When the Dispensation of Grace Began

Justin Johnson

A common accusation against mid-Acts dispensationalists is that we do not know when the dispensation of grace began.

This is simply not true[1].

Mid-Acts dispensationalists believe the dispensation of grace began with Paul. Paul was the starting point. Paul was not saved before Acts 9.

This is not arbitrary.

Paul explains that a dispensation is not an arbitrary period of time, but rather begins with a revelation dispensed from God.

“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…” – Ephesians 3:2-3

When was this grace first given to Paul? Answer: At his conversion.

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-14

It was at his conversion from blasphemer to minister of the Lord that God bestowed grace to him:

“…because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles,…” – Rom 15:15-16

“Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” – Eph 3:7

The calling of Paul to ministry is recorded as far back as Acts 9:15.

“…[Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:” – Acts 9:15

Paul tells his own story of how it all began at least twice in the book of Acts, here before Agrippa:

“Whereupon as I went to Damascus [Acts 9]… And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,…” – Acts 26:12-17

Paul’s conversion whereby God gave him grace and apostleship is mentioned more times in Acts and the epistles than the popular Spirit outpouring at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Clearly God is calling attention to when he gave Paul grace and called him to minister to all men in Acts 9.

The beginning of the dispensation of the grace of God was when an undeserving sinner first received longsuffering and salvation from God freely apart from Israel and the law.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” – 1 Tim 1:15-16

The Lord Jesus Christ made Paul a pattern for those who would follow after in the gospel of the grace of God, and in the fellowship of the mystery.

We do not worship Paul, we recognize the Biblical emphasis upon the dispensation of God’s grace first given to Paul. This was not in the beginning of Acts at Pentecost, nor at the end, but in the middle when Christ first appeared to Paul.

1 – Often critics are unaware of the differences between the mid-Acts and Acts 28 teachings, and lump them together as if there is extreme ambiguity in the mid-Acts position. The Acts 28 position is not mid-Acts dispensational, and should be treated separately. Some Acts 28ers have even preferred the nomenclature post-Acts.

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Published: January 10, 2015
Last Modified: August 15, 2018
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