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The Grace Movement (Hyperdispensationalism, Mid-Acts Dispensationalism,[1] or incorrectly, "Bullingerism" to which ultradispensationalism properly applies[2])[3][4] is a Protestant conservative Evangelical movement that values Biblical inerrancy and a literal hermeneutic. They specifically view the teachings of the Paul the Apostle both as unique from earlier apostles and as foundational for the church (thus "Pauline dispensationalism" but not of the Acts 2 variety). Paul's status is a result of having been commissioned as "the apostle to the Gentiles" and then personally taught by the risen and glorified Lord of Heaven (as opposed to Jesus in his humility). This perspective is sometimes characterized by proponents as the "Pauline Distinctive."[5]

Classical dispensationalists such as C. I. Scofield[6][7] identify Pentecost, in the second chapter of Acts, with the start of the Church (a new people of God) distinct from Israel as the historical chosen nation of God; mainstream dispensationalism may be referred to as the "Acts 2" position. Grace Movement dispensationalists believe that the church started after Acts 2, emphasizing the beginning of the ministry of Paul in starting the church. They also deny the church as being an object of prophecy unlike Israel. Israel is seen as having an earthly destiny culminating in the millennial kingdom while the Church has a destiny to rule in the heavenly places. Thus it is important in their theology to make sharp distinctions between two programs: 1. the prophetic/earthly kingdom program (with its kingdom gospel) and 2. the Grace/"Mystery"(unprophesied)/heavenly church program (with its Grace gospel). This interpretive grid of "rightly-dividing the Word of God" allows them to explain and either harmonize or contrast any apparent contradictions in Scripture in defense of the inerrancy of scripture. Their dispensational schemes vary from 3 to 8 dispensations with most using Scofield's scheme adapted to the Mid-Acts start of the church. Typically a transition is shown from the last Jewish Mosaic/Law dispensation which begins fading away at mid-Acts while the present dispensation of Grace then starts and grows into place fully by the end of the book of Acts. This is in contradistinction to the Acts 28 position which rather has a Jewish church body lasting until the end of the book of Acts (Sir Robert Anderson went so far as to identify a separate dispensation during Acts). Hyperdispensationalism exists in different intensities although all dispensational ideas trace back further to John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). J.C. O'Hair independently arrived at the Mid-Acts position after rejecting the Acts 2 position early on and then rejecting the Acts 28 position later. He was a Fundamentalist who based his Pauline dispensationalism on the teachings of the early American Classic Pauline dispensationalists even though he reached conclusions which were more thoroughly consistent than his Acts 2 brethren.[8]

Opponents of hyperdispensationalism would be traditional dispensationalists like John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie, [9] Classic Acts 2 Pauline Dispensationalists, and Ultra-dispensationalists (Acts 28 position).

Within the United States, some advocates of hyperdispensationalism refer to themselves as members of the "Grace Movement,"[10] and reject the prefix "hyper" or "ultra" as pejorative (often considering it derogatory or misinforming). Many affiliate with the Grace Gospel Fellowship, a church association, and its Grace Bible College, or the more conservative Berean Bible Fellowship.

General views[edit]

Hyperdispensationalism holds that the early Christian Church lost “four basic truths” starting near the end of the Apostle Paul’s ministry.[11] The four truths are (in order of loss):[12]

  • The Distinctive Message and Ministry of the Apostle Paul
  • The Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church, the Body of Christ
  • The Difference between Israel and the Church, the Body of Christ
  • Justification by Faith Alone, in Christ Alone.

The truths, advocates say, were gradually recovered in reverse order starting during the Protestant Reformation;[13] for example, Martin Luther is credited with recovery of "justification by faith" and John Nelson Darby with "Church Truth."

Hyperdispensationalists reject water baptism,[14][15] (along with Charismatic gifts, Prophets, and Apostles) which divides them from mainstream dispensationalists who are often Baptists, like W. A. Criswell,[16] or in earlier times Presbyterians[17][18] like James H. Brookes. So instead of various water baptisms, they believe in the ONE baptism made WITHOUT hands and without water by the Spirit which occurs when one believes in Christ as their Savior whereby one is identified with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection: Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:12-14; Ephesians 4:5; Ephesians 4:30; Colossians 2:11-12; Hebrews 9:8-10. While hyper-dispensationalists reject water baptism like Ultra-dispensationalists, they still practice the Lord's Supper as a memorial and not as an ordinance. (Ultra-dispensationalists also reject the Lord's Supper and water baptism.)

Hyperdispensationalists are not monolithic nor homogenous. There are two main positions, as well as a few other minor variations. The two main positions are Acts 9 and Acts 13. The differences are minor being only technical. They all see the dispensation of Grace which is the church age as beginning with the Apostle Paul. Also, within the movement is found King James only elements associated mainly with the teachings of Richard Jordan and Grace School of the Bible. While the Acts 2 position tries to distance itself from its more consistent dispensational brothers, as well as, ultradispensationalism (starts the church after Acts 28), they are all true dispensationalists and fully Evangelical still tending towards fundamentalism. Furthermore, the differences separating the Mid-Acts position from the Acts 28 position are just as great as those separating the Acts 2 position from its more consistent Mid-Acts dispensational brothers.

