I was talking with a man about the Bible and in the course of the conversation he kept insisting how he felt "in his heart" was the sole determiner of his spirituality. He backed his point up by insisting events that happened in his life could only have come about because of the Holy Spirit working in his life. He listed things he had done in his life that only could have been caused by being led of the Spirit, his ability to speak in tongues, offer healing prayers and so on.
As we talked I quoted Bible passages that had some connection with his feelings and brought into question the source of his assuredness. At one point, he exclaimed loudly, "The Bible! The Bible! The Bible! You can't go by the Bible because the Bible was written by Men! Man was around long before the Bible even appeared on the scene! Man got along without it quite well."
He was absolutely correct, to a degree.
There were three beings in the Garden of Eden, God, Adam, and Eve. They spoke directly to each other. Adam and Eve had one command, "Do not touch the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!" That was it. They were in fellowship with each other. Why would a Bible be needed to be reminded of that?
"Touch that tree and you will die!" How much simpler could it be? Man had only one thing to do to stay in fellowship with God, obey one simple command.
This time period from Man's creation until Satan came into the Garden of Eden and convinced Eve that God just wanted to keep them from being as wise as He was is known as the Dispensation of Innocence. A dispensation is a period where a particular system, administration, or order is in effect.
When Man disobeyed God's command in the Garden Man essentially was saying, "We can do what we think is right."
God then said, "Let's see how that works out for you," and sent them out of the Garden to make their own choices.
Thus began the second dispensation, the Dispensation of Conscience, for Man to learn Man did not have the ability to please God on his own without obedience.
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
No need for a Bible then because they were relying on their own decision making.
The Genesis story of Cain & Abel illustrates how that works.
Cain's conscience led him to sacrifice to God to please himself. Abel's conscience led him to seek a sacrifice pleasing to God. God accepted Abel's sacrifice and refused Cain's. Cain's rebuff angered him to the point he killed his brother Abel.
Left to their own devices man became so evil God regretted creating Mankind and decided to start over with Noah. Noah obeys God, builds an ark, the Flood comes and the Dispensation of Conscience ends.
God is working His way through the ways Man can be one with God through different dispensation periods. Each dispensation expands upon the one before it. Each has its own main responsibilities of Man. Each has its own failures due to Man's shortcomings of relying on mankind's efforts rather than relying on God.
Now we're in the Dispensation of Human Government where Man as a body works together to be in harmony with God. Mankind has gone through relying on simple obedience and through relying on their own thoughts and consciousness making their choices as they see fit. Sin, disobedience to God's will, gets worse and worse until Mankind's every thought is evil.
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7)
Noah finds favor from God because of his righteousness and follows God's directions to build an ark and escape the upcoming destruction.
The Flood has cleansed the world of those who relied on their individual consciences to work out their own paths and became so evil there was no good in them.
Noah and his family are charged to multiply and fill the earth. Their descendants gather together to build a great tower so that they will never be separated. This goes against God's command and He confuses their languages forcing them to spread out. Spread out by God families become nations or groups acting together as a whole to direct their paths.
Families grow into nations and as nations they develop various histories and outcomes. This period is known as The Dispensation of Human Government. God allows human government to determine how to come into fellow with Him.
The Dispensation of Human Government has had the opposite effect of God's will. It had run its course, Man failed his responsibility and God stepped to bring His will about.
The Dispensation of Human Government is followed by the Dispensation of Promise. The Dispensation of Promise begins with Abraham who has found great favor with God who promises Abraham and his wife Sarah a "son through whom all nations of the earth shall be blessed" when their child-bearing years were long past. This dispensation lasts from Abraham to his descendants arrival on the edge of the land given, promised to Abraham hundreds of years before.
The period, or dispensation, where God allowed human government to bring Mankind in fellowship with Him has essentially failed because Mankind has relied on it instead of on Him. His people, the descendants of Abraham, have found themselves enslaved by the Egyptians and are in great distress.
God hears their prayers and sends an 80 year old man to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and bring them to the Land of Promise God gave Abraham many generations before.
The Human Government dispensation has ended and God personally begins to direct Mankind through one man, Moses. Moses is God's chosen leader through the long trek in the Wilderness. God gives Moses His commands and Moses gives them to the people and enforces them.
We refer to this period or dispensation as the Dispensation of Law. It is built on the same principles as the dispensations before but now God is personally giving His will to the people.
God brings Moses up on Mount Hebron and gives him what is known biblically as "The Law Of Moses" containing the Ten Commandments, written in stone, the first "Bible," as well as hundreds of other commands Man must obey to have fellowship with God.
Moses is the author of the first 5 books of the Bible and at one time those books were considered to be the Bible.
NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME THERE IS A BIBLE!
One can now look to written word to see exactly how one can be in fellowship with God.
As time goes on God inspires other books written by others that are added by God to teach prophecies, history, and other writings concerning and expanding His dealings with Mankind.
These writings are considered God's Law, hence the Dispensation Of Law period.
So far in the God / Man Creation relationship we have gone from no Bible to a basic Bible consisting of five books that have brought us from oral law to written law. Oral law has to be remembered from the past and is always subject to recollection. Written law exists in the present and is always available for verification and guidance. This Old Testament written law is known as the Law of Moses because God gave it through Moses.
After God gave Moses the Law, God still continued fleshing out the Old Testament Bible through other various inspired authors detailing the Law's application and pointing the way toward the fulfillment of the promise made to Satan and to Mankind in the Garden of Eden at the end of the Dispensation of Innocence - the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.
The Bible is composed of three main parts - (1.) Someone Is Coming! (2.) Someone Is Here! (3.) Someone Is Coming Again!
Genesis to Malachi covers the Someone Is Coming! part and brings us to "the gospels," Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, the Someone Is Here! section, the fulfillment of the promise of Old Testament books - the arrival of Jesus, the Christ, God on Earth.
The gospels cover the Dispensation of Grace. The Dispensation of Grace covers the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.. Not one person was condemned for sin while Jesus was living on Earth, not one, not even the woman actually caught in adultery which was punishable by death under the Law of Moses. No one was condemned for sin, practices were condemned, people weren't.
The message of the Dispensation of Grace is, "When Jesus is present there is no condemnation."
Jesus has gone to the cross, he's been buried, he's been resurrected and now he is about to return to Heaven.
The Someone Is Coming!, the Old Testament, and the Someone Is Here!, the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, portions of the Bible have come to pass. Now Jesus is spending 40 days appearing with the believers showing himself alive and teaching and directing the disciples.
The Dispensation of Grace where no one was condemned for sin has ended and the Dispensation of The Kingdom (the church) begins with the Great Commission of Mark 16:15-16 and Matthew 28:18-20.
Acts through Revelation covers the start of the church and its growth as the apostle's work and Holy Spirit guided writings are added to the Bible covering the Someone Is Coming Again! portion to bring it to its forever completed final form.
The Bible covers God's Creation of a perfect world gone bad and His plan and His work to make the Creation perfect again for eternity with Him. God has revealed His Will at the right time in the right manner for the right purpose.
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