Life-Study of Markby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the Gospel of Mark Christ is presented as the Slave-Savior. In this Gospel the Slave-Savior bears the characteristics of His humanity mingled with His deity. The Lord’s humanity is lovely in its virtue and perfection, and His deity is magnificent in its glory and honor. As we go through the Gospel of Mark, we can see these aspects of Christ. The Lord’s humanity is revealed in its virtue and perfection, and His deity is revealed in its glory and honor. We need to be impressed with these aspects of the Lord. Then as we study the book of Mark we shall see what a wonderful Slave-Savior the Lord is. He is God Himself becoming a Slave to serve us by giving His life a ransom for us.
In this message we shall consider the beginning of the gospel and the initiation of the Slave-Savior (1:1-13). Mark 1:1 says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word “gospel” means glad tidings, good news (Rom. 10:15). The gospel is the service, the ministry, of the Slave-Savior as a Slave of God to serve His people. Matthew begins with the kingly generations of the King, Christ (Matt. 1:1-17), Luke with a human genealogy of the Man, Jesus (Luke 3:23-38), and John with the eternal origin of the Son of God (John 1:1-2). Mark begins with the beginning of the gospel, the service of Jesus as a lowly Slave of God (Phil. 2:7; Matt. 20:27-28), not with the origin of His Person. As a rule, the service, not the person, of a slave is notable.
According to 1:1, the gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This Gospel is a biography of the Slave-Savior, who was God incarnated as a Slave to save sinners. The compound title “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” denotes the Lord’s humanity as Jesus Christ and His deity as the Son of God. Both the Lord’s humanity and His deity were adequately expressed by His human virtues and divine attributes in His ministry and His move for His gospel service, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
Although we realize that the word gospel means glad tidings, we need to consider more fully what the gospel actually is. Some of us who have been Christians for years may not yet realize what the gospel is. The gospel is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament. Therefore, in order to know what the gospel is, we need to read the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and be enlightened concerning the revelation that is given there.
Bible teachers have pointed out that in the Scriptures there are seven dispensations. (Some teachers reduce this number to four.) These seven dispensations cover the Scriptures from Genesis 1 through Revelation 20. The first of these dispensations is the dispensation of innocence. This dispensation, in which there was no sin, covers only the first two chapters of Genesis.
Following the dispensation of innocence, we have the dispensation of conscience. This covers the time of man’s fall in Genesis 3 until the time of the flood.
After the fall, man was required to live according to his conscience. However, because man failed to do this, the third dispensation—human government—came as the replacement of the second dispensation. After the flood, God required that man would come under the control of human government because he failed to live according to his conscience. During this dispensation, different nations were raised up and governments were formed. This dispensation also ended in failure.
The fourth dispensation began with God’s calling of Abraham out of the fallen, corrupted, and rebellious human race. In His calling of Abraham, God gave him a promise. Hence, the fourth dispensation is known as the dispensation of promise.
We have seen that the first four dispensations were innocence, conscience, human government, and promise. It was not God’s intention immediately to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham. Because of the intervening period of time, God decreed the law through Moses with the intention that the law would be used as a fold to keep His people in custody so that they would be preserved. The law may be compared to a fold in which sheep are kept during the night. The law given through Moses was such a fold for the keeping of God’s chosen people. Therefore, the fifth dispensation is the dispensation of the law.
Following this dispensation, Christ came. Concerning the coming of Christ, John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ.” Because grace came through Jesus Christ, the sixth dispensation is called the dispensation of grace.
The dispensation of grace will last until the Lord’s second coming, at which time He will set up the kingdom on earth. The kingdom will last a thousand years, and this period of time is called the millennium. The seventh dispensation, therefore, is the dispensation of the kingdom.
Through these seven dispensations God will fully accomplish His purpose. After the end of the millennium, everything will be renewed. Then there will be a new universe with a new heaven and a new earth and with the New Jerusalem as its center for eternity. In the New Jerusalem God and His redeemed people will enjoy eternal life.
As we have indicated, some Bible teachers prefer to say that in the Scriptures there are four major dispensations. Romans 5 says that from Adam to Moses there was no law. This long period of time, which includes the dispensations of innocence, conscience, human government, and promise, may be regarded as a single dispensation, the prelaw dispensation, or the dispensation before the law. Then according to this understanding the second dispensation, covering the time from Moses to Christ, is the dispensation of the law. The third dispensation is the dispensation of grace, lasting from Christ’s first coming until His second coming. Finally, there is the fourth dispensation, the dispensation of the kingdom, lasting from the time of the Lord’s second coming until the end of the thousand years. This understanding of the dispensations is easy to remember. In this view there are four dispensations: the dispensation before the law, the dispensation of the law, the dispensation of grace, and the dispensation of the kingdom.
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