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The Grace Movement (Hyper-dispensationalism, Mid-Acts Dispensationalism,[1] ultra-dispensationalism,[2] or more rarely, "Bullingerism" to which 'ultra-dispensationalism' properly applies[3]) is a Protestant doctrine that basically views the teachings of the Apostle Paul both as unique from earlier apostles and as foundational for the church, a perspective sometimes characterized by proponents as the "Pauline Distinctive."[4]

Mainstream dispensationalists such as Scofield[5][6] and Ironside[7] identify Pentecost, in the second chapter of Acts, with the start of the Church as distinct from Israel; mainstream dispensationalism may be referred to as the "Acts 2" position. Grace Movement Dispensationalists believe that the church started after Acts 2, emphasizing primarily the ministry of Paul. Hyper-dispensationalism exists in different intensities, with E. W. Bullinger (1837–1913), an Anglican clergyman and scholar, being the best known early expositor of Acts 28 ultra-dispensationalism, 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 the Acts 28 position later.[8]

A proponent of hyper-dispensationalism would be Charles F. Baker.[9]

Opponents of hyper-dispensationalism would be Traditional Dispensationalists like John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie.[10]

Within the United States, some advocates of hyper-dispensationalism refer to themselves as members of the "Grace Movement,"[11] 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.

Examination and refutation of the Acts 28 ultra-dispensational position by opponents of it (especially insofar as it concurs with ultra-dispensationalism) include Systematic Theology by Norman L. Geisler (cp. 2),[12] and Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, by Harry A. Ironside[13] Some opponents of hyper-dispensationalism refer to it as a "consistent Dispensationalism."[14] Unfortunately, there has not been any informed substantial interaction with the Mid-Acts Hyper-dispensationalism in any contemporary published work.

General views[edit]

Ultradispensationalism is a minority Christian doctrine regarding the relationship between God, the Christian church and human beings. As the name implies, it is an extreme form of dispensationalism.

The clearest scholarly references to Ultradispensationalism (sometimes known as "Extreme Ultradispensationalism" or "Bullingerism") are made by Charles C. Ryrie[15] and Charles F. Baker.[16] Ultradispensationalism is a niche doctrine of Christian belief that believes that the Christian Church began with Paul's statement made to the Jewish leaders at Rome near the end of the Book of Acts with Acts 28:28 stating: "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" being the foundational Scripture of belief of the doctrine of Ultradispensationalism.[citation needed]

Ultradispensationalists distinguish themselves with their belief that today's Church is exclusively revealed in Paul's later writings, in the Prison Epistles. The Prison Epistles contain Paul's presentation of "the mystery ... Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets" (Eph. 3:3-6). This mystery is identified as the Church, a mystery then unrevealed when he wrote his Acts-period epistles.

By contrast, Acts and Paul's early epistles are deemed to cover the Jewish Church that concluded Israel's prophesied history (Bullinger, 1972, p. 195). One rationale for this view is that Paul's epistles written during the period of Acts only proclaim those things which the prophets and Moses said would come, as Paul himself stated in Acts 26:22. The Acts-period epistles are 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. Some add Hebrews to this list, believing it to also be written by Paul.

Hyper-dispensationalism holds that the early Christian Church lost “four basic truths” starting near the end of the Apostle Paul’s ministry.[17] The four truths are (in order of loss):[18]

  • 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;[19] for example, Martin Luther is credited with recovery of "justification by faith" and John Nelson Darby with "Church Truth."

Hyper-dispensationalists reject water baptism,[20][21][22] which divides them from mainstream dispensationalists who are often Baptists, like W. A. Criswell,[23] or in earlier times Presbyterians[24][25] 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.

Hyper-dispensationalists are not monolithic nor homogenous. There are two main positions with which there exists minor variations. The two main positions are Acts 9 and Acts 13. The difference is minor being only technical. They all see the dispensation of Grace which is the church age as beginning with the apostle Paul. 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. 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 proponent of Ultra-dispensationalism doctrine was E. W. Bullinger (1837–1913). Other writers holding this position include Charles H. Welch, Oscar M. Baker, Otis Q. Sellers, Les Feldick, and Bob Enyart.


