I have never met a man who admitted that he was an ultra-dispensationalist. I have never heard nor read a satisfactory definition of one. I know that the word has a synonym, “hyperdispensationalism,” and the propagandist who enjoys resorting to the effective technique of name calling may have his choice of the Greek prefix “hyper” or the Latin “ultra” to hurl at his victim. I am aware that these terms are thrown about promiscuously by Bible teachers who have status in conservative circles, and they are repeated parrot-like by thousands who are simply seeking status among fundamentalists. Usually, an ultradispensationalist is one whose system of dispensational interpretation of the Bible goes beyond your own. That, of course, is the meaning of the prefix “ultra”—over, or beyond. If you are a dispensationalist, and your brother dispensationalist goes beyond the point historically or Scripturally that you do, he is, naturally, an ultra-dispensationalist.
But I would like to call attention to another and perhaps even more deadly ULTRADISPENSATIONALISM that is endangering us today that is receiving little rebuke from any of the publications dedicated to right division. This form of ultradispensationalism I like to think of as PRACTICAL ULTRADISPENSATIONALISM, rather than doctrinal. I submit to you that when we become guilty of any of the following practices, we are ultra in our dispensationalism; that is, we go beyond the Scriptures; the Practical Ultradispensationalist:
I. Makes a Sect of His Dispensationalism
That is, he refuses fellowship with any who do not agree with him in every facet of his teaching on right division of the Word. Not long ago, a lady called our home to inquire about our church services. She was fundamental in her beliefs, she was dispensational, to the point of the Scofield-Darby system, but she belongs to an independent fellowship of fundamental churches, and when she discovered that we were not affiliated with her organization and its system of dispensationalism, she became aloof and would not attend our meetings, even though we assured her of the soundness of the teaching and her welcome in our meetings. Though this lady’s dispensationalism began the body of Christ with Pentecost in Acts 2, she was so ultra in regard to her organization and its system she could not see the many, many things we had in common and the sweet fellowshlp we could have enjoyed.
To be honest, we must admit that some of the most sectarian groups we have ever encountered were dispensationalists who took pride in the fact of their non-sectarianism. Many who boast in their being “non-sectarian Christians” are so hide-bound in their dispensationalism that they disfellowship any who vary the slightest from their norms.
II. Mutilates the Scriptures by His Dispensationalism
Foes of right division have often accused us of taking only a portion of the Word and casting the remainder aside. A well-known fundamentalist who has been loud in his condemnation of dispensational Bible study used to say that we took only a slice of the bread of God’s Word, while he took the whole loaf. He was, of course, inconsistent, claiming as he did to preach the “Great Commission” of Mark 16, and at the same time attacking with all his might the “healing preachers” who were attempting to carry out the sign program of his commission. But the other side of the picture is that we have been guilty of preaching the mystery and other Pauline truths while neglecting or ignoring the rest of the Bible. The error is not in preaching the great truths of Paul’s epistles; it is in failing to give a balanced message and leaving the appearance of disregarding or casting aside the rest of the Book. The revelation of truth concerning the body of Christ needs the background of the gospels; the gospels would not be understandable without the law, the psalms, and the prophets. We need the whole book. Let us not become so ultra in our emphasis on dispensationalism (where ever we find the boundary) that we neglect the rest of the Word.
III. Misses the Sweetness of Spiritual Applications
Closely associated with neglecting the word of God other than Paul’s letters is the failure of getting spiritual applications from portions of God’s Word that belonged to other companies or other dispensations, by interpretation. Dr. E. W. Bullinger, whose name is often synonymous with ultradispensationalism, said in his excellent book, How To Enjoy The Bible, “All the sweetness, all the blessing, all the truth can be obtained by a wise application, without in the slightest degree impairing the true interpretation. This may be left and preserved in its integrity, and yet something really spiritual may be appropriated by applications all, in fact, that can be desired, without doing any violence to the Divine Word …” I think it was Dr. Henry Grube who called attention to the fact that I Corinthians 10:11 authorizes four types of Bible study: “Now all these things happened”—I can study any of the Bible as literally true, for these things happened; “unto them for ensamples (Gr. tupos, TYPES)” I can study the Bible for types and shadows: “and they are written for our admonition” I can study the Bible for spiritual applications; “upon whom the ends of the world (ages) are come” I can study the Bible to distinguish the ages, or dispensations. Surely some of God’s elect from among the Plymouth Brethren have done the body of Christ a great service through their detailed studies, many still in print, of spiritual applicaticns of Old Testament truths. Who among us has not rejoiced with C. H. Macintosh in many of his studies in type and shadow? If we become so dispensational that we miss the sweetness of these great spiritual truths in type and shadow, we are ULTRA.
IV. Manifests the Spirit of Continuous Criticism
By the grace of God, I think that most of us have grown out of this to a degree, but who cannot remember the time when a believer who was new in dispensational truth was almost afraid to open his mouth around the older believers for fear of being criticized for his choice of words, choice of hymns, etc? We did not dare refer to the “Old Testament” or the “New” without a dissertation on just when the Old was replaced by the New. We dared not use the words “Christmas” or “Easter” lest someone think we were “observing days.” It was heresy to sing “Stepping in the Light,” because we surely were not “Trying to walk in the steps of the Saviour.” In our zeal to stress the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ was a Jew according to the flesh made of a woman, made under the Law, living on Old Testament ground, and coming to die for our sins, not showing us the way but coming to be THE WAY, we forgot another side of the picture. While we do not follow our Lord in His Jewish religion, with its Sabbaths and ceremonies, we do (or should) strive to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” As far as His humility, His kindness, His graciousness, and His love are concerned, we must remember that He left us an example, that we should follow in His steps—not to be saved, but because He lives within. In our zeal to “know Him no more after the flesh,” we may have put a stumblingblock in the path of weak Christians who did not even know what we were talking about. If our life is a pattern of criticizing those who fail to speak what has become “dispensational jargon,” we are ULTRA.
This message is not an appeal to minimize or de-emphasize the precious truth of right division; it is not designed to discourage anyone from making known the dispensation of the mystery. Surely, too few are doing enough to make these rich truths known. But I am convinced that Satan sometimes uses the friends of dispensationalism to be its greatest hindrance. This truth that was given to us by the risen Christ, through the Apostle Paul, was meant to stress the UNITY of the Spirit, the oneness of all believers in Christ: it is a sad commentary on our depravity that it has, through these forms of ultradispensationalism, become a source of division. A man of God of whom I have heard and whose sweet spirit has been an inspiration to me, even though I was never privileged to meet him face to face, was Brother Elmer Leake, father of Brother Paul Leake. He was quoted as having said, “Brethren, if a wall of separation or sectarianism is ever built between us and any other believers, let’s let them do the building”. In other words, this dear brother loved all believers and desired fellowship with them through the Lord Jesus Christ. Brother C. R. Stam once wrote, “We look forward to the day when, in God’s grace, denominational walls will fall and we can all enjoy our oneness in Christ. Meantime, we seek what fellowship we can find with those who love and trust our Lord in truth, whatever their denominational affiliation.”
This statement climaxed an article that this brother wrote on “The Practical Effects of the Mystery” in which he gave an impressive, clear cut message on the preciousness of the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery and showed the practical effects this message should have in our lives. When we become so concerned with the letter that we lose the spirit—or when we become so concerned with the minute details of dispensationalism that we lose the realization of our oneness in Christ—we have become ULTRA.