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VERSE 1. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the
very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
$1. A general distribution of the chapter. $2. The subject spoken of. $3, 4.
(L.) What is granted to the law, 55--8. What is denied it. $9. (II.) Observations.
HERE are two parts of this chapter; the first concerneth the necessity and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, ver. 1—20; the other is an improvement of the doctrine for faith, obedience, and perseverance, ver. 20_39.
$2. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come.” The subject spoken of is (o vopos, 17796) the law, that is, the sacrifices of the law, especially those which were offered annually by a perpetual statute, as the words immediately following declare; but he refers what he speaks of to the law it self, as that whereby these sacrifices were instituted, and upon which depended all their virtue and efficacy: and the law here is the covenant which God made with the people at Sinai, with all the constitutions of worship belonging to it; the first testament, as it was the spring of all their religious privileges, chap. vii, ix. Concerning this law, or covenant, the apostle declares two things:-- Positively, and by way of concession, “it had a shadow of good things to come:”- Negatively, that
“it had not the very image of the things themselves;" which we must consider together, because they mutually illustrate each other.
$3. (I.) “For the law having a shadow,” &c. These expressions are metaphorical, and have therefore given occasion to various conjectures about the nature of the allusions, and their application to the present subject. Both what is called a shadow.” and “the very image,” have respect to the “good things to come;" wherefore the true notion of what these "good things to come,” are, will determine what it is to have a shadow of them,” and “not the very image of the things themselves.” The good things intended must be Christ himself, with all the grace, mercy, and privileges, which the church receiveth by his actual coming in the flesh, and the discharge of his office; for he himself, principally and evidently, was the subject of all promises; and whatever else is contained in them is but that whereof, in his person, office, and grace, he is the author and cause: hence he was signally termed (ó epZouevos) he who was to come; "art thou he who is to come?” 1 John iv, 3. And these things are called (Tu ayd0z) the good things—because they are absolutely so without any mixture. Nothing is good, either in itself, or unto us, but what is made so by Christ and his grace; they are the means of our deliverance from all the evil things which we had brought upon ourselves by our apostasy from God.
$4. These being evidently `the "good things” intended, the relation of the law to them, that it had the shadow, but not the very image of them, will also be apparent. He declares his inter tion in another parallel place, where, speaking of the same things, and using some of the same words, their sense is plain and determined; Col. ii, 17, “They are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” For it is the
laro, with its ordinances and institutions of worship, concerning which the apostle there discourseth. Now the “shadow” there intended, from whence the allusion is taken, is the shadow of a body in the light or sunshine, as the antithesis requires; “but the body is of Christ.” Now such a shadow is a representation of the body; which follows it in all its variations, and is inseparable from it. It is a just representation of the body (if properly situated, and without any accidental hindrance) as to its proportion and dimensions, The shadow of any body represents that certain individual body, and nothing else. Yet it is but an obscure representation of the body; for the vigor and spirit (the chief excellencies of a living body) are not represented by it. Thus it is with the law, or the covenant of Sinai, and all the ordinances of worship wherewith it was attended, with respect to these good things to come. The opposition which the apostle here makes is not between the law and the gospel, but between the sacrifices of the law and the sacrifice of Christ himself; want of this observation hath given us mistaken interpretations of the place. The law (EXww) having it; it was inlaid in it; it was of the substance and nature of it; it contained it in all that it prescribed or appointed; some of it in one part, some in another, the whole in the whole. It had the whole shadow, and the whole of it was this shadow; and because they are no more now a shadow of Christ and what belongs to him as absent, they are absolutely dead and useless,
$5. (II.) This being granted to the law, what is denied of it is added, in which consists the apostle's argument; it “had not the very image of the things;"> the (πραγμαλα) things are the same with the (τα αγαθα predovic) good things to come before mentioned. The negation here is of the same subject as the concession was before; the grant being in one sense and trucnial in another. It had not (@ulyv Tuy encve ipsissimilini rerum imaginem) the very image is self; that is, it had not the things themselves; for he proves that the law, with all its sacrifices, could not take away sin, nor perfect the church, because it had not this image, or the things themselves; so the Syriac translation (ipsam rem, or ipsam substantiam) the substance itself, in which seuse the Greek word (Elaww) is frequently used in the New Testament; Rom. i, 23, The image of the man is the man himself.
This therefore is what the apostle denies concerning the law; it had not the actual accomplishment of the promise of good things; it had not Christ exhibited in the flesh; it had not the true real sacrifice of the perfect expiation. It represented these things, it was a shadow of them; but enjoyed not, exhibited not the things themselves. Hence was its imperfection and weakness, so that by none of its sacrifices could it make the church perfect.
86. "Can never with these sacrifices, which they off-r year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect;” (EIS TO Soyveres, in perpetuum) continually, or for ever, that is, while those ordinances of worship were in force.
But neither the proper signification of the word, nor the use of it in this epistle, will allow it in this place to belong to the sentence going before. It is of the same signification with (EIÇ TO Fevlemes, chap. vii, 25,) for ever, to the uttermost, perfectly. What is affirmed of Christ and his sacrifice, ver. 12, 14, of this chapter, is here denied of the law; the words therefore should be joined with those that follow; “the law by its sacrifices could not perfect for ever, or to the utmost, the comers thereunto.”