The “vertical and the horizontal of the cross” is a helpful way of defining justification and sanctification. It’s a symbolic way to explain our relationship with God and our relationship with man. It’s a way to differentiate between what God has done for us and what we can do for Him.
The cross is constructed of two beams. The upright beam is placed in the ground and extends from the ground to the sky. It points to Heaven and can be thought of as representing God’s work in justifying us and our relationship with Him. It’s up and down, reflecting the cardinal directions of north and south.
The horizontal beam, which is supported by the upright beam, stretches from east to west. It can be thought of as representing the sanctification God works in us after we are justified and the relationship we have with our fellow man.
Another Way to “See” the Vertical and Horizontal
(excerpt from Remember Me – A Course in Rightly Remembering, by Shari Abbott)
It’s interesting to note that the first three of the Ten Commandments pertain to our relationship with God. The last six are about our relationship with our fellow man. So where does the fourth commandment fit in?
The fourth commandment, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy is the one that binds the others together. It is the commandment to rest in God and to find our satisfaction and peace in Him alone.
In His earthly incarnation, Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments with two Great Commandments:
Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The first three of the Ten Commandments are summarized in Jesus’ first and great commandment to love God. Those three commandments are about our vertical relationship with God.
The last six of the Ten Commandments are summarized in Jesus’ second commandment to love our neighbors. Those commandments are about our horizontal relationship with others.
Jesus clearly proclaimed that His Law is all about love—loving God first and then loving our neighbors. But what about the fourth commandment?
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Ex 20:8)
Jesus is our rest. He fulfills the fourth commandment as our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4). And His Law is love (John 13:34, James 2:8).
We are to abide in Christ and allow His love and His Spirit to work in and through us, and direct and guide us.
- Abiding in Christ is our source of peace, comfort, and strength. (vertical — gifts given to us by God)
- Abiding in Christ fuels us with His love and enables us to love others. (horizontal — gifts/service we can give to others)
Live your life in the light of what Jesus has done for you. Be anchored in Him. Rejoice in who you are in Him. Find your rest in Jesus and remember that the law we live by is His Law of Love — Love for God (vertical, 1 John 4:19) and love for our neighbors (horizontal, Rom 13:10).
The Royal Law
John 13:34-5 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The love we give to others, in our horizontal relationships, flows from the love we have received in our vertical relationship.
1 John 4:19 We love him because he first loved us.
Loving our neighbors is fulfilling the Royal Law.
James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.
Abide in Christ. Allow His love and His Spirit to work in and through you, to direct and guide you, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, keep the Royal Law. Understand that God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does! Until Jesus returns for us, or until we die and go to be with Him, show His love by loving and serving others.
Find Sabbath Rest in Jesus
It’s easy for us to focus on the horizontal. The world calls loudly and the flesh desires that which is worldly. Always remember to focus on the vertical, first and foremost. Only by seeking God first (the vertical) can we receive strength for the day, joy for life’s journey, and rest for the soul.
Isa 30:15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…
Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Heb 4:9-11 There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
When thinking of the cross, the best way to remember the vertical and horizontal is:
“It is Finished” (vertical).
It’s new every morning (horizontal).
***Lent: 40 Titles for 40 Days (Download NOW: 40 Titles for Lenten Devotions)
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