In all thirteen of Paul’s epistles he starts with the blessing of grace and peace.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Rom 1:7
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor 1:3
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Phil 1:2
This is fitting as Paul was called to be an apostle dispensing God’s grace toward the Gentiles:
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” – Ephesians 3:2
These two characteristics uniquely define this dispensation, as we are saved by grace and we are at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 5:1).
Today God is offering grace and peace to the world through the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19).
Law and Wrath
The way God has chosen to operate with the world today is different than in other dispensations. Instead of “grace” and “peace” God was offering the law and wrath in time past.
“ … what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.” – 2 Chronicles 19:10
The priests of the Lord were to teach the law and warn them about the wrath of God upon those who disobeyed.
It is in the dispensation of the kingdom come that Psalm 2 writes about:
“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure…Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” – Psalm 2:4-12
Instead of grace and peace, the keystone of God’s covenants with Israel was the law and wrath upon those who disobeyed.
Peace is not War
God cannot at the same time offer terms of peace and threatening wrath. Nor is he revealing his grace without works and also teaching the law. These operations of God are mutually exclusive.
There will be a time when God’s offer of grace and peace expire and he returns to judge and make war:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” – Rev 19:11
That time is not now.
There will be a time when the law is taught from Zion and the whole world (Mic 4:2), but that time is not now:
“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” – Rom 7:6
Moses’ dispensation was characterized by God’s law and wrath. The present dispensation is characterized by God’s grace and peace. The future kingdom dispensation, the fulfillment of prophecy, is characterized by God’s judgment and war. They do not mix.
We must rightly divide if we are going to make sense of how God operates today.