Most notable proponents[edit]

The most notable proponents of hyperdispensationalism doctrine were J.C. O'Hair, Charles Baker, and C.R. Stam.[19]


The following may explain the confusion between Mid-Acts dispensationalism and Acts 28 ultradispensationalism. Early ultradispensationalism (Acts 28 dispensationalism), such as that promoted by Sir Robert Anderson and E. W. Bullinger emphasized a dispensational boundary line at Acts 28:28, but did not apply this boundary line to the Pauline Epistles. Unlike Bullinger, Anderson posited a Pentecostal dispensation during the period covered by the Book of Acts. Bullinger exposits the Pauline epistles as a whole whether or not they were written before or after Acts 28:28 in almost all his writings. Bullinger thus had not applied his Acts 28 position consistently to his exposition of Paul's epistles until later in life and then in one book. Thus most all of his books which were already published along with the writings of Sir Robert Anderson exposit Paul's epistles monolithically and are then quite compatible with Mid-Acts hyperdispensationalism.

The Mid-Acts position and the Acts 28 position differentiate mainly on when the normative portion of Paul's ministry to the church began. Both hyper- and ultradispensationalism see the Gospel accounts as for Israel in the Mosaic dispensation. Mid-Acts types take all of Paul's epistles to be directly written to the church (thus accepting the practice of the Lord's Supper as for this dispensation of Grace) while the Acts 28 position takes only Paul's prison epistles (those written while in prison after Acts 28) to be directly applicable to the church today (denying the Lord's Supper for today).[20] There is only one baptism made without hands where the believer is baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) which is held in contradistinction to Christ baptizing believing Israel in Acts 2 with the Holy Spirit. This pouring out baptism of the Holy Spirit is in fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of the new covenant to Israel. Thus it has nothing to do with the newly revealed Mystery to and through the apostle Paul who is not sent out until years later with the new ministry to the Gentiles to establish a new church which is composed of both believing Israelites and believing Gentiles, and not just Israelites (which includes proselytes to Judaism) as in Acts 2. Paul, it is specifically noted, was sent to preach the gospel but not to baptize in glaring contradistinction to the Lord's commission to his apostles. This new church is not obligated to any Jewish rituals (like water baptism) according to the determination of the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15.

Bullinger held that Paul's authoritative teaching began after the conclusion of the Book of Acts, a viewpoint now characterized as "Acts 28" ultradispensationalism (chapter 28 being the concluding chapter of the book), a position first suggested by J.B. Cole[21] and later solidified by Charles H. Welch.[22]

The Mid-Acts position was developed independently in America later by J.C. O'Hair and followed later by Cornelius R. Stam and Charles F. Baker, among others, and reflects their position that Paul's normative ministry began with Paul's ministry with either his salvation in the ninth chapter of Acts (Stam) or with Paul's commission in the thirteenth chapter (O'Hair, Baker) of Acts. Some very few independent spirits have staked the beginning of the church in a few other chapters but such differences are technical preferences rather than disagreements. The hallmark is that the church is served uniquely with Paul's ministry and upon that there is complete and total agreement. Acts is seen as a transitional period between dispensations and the Mid-Acts position does not insert an extra dispensation there (contra Ryrie).

John Nelson Darby, (the father of dispensationalism), began the church at Pentecost, but his dispensational scheme is not like Scofield's and later American dispensationalists except classic Pauline dispensationalism. Nor is it like that of the hyperdispensationalists. The church does not begin with a new dispensation for Darby as the administrations upon Earth are not relevant for the heavenly church body. One can study R.A. Huebner, (who sees the Church's advent at Acts 2), to get a better understanding of Darby's scheme of dispensations which is different than Scofield's. Also Miles J. Stanford (classic Pauline dispensationalism) follows Darby's dispensational scheme and criticizes Acts 2 as well as Mid-Acts dispensationalists for not following Darby. Miles J. Stanford drew, as well, heavily upon Darby's soteriology of "spiritual growth" and considered himself a "classic Pauline dispensationalist" in the line of Plymouth Brethren Darbyite dispensationalists.[23] Yet Classic (Pauline) Dispensationalism's earliest teachers (Darbyite) were the source for J.C. O'Hair's consistent dispensational doctrines, but he seems to have adopted Scofield's dispensational scheme adapting it to the Mid-Acts position.[24] Also, the early Calvinism does not seem to be in evidence so much today and is even being fully rejected in more and more churches.[25]

If Darby appears to be followed more closely by hyperdispensationalism, it is because Darby's dispensationalism and hyperdispensationalism is more consistent than American Acts 2 dispensationalism in marking Scripture's distinction between national Israel with its earthly kingdom from the church which is Christ's heavenly body. Here too hyper- and ultradispensationalism may be seen to make more than a mere distinction between Israel and the Church, while classic (Pauline) dispensationalism (Acts 2) is as extreme if not more so in making rather a separation between Israel and the Church.

