The dispensation of human government – What is it?
Dispensationalism is a theological organizational system for describing how God interacts with people in different periods of history. There are seven dispensations, or ages. The dispensation of human government is third after the dispensations of innocence (Genesis 1:27—3:19) in which God interacted with humans face to face, and conscience (Genesis 3:23—8:19) in which humans were to govern themselves based on what they knew to be right, i.e., through their conscience.
Each dispensation can be thought of in terms of a six-part structure. The elements of the dispensation of human government are:
Managers: Noah and his descendants Time Period: The Flood to the confusion of languages at Babel, about 429 years Responsibility: Scatter and multiply (Genesis 9) Failure: Unwillingness to scatter and the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–4) Judgment: Confusion of languages (Genesis 11:5–9) Grace: Abraham is chosen—the start of the Jewish race, through whom Messiah would come (Genesis 12:1–3)
The end of the second dispensation, of conscience, came at the Flood when God saved eight people. God covenanted with Noah to never again destroy all people by water. Then, He instituted human government as a way for humans to battle evil (Genesis 8:20—11:9).
God gave to Noah a set of expectations to enforce—beginning with Genesis 9:6: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." This command established the sanctity of human life and the authority of man to govern man. This authority continues (Romans 13).
However, sin ("lawlessness" in 1 John 3:4) continued in Noah's time and with his descendants, and instead of following God's provision, people created their own idols and fell into moral degradation. People relied on their own selves and elevated their reasoning above God, culminating in the Tower of Babel. "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth'" (Genesis 11:4). This was disobedience to God and He enacted the consequence of their inability to communicate with one another. This confusion of language caused the people to disperse and fill the earth as God had previously commanded they do (Genesis 1:28; 9:1).
God demonstrated His grace in choosing Abraham and his descendants to be those through whom Messiah would come to redeem the world (Genesis 12:1–2; Galatians 3).
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