By Joseph L. Watkins
We have tried to offer some suggested outlines to assist our readers in dividing The Word of Truth RIGHTLY. However, perhaps the most vital and most rewarding DIVISIONS in regard to the Word of Truth is the identification of, and the right division of - The Many Dispensations Out of God.
What is a dispensation? This question will draw forth many different answers and perhaps not one right answer, for any that fails to include the "inherent idea" of a "message" will fail to be a "good" answer. In our studies, we have identified Seven Major Dispensations, seven distinct messages out of God as well as a few minor dispensations which are of major importance, and we might say even vital to one's true understanding of biblical truth for today. We only call them minor because they were given under, and in direct relationship to, one of the seven major messages.
Some men would define a dispensation as a stewardship, or as an administration. Now without question, both have a place in our understanding of biblical dispensations, but fall way short of defining what a dispensation is. Paul was a steward of the "Musterion Truths" of God (1 Cor. 4:1), and Paul was to administer the Musterion Truth of the Body Church according to Eph. 3:9, but the heart of both commissions was the "Message". Without it there would be no administration, or a stewardship. Some would also say that a dispensation is a Period of Time, that is just not true, and to maintain that it is can only result in confusion and loss. It may be the order of the day, but it is not the day.
A new dispensation from God is not given because the day comes to a close, but because A Change is Called For, the prevailing circumstances necessitate change. Great havoc and mass confusion have been the result of "missed changes". Our all wise Creator gave "a new order of the day", His people misunderstood or ignored His new Word of Truth and multitudes march on to old, outdated orders.
The First Major Dispensation. The first message spoken to man is recorded for our learning in Gen. 1:28-30. The Word of Truth was brief and to the point: "be fruitful, andmultiply - subdue and have dominion, over all living" In Gen. 2:16-17, was added: "freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledgeof good and evil, thou shall not eat of it: for in the day that thoueatest thereof thou shalt surely die." How long this dispensation stood we do not know, but in all likelihood not long, for the circumstances we find recorded in Gen. 3:1-24 necessitated some major changes.
The Second Major Dispensation. This Word of Truth we have named The Dispensation of "Sorrow" - for in Gen. 3:16-19 these words came to Eve: "... I will greatly multiply thy sorrow in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children ..." And unto Adam He said: "... cursed is the ground for thy sake in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken for dust thou art and into dust shalt thou return."
Yes, the God of creation made many very drastic "changes" here. For the first time weeds, even weeds with thorns, were to become a menacing part of man's everyday life. There is no way a true accounting could be made of the negative effect of this, on man and his well-being, over the past "6000" years. Hard work and sweat would now be the daily price of their food, along with the "good" food that the weeds curtailed and destroyed - for cursed is the ground.
Yes, sorrow, sorrow, and more sorrow has been that which has characterized the everyday life of every seed of Adam's race, from that day unto this and the sorrow of all sorrows will engulf each seed in the end - "Eternal Death". Two things stand out in regard to this Dispensation. Out of God no time periods clouds the issues, and there is found "no" stewardships or administrations and yet this dispensation of truth, out of God, governs the lives of every man on earth, every day.
The Third Dispensation - was a message out of God given to the man we know as Noah. This dispensation is recorded for our learning in Gen. 6:13 to Gen. 9:17. We have chosen to call this message to all men - The Dispensation of Covenants. In Gen. 6:18 God said to Noah, "With thee will I 'establish' My covenant" - My agreement, "My unconditional promise" keeping with all to whom I make Covenants.
Now, strictly speaking, a biblical dispensation is a divine message dispensed out of God and deposited with a man of His own choosing, to dispense out to any and all others that the message was intended for. We must Rightly Divide that part of the message that is of a personal nature from that which is for all others under that divine order of the day, The Divine Law of Right Division.