As one reads through the Scriptures with this definition in mind, he will note the revelation from God to man which specifies man’s new responsibility. The new revelation explains the differences and apparent contradictions. Thus, as one reads, he keeps in mind the following questions: 1) What is the means by which God is managing the affairs of men on earth? and 2) What is man’s responsibility at this time?
Some dispensationalists also hold that each dispensation includes a test for man, a failure, and a judgment. They develop this from reading too much of the common usage of the word dispensation into the theological meaning of the word. Then they look for these three in every dispensation, and they are hard pressed to find them in most cases. Ryrie mentions these as secondary characteristics, and then he adds, “If there were no decisive test there still could be a dispensational arrangement. If there were no climactic failure and judgment, there still could be a change in the dispensational arrangement.” Therefore, this author does not hold these as vital to the description of a dispensation. On the contrary, they are dangerous.
In summary, a dispensation is God’s way of managing the affairs of men on earth. This definition, then, leads to the following description. Each dispensation includes communication from God to man as to man’s responsibilities. These responsibilities change from dispensation to dispensation. In many cases, the Scriptures contain God’s specific revelation to mankind, such as Gen. 9:1-7. In other cases, the reader finds evidence that God communicated the changes to man, even though the exact words are not recorded.