The Dispensation Of Innocence
Dr. Joe Temple

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis. We are going to begin a discussion of the first seven dispensations. We will be considering all of the dispensations which I believe are the only correct foundation for interpreting the Word of God. If you have a clear understanding of these periods of time then your understanding of the Scriptures will be much better.

Importance Of Rightly Dividing The Word

If you know, for example, as I trust you will when we are through with our discussion, that there is a Dispensation of Innocence, you will not be guilty of taking Scripture which is related to that dispensation and applying it to the Dispensation of Law. The reason that men find contradictions in the Word of God, the reason that men find it necessary to resort to spiritualizing the Scriptures is that they have not learned to rightly divide the Word of Truth. I believe that this series of discussions will help us in that direction.

We recognize that in many respects a study such as we have been considering is so simple that to many of you it is not new. You may say, “Oh, I know all that. What's the use of thinking about it any more?” But we have a way of forgetting and in the process of forgetting, we find ourselves drifting into error. There's no need for it when the Word is rightly divided.

Keep in mind that I suggested to you that the best definition of a dispensation that I believe exists is the one Dr. Scofield presents in the notes of the Scofield Bible. A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God. Fix that definition firmly in your mind because it defines that which we will be discussing.

Innocence Characterizes First Dispensation

I said we were going to discuss the Dispensation of Innocence. And yet, you will not find this word “innocence” used in the Bible in connection with this dispensation. The reason that we use this word to describe it is that it characterizes the dispensation as inferences are made from the Scripture passage which deals with it.

That is the reason I've asked you to turn to the book of Genesis and notice, first, in chapter 1, the paragraph which begins with verse 26:

Genesis 1:

26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 2:

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
4These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
5And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
6But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
9And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
10And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
11The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
12And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.
13And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
14And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
15And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
18And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

This is not all the Scriptures that deal with the Dispensation of Innocence, but this does give us the basic facts related to this particular dispensation,. Glance down at verse 17 of chapter 2 again and notice:

Genesis 2:

17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Notice in the first part of the verse the phrase, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” If an individual is ignorant of good and of evil, not discerning the difference between the two, then we refer to him as innocent. Look at verse 25:

Genesis 2:

25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

When men and women have no self consciousness related to their naked bodies, we speak of then as being innocent. Look at verse 7 of chapter 3:

Genesis 3:

7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

The condition of innocence came to an end. Because of the inferences of these verses which I have emphasized, this dispensation is called the Dispensation of Innocence . Some people prefer to call it the Dispensation of Eden because the locale of most of these activities was in the Garden of Eden as we read in God's Word.

Outline For The Study

Since we are going to be discussing seven dispensations, I think it would be wise for us to fix a basic skeleton outline in our minds so that we will be able, by comparison and contrast, to have this information clearly settled in our minds. So may I suggest to you that in each one of the dispensations, we will consider first the chief character or characters in the dispensation. Then we will consider the circumstances or the climate of the dispensation. Then we will consider the covenant or the agreement under which man was to serve during the dispensation. Then we will consider the course which the dispensation took. Then we will consider the covenant or the agreement under which man was to serve during the dispensation. Then we will consider the course which the dispensation took. Then we will consider the consequence which was suffered in the disobedience of man, because we may as well anticipate ourselves and recognize that every one of these dispensations ended in the failure of man. And the last thing we will consider—and thank God we will be able to—is the compassion of God. You will always see the failure of man accompanied by the compassion of God.

Adam - The Chief Character

I suggest to you that the chief character of this Dispensation of Innocence is Adam. If you will look at verse 8 of Genesis, chapter 2, it will be brought to our attention because there we read:

Genesis 2:

8And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Then in verse 15:

Genesis 2:

15And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

You may say, “I do not see Adam mentioned by name in any of those verses” You do not in our English text. But if you were reading this in Hebrew, you would, because you would find that the word which is translated by our English word man is a translation of a Hebrew word which is translated “Adam.” In these early chapters in the book of Genesis, when you see the word Adam , realize that it comes from the Hebrew word and can just as easily be read man . When you see the word man , realize that it comes from the Hebrew word and can be read Adam if you care to.

Adam Bears The Responsibility

Since Adam was the first man and what theologians refer to as the federal head of the human race, it was not only Adam who was the chief character but the entire human race which he represented. Yet Adam was the federal head of the human race and was thus responsible, as the chief character in this dispensation, for the way that it went.

If you have any doubt about that, turn with me, please, to Paul's first letter to Timothy and recognize that God makes a very distinct difference between the sin of Adam and the sin of Eve during their sojourn in the Garden of Eden. The first epistle of Timothy, chapter 2, verse 11:

I Timothy 2:

11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Notice carefully now:

I Timothy 2:

13For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
15Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

We will not attempt to answer all the questions that may arise in your minds about this passage of Scripture. They have been answered at other times. We have called it to your attention to emphasize that God makes the distinction. He says Eve was deceived in what she did, but Adam deliberately did what he did. Eve was deceived, and in being deceived, did not bear the responsibility that Adam bore. But Adam, with eyes wide open, deliberately disobeyed the revealed will of God. May I remind you that there is no way to escape the conclusion that Adam, individually and as federal head of the human race, is the chief character in this dispensation.

