|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
(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, 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 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2; Colossians 1:25).
Dispensations of Providence are providential events which affect men either in the way of mercy or of judgement.
Noah Webster's Dictionary
1. (n.) The act of dealing out; distribution; allocation; often used of the distribution of good and evil by God to man, or more generically, of the acts and modes of his administration.
2. (n.) That which is dispensed, dealt out, or appointed; that which is enjoined or bestowed
3. (n.) A system of principles, promises, and rules ordained and administered; scheme; economy; as, the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations.
4. (n.) The relaxation of a law in a particular case; permission to do something forbidden, or to omit doing something enjoined; specifically, in the Roman Catholic Church, exemption from some ecclesiastical law or obligation to God which a man has incurred of his own free will (oaths, vows, etc.).
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
dis-pen-sa'-shun: The Greek word (oikonomia) so translated signifies primarily, a stewardship, the management or disposition of affairs entrusted to one. Thus 1 Corinthians 9:17, the King James Version "A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me," the Revised Version (British and American) "I have stewardship entrusted to me." The idea is similar in Ephesians 3:2 parallel Colossians 1:25 (the Revised Version, margin "stewardship"). In Ephesians 1:10 God's own working is spoken of as "dispensation."
Dispensation (8 Occurrences)
1 Corinthians 9:17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. (KJV WBS)
2 Corinthians 3:8 won't service of the Spirit be with much more glory? (See RSV)
2 Corinthians 3:9 For if the service of condemnation has glory, the service of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. (See RSV)
Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (KJV ASV WBS YLT)
Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (KJV ASV WBS YLT)
Ephesians 3:9 and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; (ASV)
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; (KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT)
1 Timothy 1:4 neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; 'so do I now'. (ASV DBY)