late 14c., from Old French despensacion (12c., Modern French dispensation), or directly from Latin dispensationem (nominative dispensatio) "management, charge," noun of action from past participle stem of dispensare (see dispense). Theological sense is from the use of the word to translate Greek oikonomoia "office, method of administration."
(Gr. oikonomia, "management," "economy"). (1.) The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation. There are usually reckoned three dispensations, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or Jewish, and the Christian. (See COVENANT ØT0000916, Administration of.) These were so many stages in God's unfolding of his purpose of grace toward men. The word is not found with this meaning in Scripture. (2.) A commission to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). Dispensations of Providence are providential events which affect men either in the way of mercy or of judgement.