Climate Of First Dispensation

Let us consider for a moment the circumstances, or the climate, in which this dispensation was lived. Refresh your memories as to what we read concerning a perfect earth described in Genesis, chapter 1, the paragraph which begins with verse 29 and concludes with verse 31. The earth was so perfect that God could look upon it and say, “It is very good; there is no improvement I can make.” This is the atmosphere in which this dispensation was to be lived.

As though God would make it even easier still, He built a garden eastward in Eden and He put Adam in this garden. This garden was a very fertile place, as you remember reading in the text. Everything that was needed was there—trees that were pleasant, trees that were to be enjoyed, herbs, everything was there as man would need it.

As a matter of fact, the name of the garden indicates what kind of place it was, because the word Eden in the Hebrew means “delight.” This is a transliterated word, like the word Adam . So it was a garden of delights. It was indeed a paradise, and God placed man in this sort of climate under perfect environment in order that He might see what man would do.

The Edenic Covenant

Remember, this dispensation, as every other, is a testing time. If there is a test, there must be a basis for the test, and that's the reason we consider the covenant which is related to this dispensation. You might be reminded that there are eight such covenants in the Word of God—four of them made with individuals, the rest of them made with groups of people. All of them, with the exception of one, were fulfilled within the lifetime of the man or the group with whom they were made.

This particular covenant is referred to by Bible scholars as the Edenic Covenant because it was related to the Garden of Eden. It laid down the conditions under which man was to live in this paradise created at the hand of God.

Let me refresh your minds by reminding you that the word covenant is not used in relation to any dispensation until you come to the third dispensation. But there is a covenant related to this dispensation, because a covenant is an agreement between two individuals. God's covenants always originate with Him. They are of two kinds—conditional and unconditional. In a conditional covenant, God gives a command accompanied by a promise of blessing if the conditions are net and a warning of punishment if the conditions are not met. In an unconditional covenant, God gives a promise of blessing, and He fulfils that blessing, no matter what anyone says or does because that kind of covenant hinges upon God and His Word.

Details Of The Covenant

Look, please, at Genesis, chapter 2, noticing verses 15-17:

Genesis 2:

15And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This is the Edenic Covenant. This is the agreement that God made with Adam. Let us notice briefly the details of which this covenant is made. The first thing is that God told Adam that he should dress the garden. That is, he should care for it as any gardener might care for a garden or for an orchard with the exception that it was not a task; it was a privilege. For remember, there were no weeds in the Garden of Eden; there were no thorns; there was no hard ground; there were no insects for which he had to spray. It was a blessing to care for this which God had given. I suppose that he had no particular problem therein.

God told him not only to dress the garden but to keep it. And the word keep is a translation of a Hebrew word which means “to guard.” “Guard this garden, Adam.” We do not have any record in the Scriptures that God told him that which he was to guard. He may have, but it is not recorded in the Scriptures. The only thing recorded is that Adam should dress the garden and that he should guard it against invading forces.

God knew that sin was in the world. Adam was unconscious of that sin. God knew that the enemy of His complete plan for His eternal glory was abroad in the atmosphere, but Adam did not know it. The only hint he might have had was in this injunction. “Guard the garden; keep it; build a hedge about it. Keep out that which may enter in.” And because nothing is recorded in the Word in detail about it, we will leave it right there. Though Adam had no problem dressing the garden, he did have a problem, as we shall see, in guarding the garden. And there lay his failure.

The third condition of the covenant is: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Adam could eat of all them. How many there were we don't know. Keep in mind that this was a luxurious place; it was a paradise; everything Adam needed was there. God said, “One tree you can't eat of.”

Some individuals suggest that here human nature showed its true colors, that God said that man could have everything but this one thing, and man said, “I want it.” I do not think that is how is happened at all, because man was in a state of innocence. He did not know that it was better to have some things, supposedly that were forbidden, than it was to have things that were granted. That is a sign of the fallen nature. Adam was not as yet fallen. I say that the place he failed was in guarding the garden, because you know the story of the Fall.

Course Of The Dispensation

That leads us to suggest that we notice the course of this dispensation. How long Adam and Eve stayed in the Garden of Eden before the serpent had his conversation with them that brought about their downfall, we don't know. The Bible does not say. But I do not believe that the conversation which Eve had with the serpent was the first conversation she had had. I am sure that he had been there many times, and I am sure that he had carried on many conversations, and that's where Adam failed. He failed to guard the garden against the inroads of the serpent whom we know was occupied by Satan, the eternal enemy of God. And you will remember that Satan caused Eve to doubt the Word of God, awakened within her a desire for something that she did not need, and caused her to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I don't know whether it was an apple or peach; no one knows what kind of fruit it was, but she ate of the fruit. When she did she had disobeyed God, and the consequence of the dispensation became operative immediately.

