Cruciform Bible Reading

Vaughn Roberts describes the important horizontal and vertical dimensions of Bible reading.  Together these dimensions take the shape of the cross.  Perhaps we could call it “cruciform Bible reading.” Roberts explains:

“Try to remember two dimensions when you read any passage in the Bible:  the historical and the relational.

Horizontal Bible Reading

Ask yourself: ‘Where are we in the Bible’s storyline? Where have we come from and where are we heading?  Which chapter are we in: partial, prophesied, present or proclaimed?’  If you are looking at a passage in the Old Testament you will need to consider, ‘How is this fulfilled in Christ?’ We cannot look at King David in 2 Samuel, for instance, without considering how his kingship point to the perfect king, Jesus.  And if you are in the New Testament you may need to ask, ‘How does this fulfill what has gone before?’

This book was written to help you answer those questions.  I hope it makes you feel that you now have a map in your head that gives you the big picture.  The result should be that, wherever you land in the Bible, you can find your way around and know where you are in the overall story of God’s unfolding plan to save the world through Christ.

But that historical dimension is not the only dimension we should consider when we read the Bible.

Vertical Bible Reading

In our desire to take seriously the horizontal, chronological element in the Bible, we must not forget the vertical [a diagram shows a vertical line drawn connecting “God” at the top of the page to “Human Beings” at the bottom of the page].  For example, the message of an Old Testament passage does not simply consist in its fulfillment in Christ.  It will also have something to say about God and our relationship with him. God is the hero of the Bible from beginning to end, and he never changes.  So we must always ask, ‘What does this passage tell me about him?’ He is the same God in both the Old Testament and the New: holy, just, loving and sovereign…

We need to let each Old Testament passage speak in its own right before we consider how it points to Christ.  It will have something to tell us about God, and it may have much to say about our relationship with him…David’s experience of the living God challenges us to examine our own.  Do we love God and worship him as David did?…

Let us make sure that we do not make the mistake of the Pharisees, who diligently studied the Scriptures and yet refused to come to Jesus to have life (John 5:39-40).  As we learn about Christ from the whole Bible, let us determine to love, honour, worship and obey him.

~ Vaughn Roberts in God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, pp. 154-156.  [The horizontal and vertical bold headings are mine.]

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