To woke teenagers everywhere, the patriarchy is something you want to topple. As in, “That’s just something old people say because they are conditioned to accept an evil, slavery-based, male dominated society. Fight the patriarchy, man.” If this makes no sense to you, consider yourself lucky.
Speaking of confusing people, every time I bring up the three major dispensations of the Bible, I get the same deer in the headlights look. In an attempt to be helpful, I will them say something like, “You know, the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations1.” It never seems to end well. But have no fear, there is no issue a preacher can’t make more obscure!
These are important concepts we need to understand to properly make sense of our Bibles. So let’s start by defining these words that seem to ping off people’s ears and never penetrate the brain.
What Is A Dispensation?
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary has this for the meaning of dispensation, “an era of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some definite revelation of God’s will.” A dispensation is a time period distinguished by how God interacts with people. On this side of the cross, we live in the period of time when God issues his grace or judgement based on our response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in the Christian dispensation.
What Makes A Dispensation Patriarchal, Mosaic, of Christian?
For most, the word Christian needs no explanation (that seems to be changing BTW). Others will at least have some sense that it must have something to do with Moses. But patriarchal is a stumper. Thankfully the explanation is simple. The word patriarch means father or head of a family. In the Bible the person most associated with the idea is Abraham. He is, “our father Abraham,”-Acts 7:2. The people of Israel were descendants of Abraham. Even Christians today are spiritual children of Abraham through Jesus who was born to an Israelite family (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:25-29).
The time period we call patriarchal encompasses the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Adam, Noah, and Joseph. From creation to the giving of the Law of Moses on Mount Sinai, is characterized by God dealing with mankind through the patriarchs. When we read the book of Genesis, we see the Lord expressing his will to the heads of families. Human beings had some idea of what God considered right or wrong, but there was no written law to obey (Romans 1:21-23; 2:12-16). Which leads us to…
The Mosaic era. The Bible, even Jesus, refers to the Ten Commandments as part of the Law of Moses. From the day God spoke to the Israelites and said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”-Exodus 20:1, until the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior, is known as the Mosaic Dispensation.
As mentioned earlier, we are currently in the Christian Era. You could argue our current dispensation began at Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, or on the day of Pentecost, but that is an academic issue. To God be the glory! We live in the dispensation of faith, grace, and forgiveness!
The point of this discussion is understanding the people we find in our Bibles. Why was Abraham (Adam or Noah) not circumcised as a baby? Because they lived in the patriarchal dispensation before the Law of Moses. Why did Jesus and his apostles not worship on the first day of the week? They lived under the law and before Jesus’ resurrection sanctified Sundays as the Lord’s day. Why am I not obligated to offer animal sacrifice or tithe my possessions to a Levitical priest? We live after Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14), all Christians are priests (Revelation 1:6), and no specific percentage of what we earn is specified by God in what we give (I Corinthians 16:1-3; II Corinthians 9:6-8).
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,”-Hebrews 1:1-2
Praise God for the blessings of the Christian Dispensation!