October 31, 2014

Dispensationalism and Faithfulness

by John C. Vaughn

This article first published in FrontLine • July/August 2010. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

The Bible word “dispensation” means “economy, stewardship.” FrontLine magazine offers an opportunity to exercise faithful stewardship over Bible truth—in this issue, the truth of dispensationalism. As you begin to read this issue you will quickly notice that a lot of hard work and collaborative effort has been done by the Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary faculty, who have done an outstanding job on this very important theme. Reading these articles has been like a breath of fresh air for those of us privileged to be involved in the publication of this magazine. Being reminded of these truths, we come away with the conviction that the view of Scripture on which we were nurtured will never be irrelevant. Studies such as these can be greatly encouraging for those who believe the Bible. Our recent Annual Fellowship is another example of why this is so.

Those of us who gathered at Tri-City Baptist Church in Westminster, Colorado, exulted in the glorious truth of our Blessed Hope, reviewing truths we hold dear and being reminded of their promises. We have that hope because our dispensational hermeneutic fully assures us that the imminent return of Christ is Biblical. Our fellowship was sweet because we focused on the truths we have in common—truths such as the ones you will review in this issue of FrontLine. When we declare what we believe as Fundamental Baptists or discuss our reasons for those beliefs, it is never our intention to belittle those who disagree. We are trying to be a blessing, and those of us who belong to the FBFI or subscribe to FrontLine are blessed by both. We also realize that not every criticism of FBFI or FrontLine is intended to belittle or harm, and we seek to learn from such criticisms.

One of the great lessons of dispensationalism is that we have a specific task for this specific time. That time is limited, and we will never regret using it as wisely as we can. If you will invest the time to read this issue of FrontLine, you will understand why the mission of FBFI is “to provide a rallying point for Fundamental Baptists seeking personal revival and the opportunity to work with committed Bible-believers in glorifying God through the uncompromising fulfillment of the Great Commission.” Our meeting in Colorado was a time of personal revival. We pray that this issue of FrontLine will encourage every reader to seek God’s glory through more timely and diligent obedience to our Commission.

Obedience is essential to every act of stewardship. Consider this truth in 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” Our obedience is the reasonable response to the love of God, but our selfishness is a terrible hindrance to loving obedience. In recent years, immediate electronic communications have brought our selfishness into public view as never before. A simple preacher once said, “The Bible is not hard to understand; the Bible is hard to obey.” Consider the simple command in 1 Corinthians 10:24 that provides the key to human relationships— wisdom that is always needed: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” Narrow the focus and quibble on the context all you will, but that verse applies to all of life. Pilgrim preacher Robert Cushman took it for his text in 1621 in the first recorded sermon preached in America.[1] He titled his sermon “The Sin and Danger of Self Love.” His point was that the tendency of fallen man to “seek his own” instead of “another’s wealth” was the most destructive force in every relationship— home, church, culture, and government. When we participate in discussions of Bible truth, we must seek to edify rather than to display our own brilliance.

There is much talk today about the failures of the “leaders of Fundamentalism.” True leaders are servants. They seek opportunities to serve, not to be honored. Every leader should examine his servanthood and remember that as a steward he is required to be faithful. These are perilous times, but the greatest threat to Fundamentalism is not from without, but from within—the sin and danger of self love. May I offer a few words of admonition to all of us who call ourselves Fundamental Baptists? “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” Weekly, even daily at times, I am contacted by someone who needs encouragement to maintain patient persistence for Christ in the face of intense criticism or adversity. Trouble can draw us closer to the Lord but can also harden our hearts against Him. Bitter sarcasm that wounds the spirit and discourages the servants of God is deadly. A consistent appeal within the FBFI has been, for quite some time now, to speak the truth in love. I believe that appeal has been heard. The tired claims of systemic hatefulness and abuse in what is portrayed as an irrelevant remnant of a Fundamentalism that has outlived its usefulness are themselves becoming irrelevant. Hatefulness about hatefulness is hatefulness nonetheless. If we allow ourselves to erect a new and more enlightened Fundamentalism on unnecessary criticism of the old, what will we have learned in the process?

I have talked with men who are almost afraid to discuss a topic such as dispensationalism for fear that they will be cut down to size by their intellectual superiors. That “fear of man” reveals a proud heart in both those who are afraid of giants and those who present themselves as giants. Any casual observer can see that disrespect is respected and clever arrogance is admired on the Internet. We need no long list of examples to know that many hurtful things are said there by Christians violating the command, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s. . . .” In perilous times we need to remember Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” If we believe a brother is overtaken in a fault, shouldn’t we seek to restore him rather than ridicule him? One of the main reasons the FBFI chooses to publish a magazine rather than manage a website for immediate discussion is that this format allows more time for deliberation and measured speech. Print media is not perfect, and it obviously lacks the many benefits of electronic communication, but it has certainly kept us from saying many things we would have regretted later.

Just a few days ago I was involved in a conversation with a friend that led me to ask, “Have you read the last two issues of FrontLine?” He had not, and I was delighted to be able to put them in his hands. I knew that the very questions he was asking were answered in those issues of FrontLine. As he saw the value of the information provided, he said, “I need to get this magazine.” I heartily agreed. And I hope that will be your response when you finish reading this issue! We pray it will be a blessing to you as it certainly has been to us. It may be that there is some theme that the Lord has laid on your heart that our subscribers would benefit from reading. Let us know. Perhaps that theme is a “dispensation of the gospel” committed to you for publication. If so, you have a stewardship of that message.

We are republishing articles from previous issues of FrontLinebecause we believe they have merit for today’s audience. Some of the articles have ‘dated’ material in them, including this one which notes that the FBFI prefers a print publication rather than ‘a website for immediate discussion’. Today, we are publishing the same article on our new website. We aren’t making our website a vehicle of immediate discussion, but we do welcome comments and will publish thoughtful insights from our readers.

This particular article is of interest to us because of its apologetic for the ministry of the FBFI and as an introduction to some articles we intend to publish coming from the Jul/Aug 2010 issue of FrontLine. We urge you to consider this and the articles to come thoughtfully. We encourage you to subscribe to FrontLine and become a member of the FBFI. The voice of Fundamental Baptists is needed in this day and we would be delighted if you would join with us in promoting a fundamentalist Baptist message to the world.

  1. Editor Don Jasmin has published this sermon through Fundamental Baptist Ministries, PO Box 489, West Branch, Michigan. []

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Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.