World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
9. Which was a figure, etc. The word παραθολὴ, used here, signifies, as I think, the same thing with ἀντίτυπος, antitype; for he means that that tabernacle was a second pattern which corresponded with the first. For the portrait of a man ought to be so like the man himself, that when seen, it ought immediately to remind us of him whom it represents. He says further, that it was a figure, or likeness, for the time then present, that is, as long as the external observance was in force; and he says this in order to confine its use and duration to the time of the Law; for it means the same with what he afterwards adds, that all the ceremonies were imposed until the time of reformation; nor is it any objection that he uses the present tense in saying, gifts are offered; for as he had to do with the Jews, he speaks by way of concession, as though he were one of those who sacrificed. Gifts and sacrifices differ, as the first is a general term, and the other is particular.
That could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; that is, they did not reach the soul so as to confer true holiness. I do not reject the words, make perfect, and yet I prefer the term sanctify, as being more suitable to the context. But that readers may better understand the meaning of the Apostle, let the contrast between the flesh and the conscience be noticed; he denies that worshippers could be spiritually and inwardly cleansed by the sacrifices of the Law. It is added as a reason, that all these rites were of the flesh or carnal. What then does he allow them to be? It is commonly supposed, that they were useful only as means of training to men, conducive to virtue and decorum. But they who thus think do not sufficiently consider the promises which are added. This gloss, therefore, ought to be wholly repudiated. Absurdly and ignorantly too do they interpret the ordinances of the flesh, as being such as cleansed or sanctified only the body; for the Apostle understands by these words that they were earthly symbols, which did not reach the soul; for though they were true testimonies of perfect holiness, yet they by no means contained it in themselves, nor could they convey it to men; for the faithful were by such helps led, as it were, by the hand to Christ, that they might obtain from him what was wanting in the symbols.
Were any one to ask why the Apostle speaks with so little respect and even with contempt of Sacraments divinely instituted, and extenuates their efficacy? This he does, because he separates them from Christ; and we know that when viewed in themselves they are but beggarly elements, as Paul calls them. (Galatians 4:9.)