Dispensations are periods of time where God shows how man develops and maintains a fellowship with Him. Each of the seven Biblical Dispensations are built on the previous dispensations. Each demonstrates how to be in fellowship with God and why Man has failed his responsibility.
The first dispensation is commonly referred to as the Dispensation Of Innocence. All man had to do to be in fellowship with God was to simply obey Him. Man was told to not eat of the Tree Of Knowledge of Good & Evil. The Garden God created for man had an abundance of food and one tree he was to avoid.
Satan came into the Garden and persuaded Eve to do the one thing she was not supposed to do.
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Genesis 3:4-7)
At that point the Dispensation of Innocence ends. They have separated themselves from God by not obeying one simple rule to not eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God then removes them from the Garden and the Dispensation Of Conscience begins.
The Dispensation Of Innocence shows man that simply obeying God keeps one in fellowship with Him. Man's disobedience in the Garden basically shows they thought differently than God Himself. God expels man from the Garden and they then have to rely on their own consciences to have God's fellowship. In the Garden everything is provided for them. Outside of the Garden, outside of the fellowship of God, they have to depend on themselves for everything, they even have to work out their fellowship with God on their own.
Genesis chapter three ends with the end of the Dispensation Of Innocence and chapter four begins with the beginning of the Dispensation Of Conscience. We find the story of Cain and Abel where each engaged in his search for God's approval and fellowship. Cain was a farmer who sacrificed from the ground, Abel was a shepherd who sacrificed life itself. God favored Abel's sacrifice more than Cain's which so angered Cain he murdered his brother.
From there we find man is left to his own devices to discover how to worship and please God.
When man is allowed to follows his conscience he will become self-serving. Evil left unchecked only increases.
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)
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.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8)
One man, Noah, and his family find grace, and salvation from the destruction by essentially what was in effect during the first dispensation, the Dispensation of Innocence, obedience. Noah was told to build an ark and exactly how to do it.
Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. (Genesis 6:22)
The Dispensation of Conscience comes to an end with the flood destroying the Earth and the Dispensation of Human Government begins with Noah and his family in Genesis 9 with God's command to be fruitful and fill the Earth.
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