Conscience or Self Determination
by Arnold Fruchtenbaum
Genesis 3:9 – 8:14
The two names of this dispensation emphasize the principle by which God dispensed His economy. The first name comes from Romans 2:15, which states that God dealt with men for a period of time on the basis of their conscience… until their conscience became so defiled and seared that it was no longer possible to continue governing God’s economy in the world in this way. The second name emphasizes the other side of the coin. Man was given the freedom to follow or not to follow the dictates of his conscience. If he had followed his conscience, his self-determination would have led to holiness. Because he did not follow his conscience, it became defiled and seared. In this case, he was led in the other direction ““ away from holiness. As in the first dispensation (Innocence or Freedom), the chief person was Adam, who received new revelation that spelled out the principles and requirements of this new dispensation.
Man’s responsibility in this dispensation was to the Adamic Covenant found in Genesis 3. Among the requirements of this covenant were: 1) for the wife to be in subjection to her husband; 2) to work the land in toil and by the sweat of the brow; and, 3) the concept of physical death. The key element of man’s responsibility in this dispensation was faith in the promised Redeemer of Genesis 3:15. Here, God told Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This promised that a time was coming when a human descendant of the same woman whom Satan had tempted (bringing about the Fall of Man) would some day conquer Satan and crush his head. The promise was that the Messiah would be after the “seed” of the woman contrary to the normal biblical pattern. Normally, a man’s line was traced through the genealogy of the father ““ not the mother. That is why all of the genealogies in Scripture always contain the male line and females are seldom mentioned. In the case of the Messiah, however, it was going to be different. The Bible does not explain why Messiah would come from the seed of the woman until Isaiah 7:14. Here, God states that when the Messiah would be born, He would be born of a virgin. He would not have a human father.
Man’s responsibility was to believe the promise that some day the Seed of the woman, the Messiah, would come and redeem them from the “prince of this world,” Satan. In the previous dispensation authority over this earth was given to man. When Adam fell, he lost the authority because Satan had usurped it from him. Therefore, in the New Testament, Satan is called the “prince of this world” (Jn. 12:31) and “the god of this age” (II Cor.4:4). Man’s specific test in the Dispensation of Conscience was twofold: First, obedience to the dictates of conscience in the knowledge of good and evil and, second, man’s response to failure should have been a proper and acceptable sacrifice. This is gleaned from Genesis 3:2 and 4:4. Failure in this dispensation was seen as early as Cain in Genesis 4:3. Cain failed to bring the proper blood sacrifice thinking that he could come to God on his own terms rather than on the terms that God had ordained. The results of this failure are seen in Genesis 4:8 in the first act of murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. Failure in the second dispensation is also seen in Genesis 6:5, which speaks of open violence, corruption and widespread evil, and continuous evil desire in the heart and purpose of man.
God’s judgment in this dispensation was the Worldwide Flood: to bring humanity to an end with the exception of one family. With the Worldwide Flood, this dispensation came to an end. Humanity had become so evil that they could no longer follow their conscience. Humanity’s conscience was so darkened and degenerate that it was no longer a reliable guide. The element of God’s grace in this dispensation is seen in the salvation of Enoch and in the salvation of Noah and his family. All of these people found grace in the eyes of the Lord.