Early Ultra-dispensationalism, such as that promoted by Sir Robert Anderson and E.W. Bullinger in his early years, emphasized a dispensational boundary line at Acts 28:28, but did not apply this boundary line to the Epistles of Paul, viewing them as a whole whether or not they were written before or after Acts 28:28. When the young Charles Welch pointed out the inherent contradiction in this to E.W. Bullinger, Bullinger changed his views, and incorporated the dividing line into his teachings on the Epistles of Paul that were written from that point forward and which became universally known as Ultradispensationalism. Since the majority of his work was written before this point, however, many of his writings view Paul's Epistles as an unbroken whole. Later adherents of Ultra-dispensationalism writers, such as Stuart Allen, Oscar Baker, and Otis Sellers, all followed the example of Charles Welch and E.W. Bullinger's later work in applying the division to Paul's books as well as the book of Acts in the true spirit of Ultra-dispensationalism.

There are large irreconcilable differences between the Mid-Acts position and the Acts 28 position just as there are between them and the Acts 2 position. They differentiate among themselves by terminology reflecting when the normative portion of Paul's ministry to the church began. The most obvious result of this differentiation is an absence of the practice of water baptism which is considered as a ritual for Israel under the last dispensation and not for the body of Christ in this present dispensation. Less obvious is what part of the New Testament is understood as being directly written to the church. 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) to be directly applicable to the church today (denying the Lord's Supper for today).

Bullinger held that Paul's authoritative teaching began after the conclusion of the book of Acts, a viewpoint now characterized as "Acts 28" dispensationalism (chapter 28 being the concluding chapter of the book), a position he solidified in cooperation with Charles H. Welch.[26] Other writers holding this position include Sir Robert Anderson, Oscar M. Baker, and Otis Q. Sellers. Acts 28 Dispensationalists distinguish themselves with their belief that today’s Church is exclusively revealed in Paul’s later writings, in the so-called "Prison Epistles." [27] Acts 28 Dispensationalists tend to reject all ordinances including the Lord’s Supper.[28]

The Mid-Acts position was developed independently later by J.C. O'Hair followed later by Cornelius R. Stam and Charles F. Baker, among others, and reflects their position that Paul's normative ministry began in either the ninth (Stam) or thirteenth chapter (O'Hair, Baker). 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 as does the Acts 28 position. The Mid-Acts position accepts the Lord's Supper but rejects water baptism.[29] 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. 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.

John Nelson Darby, sometimes called the father of dispensationalism, began the church at Pentecost, but his dispensational scheme is not like Scofield's and later American dispensationalists. Nor is it like that of the hyper-dispensationalists. 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 altogether a horse of another color. Also Miles J. Stanford follows Darby's dispensational scheme and criticizes American Acts 2 dispensationalists for not following Darby. Miles J. Stanford drew, as well, heavily upon Darby's soteriology of "spiritual growth" and who considered himself a "classic Pauline dispensationalist" in the line of Plymouth Brethren Darbyite dispensationalists.

If Darby appears to be followed more closely by hyper-dispensationalism, it is because Darby's dispensationalism and hyper-dispensationalism 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.

"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..."[30]

"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"[31]

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." After that O'Hair settled upon the Mid-Acts position.[32]

Post Acts Dispensationalism[edit]

There is also a division of Ultradispensationalism called "Post-Acts Dispensationalism", whereby the adherents do not believe that the church began after the Book of Acts chapter 9 nor do they identify the body of Christ as the mystery of Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1. This central belief disqualifies them from the doctrine of Hyperdispensationalism which is almost universally recognised as a post-Acts chapter 9 to Acts chapter 15 system of theology.

Post-Acts Dispensationalism holds that only the mystery of Ephesians and Colossians is the grace dispensation, which effectively dispensed with "the law of commandments...the ordinances that were against us"(Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14), in order to bring those saved into the body during Paul's Later Acts ministry, with those like the Ephesians and Colossians, into one fellowship, "the one new man...the fellowship of the mystery."(Eph.2:16;3:9) In this new unified body, all the practices ordained for the Acts church, which was decidedly Jewish/Covenantal, were abolished with the "revelation of the mystery" (Romans 16:25) of Ephesians and Colossians.[33] It is this central belief of a subtle form of Acts 28 doctrine that qualifies Post Acts Dispensationalism as a doctrine to be added into the category of Ultradispensationalism.

