A dispensation is the method or scheme by which God carries out His purposes towards humanity. These are various well-defined periods of time when God dealt with the human race in a particular way. Such as the Patriarchal Dispensation, beginning with Abraham; the Dispensation of Law when the Jewish nation was formed; and the Dispensation of Grace – the period in which we live today, with the gospel demanding an individual response. Man’s relation to God is not the same in each of these ages. Each begins with man divinely placed in a new position of privilege and responsibility, then closes with the failure of man resulting in righteous judgments from God. The governing principles for one dispensation may not apply for another, although there are spiritual lessons that can be learned from every part of Scripture and His dealings with humanity. For example, as believers, we are not required to offer burnt sacrifices, as the Israelites were when they sinned, however the common lesson is a penalty is required for sin.
See also: time/timing.