Adam Not Deceived

Eve told Adam what she had done, and Adam realized that God meant what He said. Adam knew that the moment that Eve had partaken of the fruit, she was in a dying state, and since he did not want to live without her, he ate of the fruit of the tree. He was not deceived; he knew what he was doing. He deliberately and willfully disobeyed God because he put a higher value on the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh than he did upon the God who made him and they bore the consequences.

Consequence Of Disobedience

And that is the next word we want to consider in this dispensation. The consequence is told in the story of their being cursed. God cursed the ground, and He cursed the human race with eternal separation from Him. Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and they began their march to eternal death. May I remind you that when Adam was cursed, we were cursed also. Every individual born into the world is born in the image of Adam, under the sentence of death.

The Sentence Of Death

If we had to stop our discussion here and leave you with only the emphasis upon the consequence, we would be sad and distressed because there would be no hope. God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Oh, the fact that man had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow is inconsequential in relation to this basic thing. “If you eat of the tree, thou shalt surely die.” A very literal rendering is, “in dying, thou shalt die.”

God did not mean, as subsequent events proved, that Adam would drop dead the moment the fruit was in his mouth. But He did mean that the sentence of death would be set in force, and there would be no way to escape it. When you have time, read chapter 5 of the book of Romans and you will discover that, because of Adam's sin, we are under the same sentence of death. I say that if this is the place where we would have to stop our discussion, we would be discouraged. But remember what I said in the very beginning of our discussion. In relation to every consequence of sin which man must bear, there is the related compassion of God.

God Exercises Compassion

I want you to think with me about that compassion, for this dispensation ended in failure. God had to exercise His compassion and His mercy. Noice again, please, in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis, verse 15, God says:

Genesis 3:

15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

You will recall that these words were addressed to Satan. God said to Satan, “There is going to be born into the world the seed of the woman and the seed of the woman will have ultimate victory over you and your seed.” Genesis, chapter 3, verse 15, is where the bloodline begins that winds up at the Cross. It is a promise that, though men sinned and became the recipients of the death sentence, the Lord Jesus Christ was promised Who would bear that death sentence in His own body. Look at verse 21:

Genesis 3:

21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

That's a simple little verse. You might read over it hurriedly without catching the full meaning of it. But God had made a promise. That promise was that there would be a sacrifice from sin, and so He drew the first picture of that sacrifice. Adam and Eve, divested of their clothing of God's glory, had tried to make something to cover their own nakedness. They made that covering out of fig leaves and that would soon wither away and die, and their nakedness would be exposed even more. Since that day, men without God have been trying to provide some means or other which will cover their own nakedness, and all the efforts of man have failed.

God's Provision

But God made provision. What did He do? He didn't take leaves off the tree, because that wouldn't have been a perfect picture. He took some animals—lambs in all probability because that's the figure of speech that He was pleased to use in subsequent stories—and He slew them, and He took their skins and covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. In this is a story of God's eternal compassion, because man, in his nakedness and condemned state, needs a substitute to take his place, needs blood tor cleansing, and needs a clothing of righteousness. All of it is provided in this one simple little illustration, in this one verse in the early part of the book of Genesis.

Driven From The Garden

There is one other thing I would like to say to you about God's compassion. In verse 22, we read:

Genesis 3:

22And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

You might be inclined to think that this was selfish of God. He had already punished them enough. He put them out of the Garden of Eden. Why did He do this? Because God knew that if man worked his way back into the Garden of Eden ad ate of the Tree of Life, he would live forever in his fallen state. Nothing could be any worse than that. If you doubt that, take another look at your body. Your body is the result of Adam's sin. That's the reason you become ill. That's the reason you have pain. That's the reason you have suffering. Do you want to live forever that way? I can think of no greater sentence than to be sentenced to live in this body forever and ever and ever. Had man eaten of the Tree of Life, that would have been the sentence upon the human race. God, in His compassion, put cherubim at the east gate of the Garden of Eden and said, “Don't let man back in! We don't want him to be this way forever. We want him to be changed.” God's compassion over-balanced and blotted out the consequence of man's disobedience.


The Dispensation of Innocence which began so marvelously came to a sad and bitter end. For what reason? To prove that no one, regardless of how innocent he thinks he is, regardless of the perfect environment in which he may live, can live right in his own strength. It's an utter impossibility. You need Christ, living His life through you, if you are going to be well-pleasing to God.

The Dispensation of Innocence was arranged in the wisdom of God that even innocents—babies if you please—need a Savior, because there is nothing good about men. Don't jump to a conclusion when I make that remark and suggest that there are babies in Hell. God has made provision for them in the blood of His Son. But, Beloved, don't think that you have to sin a whole lot before you need a Savior. Adam and Eve needed help with one mis-step, and so do we.

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