Ultradispensationalism and personal living[edit]

Ultradispensationalism tends to emphasize personal Bible study, a one-on-one relationship with God, and living a Godly life over religious activities.

Water Baptism rejected[edit]

As such, most of the adherents to Ultradispensationalism reject all sacraments, including baptism with water.[34]


  1. ^ "Dispensational Theology" by Charles F. Baker, page 16, Grace Publications, 1971]
  2. ^ Eleventh Avenue Church
  3. ^ J. C. O'Hair. "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Chapter 51: "Did the Church Begin with Pentecost of Acts Two?"". If one believes that the Body of Christ began historically with the advent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he is given the right hand of fellowship by the “regular” Fundamentalists. If one believes that the Body of Christ began after the close of the “Acts” period, the “regulars” brand him as an “ultradispensationalist” and from their camp goes up the cry “Bullingerism.” 
  4. ^ Robert Hanna. "The Pauline Legacy—Our Heritage". Berean Bible Society. Unless one recognizes the distinctive message committed to Paul, one is left in darkness and confusion as to his spiritual standing, purpose, and destiny as a child of God. 
  5. ^ Charles Caldwell Ryrie (1995), Dispensationalism, (p.53) ...the Scofield Reference Bible... is Watts's [dispensational] outline, not Darby's! 
  6. ^ 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 
  7. ^ Harry A. Ironside. "Wrongly Dividing The Word of Truth. Chapter 3: The Transitional Period. Is the Church of The Acts the Body of Christ?". Here we are distinctly informed as to the way in which the Body has been brought into existence, and this is exactly what took place at Pentecost. 
  8. ^ http://www.gracehistoryproject.blogspot.com/
  9. ^ "Dispensational Theology" by Charles F. Baker, p. 16, Grace Publications, 1971].
  10. ^ Dispensationalist theology#Traditional dispensationalism
  11. ^ http://www.biblicaladvancedbasics.com/pdf/Grace.pdf[self-published source?]
  12. ^ Norman L. Geisler. "Systematic Theology: In One Volume". Bethany House Publishers. Christ's body, which Paul defines as the mystery church of this age, is already in existence in Acts 9... 
  13. ^ Harry A. Ironside. "Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: Ultra-Dispensationalism Examined In The Light Of Holy Scripture — a critique of the teachings of E. W. Bullinger and hyperdispensationalism.". Loizeaux Bros. I have no hesitancy in saying it is an absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth. 
  14. ^ Jamin Hubner (2010-07-16). "A Theological Introduction to Hyper-Dispensationalism". Alpha & Omega Ministries, directed by James White (theologian). Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Hyper-Dispensationalism is consistent Dispensationalism. Darby effectively replaced Gods’ covenants (i.e covenant with Adam) with his dispensations (i.e. “dispensation of innocence”). But only hyper-dispensationalists fully carry out the implications. In conclusion, it appears that Hyper-Dispensationalism has attributes of both a cult and a sect... 
  15. ^ "Dispensationalism Today by Charles C. Ryrie, pages 194-195, Chicago, Moody Press, 1965
  16. ^ "Dispensational Theology" by Charles F. Baker, page 16, Grace Publications, 1971
  17. ^ E. W. Bullinger. "The Loss and Recovery of Truth". We are told, on every hand, today, that we must go back to the first three centuries to find the purity of faith and worship of the primitive church! But it is clear from this comparison of Acts 19:10 and II Timothy 1:15, that we cannot go back to the first century. No, not even to the apostle’s own lifetime! 
  18. ^ E. W. Bullinger (1905). "The Loss and Recovery of Truth". It was Pauline truth and teaching from which all had “turned away.” ...that led necessarily To the loss of the teaching concerning the Mystery; that truth concerning the one Body of Christ... the truth of the Lord’s promised return from heaven; and of resurrection[and] the truth as to what God had made us to be in Christ; and “justification by faith” 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^

    "the gospel of the kingdom" will again be made (see above) and accompanied by its companion ordinance of baptism

