well-known independent Baptist preachers, including Evangelist Dennis Corle of Revival Fires, J. Wendell Runion of International Baptist Outreach Missions, and Jerry Rockwell of Sword of the Lord. In his glowing Foreword to Stauffer's book (which he calls a "spiritual masterpiece"), William Grady says that "this book will undoubtedly create shock waves within certain 'camps' of fundamentalism..." I doubt that the book will create shock waves within any camps, but it probably will create shock waves in some individual lives and churches.
While there are many good things in Stauffer's book (i.e., he has a very excellent section on repentance, defining it properly as "a change of mind and heart attitude which leads to a change of actions" and warning that "too many sinners bow their heads and say the 'sinner's prayer' without any inward conviction or belief on the Lord Jesus Christ"), and while he accepts both baptism and the Lord's Supper as church ordinances, there can be no doubt that he is teaching a form of hyper-dispensationalism. Stauffer's hyper-dispensationalism is milder than some of the other approaches, but Dr. Stauffer's teaching will nonetheless produce confusion and division within churches.
According to Stauffer, Paul is THE spokesman for the church age (p. 17); the general epistles of Hebrews to Revelation, while containing some church age applications, are actually written for Great Tribulation saints (pp. 20, 27); salvation is obtained by works during the Tribulation (p. 23); Hebrews and James do not teach eternal security (pp. 23, 29); Peter did not preach the gospel of the grace of God (p. 26); the seven churches of Revelation 1-3 are not the body of Christ (p. 29); the epistle of first John teaches that salvation is through works (p. 56); the book of Acts was not given "to show how to establish the local church or its functions" (p. 72), Abraham had to keep his salvation through works (p. 175).
Stauffer even has a chapter warning about "hyper-dispensationalism"! In this, he conveniently redefines hyper-dispensationalism to mean something other than what he himself teaches. In fact, he sets up a straw man variety of hyper-dispensationalism that doesn't actually exist, or if it does exist, is very rare. He claims, for example, that a real hyper-dispensationalist teaches that the law is inapplicable today, but in reality, hyper-dispensationalists commonly teach that the law has applications for the church. He claims that hyper-dispensationalists exclude some portions of the Bible from study and application, but hyper-dispensationalists typically claim that all portions of the Bible have application to church age saints and are valuable for study. Stauffer defines hyper-dispensationalism as "any intentional false division of the Bible" (his emphasis) (p. 149). Such a definition would be impossible to employ for the simple fact that we cannot look into the heart of a man and see what his motives are. In fact, hyper-dispensationalism is "any false division of the Bible" period, regardless of the motive of the one doing the teaching. A hyper-dispensationalist can be sincere or insincere. That is beside the point. The whole issue is whether he creates divisions in the Scriptures that should not be created. Stauffer's book does precisely this.
For more about the way of salvation in other dispensations, see "Salvation Is the Same in the Old Testament and the New Testament" by Bruce Lackey and "Salvation in the O.T. and the N.T. Follow-up." These are available at the Bible version section of the End Times Apostasy Database at the Way of Life web site. These articles are also available in the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library.
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