Hebrews 10:1

Friday, 18 January 2019

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. Hebrews 10:1

Chapter 10 continues with the idea of the sacrifices found under the Mosaic Law which have been contrasted to the more perfect sacrifice of Christ in fulfillment of the Old Covenant, and which then introduced the New. The author will now explain the deficiency which is found in the law (meaning the Mosaic Law) beginning with, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come.”

Here we have two ideas which have already been stated separately, and which are now brought into one verse. The first is the “shadow” of the law in distinction to the reality found in the New Covenant. That was stated in verse 8:5, where the author said, “who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” The second speaks of “the good things to come.” That was seen in verse 9:11, which said, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come.”

This “shadow of the good things to come” is then explained as being “not the very image of the things.” What Moses was told to construct, and what was then used by the people for their religious rites, was a shadowy reflection of that which is found in the coming Messiah. The Greek word, translated as “image” here, gives the sense of a representation, just as a statue represents the person who is being emulated. What was found in the sanctuary of Israel was only a shadow of such an image; nothing more than a vague representation of the reality found in Christ. Because of this, the author continues by saying that it “can never with these same sacrifices.”

Here it speaks of the sacrifices referred to in verses 9:12, 13, meaning the blood of calves and bulls and goats, as well as the ashes of a heifer. These, along with any other sacrifices mandated under the law, were offered to God, but they were only shadows given in anticipation of the time Jesus would come and fulfill what they only anticipated. Because of this, they were repeatedly made. As the author continues to say about them, the people would continually offer them, year by year.

What he is doing is demonstrating that because of their being continually offered, they actually accomplished nothing. If they did accomplish something, the people would be cleansed, purified, and perfected, but they weren’t. This is evident in his final words of the verse. He says that they can never “make those who approach perfect.” How he comes to this conclusion is obvious, but it won’t be revealed until the next two verses are given. For now, he simply takes it as an axiom that the sacrifices were wholly ineffectual in doing anything other than typifying Christ Jesus and His more perfect sacrifice.

If this is true, and it is, then this means that the entire system of the Mosaic law is also ineffectual in bringing people to a state of true holiness. If the sacrifices which were mandated for violation of the law couldn’t purify the people, and all people under the law were required to observe them, then –

1) They could not have been perfect before their observance. If they were, they would not have been required to observe them for their atonement.
2) As they did not perfect them after they were made, then they were ineffectual in doing what they were given to do. Thus,
3) In order for those under the law to be perfected, the institution of a New Covenant with a more perfect Sacrifice must be necessary. And therefore,
4) If a such a New Covenant is introduced, the Old Covenant, by default, must become obsolete for those who are brought into the New Covenant.

Life application: The author is, once again, demonstrating the utter folly of going back to observance of the Mosaic Law in any way, shape, or form. It was an ineffective system which could never perfect anyone. As perfection of the individual can (and does) come through Christ, then who in their right mind would come to Christ and then return to those things which were made obsolete by Christ? Come to Christ, rest in Christ, and continue to rest in Christ forever. Be done with those things which can never bring us closer to God.

Yes, Lord God! We are ever so grateful for what you have done on our behalf. We are made perfect, not through repetitive sacrifices and law observance, but through Your mighty work, accomplished on our behalf through Christ Jesus. To You we cry out, “Hallelujah!” Amen.

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