  21. ^ J.C. O'Hair. "The Recovery of Lost Bible Truth" (PDF). Tongues, visions and miraculous signs are inseparably connected with water baptism in the Bible and any Scriptural exegesis which will eliminate the one will eliminate the other. 
  22. ^ John C. O'Hair. "THE RECOVERY OF LOST TRUTH: LET'S DE-JUDAIZE THE CHURCH OF CHRIST: THIS WILL BRING A MIGHTY REVIVAL" (PDF). one of the principal reasons why baptism has caused so much disunity and so many unpleasant controversies is because many Christian have confused the baptism by Christ in the Spirit (Luke 3:17 and Acts 1:5) with the death baptism of Luke 12:50 and the death baptism of Romans 6:3 and 4. Another reason is that they have not carefully compared the six or more baptisms of the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts with the ‘one baptism’ of Ephesians 4:5 
  23. ^ Ernest Reisinger. "Founders Journal. A History of Dispensationalism In America". I believe I am safe in saying that Dr. Wally Amos Criswell has been the most influential and articulate Southern Baptist Dispensationalists. Dr. Criswell is one of the great, esteemed and respected leaders of our denomination and every Southern Baptist is deeply indebted to him as a defender of the Bible and conservative Christianity. 
  24. ^ Ernest Reisinger. "Founders Journal. A History of Dispensationalism In America". the Presbyterian Church [] was more influenced by Dispensationalism than any other denomination. 
  25. ^ "1944 PCUS Report on Dispensationalism". Recently it has come to our attention that Dr. D. James Kennedy, when examining a candidate for ordination, routinely asks for that candidate's views on the subject of dispensationalism, and particularly asks him to state his agreement with or disapproval of the 1944 report issued by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (i.e., the Southern Presbyterian Church). In light of that anecdote and in an effort to assist those hapless candidates who might otherwise have no knowledge of this document, we reproduce it here. Excerpted from the Minutes of the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, as it met in the Anderson Auditorium at Montreat, North Carolina, May 25–30, 1944. This Report of the Ad-Interim Committee occurs in the Appendix to the Minutes, on pages 123-127. 
  26. ^ Juanita S. Carey, E.W. Bullinger: A Biography, )p.180) As recounted by Welch in his autobiography: Toward the end of 1908 I felt moved to write to Dr. Bullinger [and at their meeting asked] you do not believe the church began at Pentecost, but rather, the Dispensational Boundary must be drawn at Acts 28? Dr Bullinger [replied] that is so. I have made that quite clear. [Welch continued, why then do] you treat the whole of Paul's epistles as one group[?] To my amazement and joy, the Doctor looked at me for a moment, then slapping his hand on his thigh said: "That scraps half the books I have written. But we want the Truth, and the Truth is there in what you said." 
  27. ^ Charles Welch. "The Berean Expositor. Acts xvii. 10, 11" (PDF). Paul was not “under the law” so far as salvation was concerned, but at the same time he was not standing in the full light of the Mystery, as made known in his prison epistles. 
  28. ^ Charles Welch. "The Berean Expositor. Acts xvii. 10, 11" (PDF). This settles the question of baptism and the Lord’s supper, the decrees of Acts xv., the order and gifts of I Corinthians, and the many other questions which half-grasped truth begets. The church of the one body is a new creation. 
  29. ^ Paul M. Sadler. "The Truth About the Truth". Concerning the Lord's Supper, Pastor Stam has always taught that the Apostle Paul received a special revelation from our Lord regarding communion. The command of Christ is unmistakably clear that it should be observed until He returns for the Church, 
  30. ^ 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"
  31. ^ J. N. Darby, Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ
  32. ^ http://www.gracehistoryproject.blogspot.com/
  33. ^ 85 Pages in the Bible - About this book
  34. ^ "Dispensationalism by Charles C. Ryrie, page 199, Chicago, Moody Press, 1995]

See also[edit]

  • Dispensationalism
  • E. W. Bullinger—describes some of the basic theology of the Acts 28 doctrine
  • 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


  • Stam, Cornelius R., Things That Differ, 1951, Berean Bible Society, Germantown, WI
  • Bullinger, E.W.,The Foundations of Dispensational Truth, Reprinted 1972, Samuel Bagster & Sons LTD 72 Marylebone Lane, London. W.I.
  • Baker, Charles F., A Dispensational Theology, 1971, Grace Bible College Publications, Grand Rapids, MI

External links[edit]