"if Christianity were the new covenant, which it is not, the Holy Ghost is the seal of faith now as circumcision was then. Matthew 28 was never carried out. The mission to the Gentiles was given up to Paul explicitly (Gal. 2) who was not sent to baptize..."[26]

"the outward symbol and instrument of unity is the partaking of the Lord's supper - for we being many are one 'bread, one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.' And what does Paul declare to be the true intent and testimony of that rite? That whensoever 'ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.' Here then are found the character and life of the church"[27]

J.C. O'Hair followed more closely to the early American dispensationalists and abandoned denominational loyalties. Rejecting gifts for the church age led to a rejection of water baptism and the Acts 2 position. He then began to explore Acts 28 as an alternative but eventually rejected that as well. It was at this time that H.A. Ironside wrote "Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth" confusing O'Hair with Bullinger's teachings. After that O'Hair settled upon the Mid-Acts position.[28]

See also[edit]

  • Grace Bible College—first president of the college was Charles F. Baker; in the mid-1960s, the College experienced a break with one of its early supporters, Cornelius R. Stam with whom began the more conservative Berean Bible Fellowship and the Berean Bible Society
  • Pauline Christianity


  1. ^ "Dispensational Theology" by Charles F. Baker, page 16, Grace Publications, 1971]
  2. ^ J. C. O'Hair. "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Chapter 51: "Did the Church Begin with Pentecost of Acts Two?"". 
  3. ^ https://www.bereanbiblesociety.org/are-we-hyper-dispensationalists/
  4. ^ Reisinger, E. (1992). Lordship, Non-Lordship and Dispensationalism. The Founders Journal: An Attempt at Self-Identification, Spring, (8), 11.
  5. ^ Robert Hanna. "The Pauline Legacy—Our Heritage". Berean Bible Society. 
  6. ^ Charles Caldwell Ryrie (1995), Dispensationalism 
  7. ^ Isaac Watts (1812). The Harmony of all the Religions which God ever Prescribed to Men and all his Dispensations towards them. The kingdom of Christ, therefore, or the christian dispensation was not properly set up in all its forms, doctrines and duties, till the following day of Pentecost, and the pouring down of the Spirit upon the Apostles 
  8. ^ http://www.gracehistoryproject.blogspot.com/
  9. ^ Dispensationalist theology#Traditional dispensationalism
  10. ^ http://www.biblicaladvancedbasics.com/pdf/Grace.pdf[self-published source?]
  11. ^ E. W. Bullinger. "The Loss and Recovery of Truth". 
  12. ^ E. W. Bullinger (1905). "The Loss and Recovery of Truth". 
  13. ^ J.C. O'Hair (1905). "The Loss and Recovery of Truth". “Martin Luther,” he said, “recovered justification by faith.” John Darby recovered the Blessed Hope and something of Church Truth. 
  14. ^ J.C. O'Hair. "The Recovery of Lost Bible Truth" (PDF). 
  16. ^ Ernest Reisinger. "Founders Journal. A History of Dispensationalism In America". 
  17. ^ Ernest Reisinger. "Founders Journal. A History of Dispensationalism In America". 
  18. ^ "1944 PCUS Report on Dispensationalism". 
  19. ^ "Dispensational Theology" by Charles F. Baker, p. 16, Grace Publications, 1971].
  20. ^ Paul M. Sadler. "The Truth About the Truth". 
  21. ^ "The Acts of the Apostles Considered Historically and Dispensationally" in Things To Come Journal, Vol. 13, No.152, February 1907
  22. ^ Juanita S. Carey, E.W. Bullinger: A Biography 
  23. ^ http://www.pembrokebiblechapel.com/pdf/PaulineDispensationalismStanford.pdf
  24. ^ http://www.ggfusa.org/images/truthmag/GraceMovementOrigins.pdf, page 6 of pdf
  25. ^ For the influence of this Grace Movement group see the Grace History Project Lesson 124 pdf notes Addendum http://www.gracelifebiblechurch.com/SundaySchool/ChurchHistory/2014/012614/Lesson%20124%20The%20Life%20and%20Ministry%20of%20C.%20Richard%20Jordan%20The%20Formation%20of%20Grace%20School%20of%20the%20Bible.pdf, http://gracehistoryproject.blogspot.com/2014/02/lesson-125-life-and-ministry-of-c.html
  26. ^ J. N. Darby, "The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Ecclesiastical Writings » The Collected Writings Of J. N. Darby, Ecclesiastical No. 4, Volume 20: A Reply To Defence Of The Doctrine Of Baptismal Regeneration"
  27. ^ J. N. Darby, Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ
  28. ^ http://www.gracehistoryproject.blogspot.com/


  • Stam, Cornelius R., Things That Differ, 1951, Berean Bible Society, Germantown, WI
  • Baker, Charles F., A Dispensational Theology, 1971, Grace Bible College Publications, Grand Rapids, MI

External links[edit]