Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A Shadow of Better Things


By David R. Ferguson

    The Hebrews writer tells us in Hebrews 10:1-4 [RSV], 1. For since the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. 2. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. 3. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. According to the dictionary, a shadow is a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light; a hint or faint, indistinct image or idea; a mere semblance of something else. All these very much describe the Old Testament and the Law of Moses with all its types and prophecies, all of which found their fulfillment in Christ. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, 17. “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18. For truly, I say to you, till Heaven and Earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18 [RSV]) As “the Light of the world” (John 8:12 [RSV], Jesus illuminates our minds as no other. Nowhere is this found as aptly as it did in Luke 24 following His glorious resurrection. Appearing to two downtrodden, gloomy disciples on the road to Emmaus who were grieving and sorrowful over the death of their Master, Jesus said to them, 25. “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27. And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:25-27 [RSV]).

    Since Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the Law and the prophets, why would anyone choose to return to the bondage of sin and the requirements of the Law? This was a question which greatly puzzled the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the churches of Galatia, saying, 1. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3. Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3 [RSV]) He went on to tell those who wished to bind circumcision on those who were at liberty in Christ, 3. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole Law. 4. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the Law; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:3-4 [RSV]) Why would Paul make such a harsh statement? He answers this question himself in the next two verses: 5. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. 6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5-6 [RSV])

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or

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