Substance, not Shadows, under Grace
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…Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Hebrews 10:1 and Colossians 2:16-17)
Another superior aspect of grace is seen in the difference between a shadow and the substance that casts a shadow. Shadows supply various benefits, but they have critical limitations. Shadows can provide a visible outline of an actual reality, but they cannot supply what is inherent to the reality. Also, shadows can give indication of an approaching person, but they cannot provide a relationship with that person. The old covenant of law is likened unto a shadow: "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come." The new covenant of grace (God's sufficient resources freely available in Christ) is the substance. "The substance is of Christ."
One of the shadow-like characteristics of the law was contained in its sacrifices. "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." Christ would perfectly fulfill all that those ancient sacrifices represented, while making all of their desired benefits available to those who would believe in Him. The Passover lamb is a clear example of this truth. "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb…For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you" (Exodus 12:21, 23). This shadow of temporal deliverance becomes substance of permanent deliverance in Christ, who delivers us from eternal judgment. "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Another shadow-like characteristic of the law can be seen in its righteous commands. Whatever the law demands is related to holiness, to righteousness. "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). This call to righteousness can only become a substantial reality through the Lord Jesus Christ: "that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:8-9).
Lord Jesus, You are all of the good things to come that were foreshadowed in the law. Help me to avoid being caught up in the shadows of the law. May Your Spirit draw me to the unlimited spiritual substance that is found in You alone, Amen.