GOD’S NEW TESTAMENT ECONOMY
God’s Household Management, God’s Household Administrative Arrangement, the Divine Dispensation
What is God’s New Testament economy? God’s New Testament economy is God’s household management, God’s household administrative arrangement, the divine dispensation (plan). By dispensation we mean here an arrangement, that is, a plan.
This economy, this dispensation, is revealed in Ephesians 1:10 and 3:9. Ephesians 1:10 says, “Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him.” The Greek word rendered “dispensation” here is oikonomia, from which we get the English word “economy.” God has purposed to have an economy. All the kingdoms in the universe, the angelic kingdom, the human kingdom, the animal kingdom, and the plant kingdom, are for this economy, this dispensation, and are moving toward its completion.
The Greek word rendered “dispensation” in Ephesians 1:10 can also be translated “stewardship” or “household arrangement.” The word “administration” may also be used because eventually this dispensation, this stewardship and household arrangement, will become an eternal administration. The entire universe will eventually be under one administration. Although the word administration may be used here, I prefer the words dispensation, stewardship, and household arrangement.
In relation to God’s purpose, the word “economy” is unfamiliar to many Christians. The Greek word for economy, oikonomia, is used two other times in Ephesians. We have seen that in Ephesians 1:10 Paul speaks of a dispensation, or economy, of the fullness of the times, in which all things will be headed up in Christ. Then in 3:2 he speaks of the stewardship of the grace of God, and in 3:9, of the dispensation of the mystery. In 3:9 Paul says, “To bring to light what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things.” God’s mystery is His hidden purpose. His purpose is to dispense Himself into His chosen people. Hence, there is the dispensation of the mystery of God. This mystery was hidden in God from the ages, that is, from eternity and through all past ages, but now it has been brought to light to the New Testament believers.
In 1 Timothy 1:4 Paul speaks of “God’s dispensation which is in faith.” Once again, the Greek word rendered “dispensation” is oikonomia. In Greek the words “God’s dispensation” here also mean God’s household economy. This is God’s household administration to dispense Himself in Christ into His chosen people so that He may have a house, a household, to express Himself, which household is the church, the Body of Christ. Paul’s ministry was centered on this economy of God (Col. 1:25; 1 Cor. 9:17).
A Plan Made by God according to His Good Pleasure
God’s New Testament economy is a plan made by God according to His good pleasure. Concerning this, Ephesians 1:9 says, “Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” God’s good pleasure is the desire of His heart. This good pleasure was what God purposed in Himself for a dispensation, for a plan (v. 10). This plan made by God was according to His good pleasure, the desire of His heart.
God’s good pleasure has been purposed by God in Himself. This means that God Himself is the initiation, origination, and sphere of His eternal purpose. God has a plan, a desire, and according to His plan, He has a purpose. The existence of the universe is according to God’s purpose. Heaven, earth, millions of items, and the human race are all according to God’s purposed desire. Hence, in the universe there is a desire, God’s desire. Because this desire has been purposed by God, no one and nothing can overthrow it. God purposed this desire in Himself; He did not take counsel with anyone else regarding it.
We have seen that Ephesians 1:9 speaks of God’s good pleasure. Everyone desires pleasure. If we desire pleasure, then certainly God does also. Every living thing desires pleasure. In fact, the more living you are, the more pleasure you need. Because God is the most living One, He surely needs the most pleasure. If we, as fallen sinners, require pleasure, then how much more does God, the living One, have a deep need for it?
Unlike the book of Romans, which begins from the perspective of the condition of fallen man, the book of Ephesians was written from the perspective of God’s good pleasure, the desire of His heart. What, then, is God’s good pleasure? God’s good pleasure is to dispense Himself into us. This is the unique desire of God. We may say that God is “dreaming” of dispensing Himself into us. His longing, His aspiration, is to dispense Himself into His chosen people.
Many Christians neglect God’s desire to dispense Himself into us. Instead of caring for this matter, they may pay attention to teachings concerning how to be holy, spiritual, and victorious. Many have never heard that God wants to do one thing—to dispense Himself into us.
In a sense, a believer may be “holy” without having much of God dispensed into him. However, that kind of holiness is not genuine, thus not stable. But if God is dispensed into our being, we shall be genuinely holy. Actually, holiness is nothing other than God dispensed into us subjectively. The objective God is holy only to Himself and by Himself. But the subjective God—the God dispensed into us—becomes our subjective holiness. Therefore, to us, the real holiness is God dispensed into our being. It is God’s good pleasure, the desire of His heart, to dispense Himself into us for our everything.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 001-020), Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)