1 ¶ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Paul, a Jew, is imprisoned for his work with the Gentiles. See the book of Acts for Paul’s travel starting churches among the Gentiles and in chapter 21 for his imprisonment for the mistaken belief that he brought Gentiles into the temple.
Paul is in prison when he writes, saying that Christ is not only the reason for his imprisonment but ultimately the one keeping him in prison. He is there by Christ’s will for the Gentiles. That’s us.
Paul did not heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit which told him not to go to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
The Holy Spirit had to secure him chained to a soldier in Rome perhaps for you and I to get these prison letters that form the foundation for Biblical doctrine for Jewish and Gentile Christians in this age of the church.
You can look at this as a reference to the way God has chosen to deal with people in this age. Another way is to look at how God dispenses grace toward us. But, this doesn’t have to be a period of time. God’s grace is dispensed toward people throughout all history. Certainly, King David, a murderer and an adulterer, was a recipient of God’s grace. So was King Hezekiah in his sickness. But, this is the age of the grace that leads to salvation.
Colossians 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
Verse 2 is not literally referring to a time period but to God’s dispensing of something. The more accurate way of looking at time periods is to study the Covenants of God such as the Adamic Covenant, Noahic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, etc. etc.
I consider myself a dispensationalist but if you take that too strictly, as a hyperdispensationalist, you will deny that the operations that God performs occur throughout all covenants and ages. Also remember, that to dispense something is an action not a time period.
The Covenant God has made with people, Jews and Gentiles, after Christ’s resurrection, has to do with their acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. God dispenses His grace toward us. This then becomes a Covenant of Grace although He dispensed His grace throughout all ages and covenants.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.