Two Gospels

by Jerry Shugart

"The Key to Understanding Mid Acts Dispensationalism"

This study concerns itself with the beginning of the present "dispensation of grace." A "dispensation" is in regard to a "stewardship" that is given to man from God in order to carry out a specific task. Here are three quotes from the pen of Paul where he speaks of a "dispensation" that has been committed or given to him:

"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me toward you" (Eph. 3:2).

"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God" (Col.1:25).

"...a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me" (1 Cor.9:17).

The "dispensation" which was committed to Paul is in regard to "God's grace", a "ministry", and a "gospel." Here Paul sums up his dispensational responsibility:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20: 24).

In Bibliotheca Sacra, a journal published by Dallas Theological Seminary, Roy L. Aldrich quotes these three verses (Eph.3:2; Col.1:25; 1 Cor.9:17) and then says, "These passages use the word 'dispensation' (or 'stewardship') to describe the sacred commission or trust to preach the gospel" [emphasis added] (Aldrich, "A New Look at Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March, 1963, Vol.120, Number 477, p.43).

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the event which marks the beginning of the "dispensation of grace" is the preaching of the "gospel of grace."

Even the Acts 2 dispensationalists recognize the truth that before a new dispensation can begin a new responsibilty and revelation must be given to man. Charles Ryrie, professor emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary (Acts 2), writes the following:

"Thus, the distinguishing characteristics of a different dispensation are three: (1) a change in God's governmental relationship with man (though a dispensation does not have to be composed entirely of completely new features); (2) a resultant change in man's responsibility; and (3) corresponding revelation necessary to effect the change (which is new and is a stage in the progress of revelation through the Bible" (Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalismm [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995], 34).

The Day of Pentecost

There are many who teach that the present "dispensation of grace" began on the day of Pentecost. As we have seen, the dispensational responsibility during this dispensation is to preach the "gospel of grace." Therefore, if the present dispensation of grace began on the day of Pentecost then the "gospel of grace" would have been preached on that day.

We have an uninterrupted sermon preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost beginning at Acts 2:14 and ending at Acts 2:36. in that sermon there is not a word about God's "grace" and there is not a word about the purpose of the Lord Jesus' death on the Cross.

H.A. Ironside, a well known Acts 2 dispensationalist, says the following about the "gospel" which we are to preach today:

"All through those OT dispensations, the gospel was predicted, and when Jesus came, the gospel came with Him. When He died, when He was buried, and when He rose again, the gospel could be fully told out to a poor lost world. Observe, it says, 'that Christ died for our sins.' No man preaches the gospel, no matter what nice things he may say about Jesus, if he leaves out His vicarious death on Calvary's Cross" [emphasis added] (Ironside, God's Unspeakable Gift [London: Pickering & Inglis, 1908], Chapter 2).

The gospel which was preached on the Day of Pentecost said nothing about the "grace" of God nor anything about the "vicarious death on Calvary's Cross."

Next, we will see that there was a gospel preached on the day of Pentecost but it was not the "gospel of grace."