Note # 4: Is the "Dispensation of Grace" Synonymous with the "Body of Christ"?
When Charles Ryrie begins to deal with the teachings of those who begin the "dispensation of grace" later than Acts 2 all of a sudden the argument turns to when the Body of Christ started:
"Virtually all ultradispensationalists, of whatever school, agree that it (the Body of Christ) did not begin at Pentecost. All dispensationalists agree that it did" (Ibid., p. 200).
The New Scofield Study Bible (which presents an Acts 2 view) goes so far as to even name the present dispensation the Church:
"The Sixth Dispensation: the Church." (The New Scofield Study Bible; note at Acts 2: 1)
Attempting to make a "dispensation" into a body of believers is like comparing apples with oranges.They are two separate and distinct things.
Dispensations = Earthly Purposes: Charles Ryrie correctly says that the various dispensations represent the Lord's "method of running the affairs of the world":
"…it would seem from the concept of a dispensation as related to God running the affairs of His household (the world) that, when temporal history ends, the household arrangement, which is the basis for a dispensational stewardship, also ends. In other words, the dispensational economies are related to the affairs of the present world, and they are no longer needed when the history of this world comes to a conclusion" (Ibid., p. 48, 49).
"Obviously, whenever God gives revelation concerning His method of running the affairs of the world, there is also given a corresponding responsibility or test to people as to whether or not they will align themselves with God’s economy and the revelation of it" (Ibid, p. 34).
Body of Christ = Eternal Purposes: "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ" (Eph. 2: 7).
The Christian has been raised up together with Christ and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and his citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3: 20). Christians are now away from our home acting as the Lord's ambassadors (2 Cor. 5: 20). In the "ages to come" the "Body of Christ" will be a Trophy of the Lord where he will display His grace and kindness to those who were "not a people" but were brought near by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Body is to be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1: 6). That is why Paul speaks of the Lord’s "eternal purpose" when he speaks of the Body of Christ:
"That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel…According to the eternal purpose which He proposed in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Eph. 3: 6, 11).
Sir Robert Anderson says, "The only true Church is that which the Lord is building, and it has no corporate existence upon earth...The Body of Christ is not on earth, nor can it have a corporate existence until the Divine purpose respecting it has been fulfilled" (Anderson, "Forgotten Truths", pp. 79, 99).
Lewis Sperry Chafer, an Acts 2 Dispensationalist and the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary, writes that the Church is "heavenly" and not "earthly": "The Church is composed of all nations, including Israelites, and sustains no citizenship here, but instead the believers are strangers and pilgrims…every covenant or promise for the Church is for a heavenly reality, and she continues in heavenly citizenship when the heavens are recreated" (Chafer, "Systematic Theology", IV: 47-53).