Before Jesus left for Calvary, He encouraged His fearful disciples with these words –
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jn 14:26)
While this passage is one that uniquely applied to the disciples, it is applicable in principle to all believers. Indeed, the principle in John 14:26 begs the question “How can the Spirit bring to mind Scriptures that we have not previously stored in our mind?”
As John Butler says “The principle for believers is that the Holy Spirit helps us to remember Scripture and spiritual lessons. When a verse pops into the mind when teaching, preaching, studying or pondering a decision of some sort—it is not your memory that is bringing that text to your mind, but it is the prompting of the Holy Spirit that is doing it. However, for the Holy Spirit to prompt your memory, you must have previously stored the Scripture in your memory. The Holy Spirit is like the recall button on a calculator—if you do not put anything in memory in the calculator, the recall button will not bring up any information.” (Analytical Bible Expositor: John)
Beloved, let me encourage you to have a healthy spiritual diet and to daily “eat” His Word as if your very (spiritual) life depended on it, because it does! (Mt 4:4, Job 23:12–note, Jer 15:16–note, Ps 119:109–note, etc).
God’s instructions to Joshua preparatory to entering the promised land to fight the good fight of faith in order to possess his promised possessions remains a proven “formula for spiritual success” for saints today who like Joshua have been set apart that we might become experiential possessors of our positional possession of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your wayprosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8–note)
The best thing.
In the best place.
With the best of results.
David, a man after God’s own heart writes…
The law of his God is in his heart. His steps do not slip (Psalm 37:31)
Spurgeon comments: “The best thing in the best place, producing the best results. Well might the man’s talk be so admirable when his heart was so well stored. To love holiness, to have the motives and desires sanctified, to be in one’s inmost nature obedient to the Lord — this is the surest method of making the whole run of our life efficient for its great ends, and even for securing the details of it, our steps from any serious mistake. To keep the even tenor of one’s way, in such times as these, is given only to those whose hearts are sound towards God, who can, as in the text, call God their God. Policy slips and trips, it twists and tacks, and after all is worsted in the long run, but sincerity plods on its plain pathway and reaches the goal.”
John Trapp commenting on the phrase “The law of his God is in his heart” in Ps 37:31 adds: “He hath a Bible in his head, and another in his heart; he hath a good treasure within, and there hence bringeth good things.”
How sweet are Thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth (Psalm 119:103, cp Ps 19:10)!
Spurgeon comments: He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear. God’s words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call “the word”: David (Ed: The author of Ps 119 is not known for certain although many think it was David) loved them each one, individually, and the whole of them as a whole; he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness, but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, “How sweet!” Being God’s words they were divinely sweet to God’s servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it. David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God’s words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take. (Amen!)
Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth. When he did not only eat but also speak the Word (Ed: Which is one of the advantages of memorizing it!), by instructing others, he felt an increased delight in it. The sweetest of all temporal things fall short of the infinite deliciousness of the eternal word. When the psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but when he bore witness of it, it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on our part to keep the word on our palate (Ed: How better than by treasuring it in our heart! cp Mt 12:34, Lk 6:45) by meditation and on our tongue by confession. It must be sweet to our taste when we think of it, or it will not be Sweet to our mouth when we talk of it.
They (God’s Words = Ps 19:7, 8, 9–note) are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Spurgeon Comments: More to be desired are they than fine gold, yea, than much fine gold. Bible truth is enriching to the soul in the highest degree; the metaphor is one which gathers force as it is brought out; — gold — fine gold — much fine gold; it is good, better, best, and therefore it is not only to be desired with a miser’s avidity, but with more than that. As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth?
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Trapp says, “Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here’s gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here’s honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb.” The pleasures arising from a right understanding of the divine testimonies are of the most delightful order; earthly enjoyments are utterly contemptible, if compared with them. The sweetest joys, yea, the sweetest of the sweetest falls to his portion who has God’s truth to be his heritage….The inexpressible delights of meditation on Scripture.
Thomas Watson comments: Love the word written. Ps 119:97 (read Spurgeon’s note, especially his comments on “Meditation”). “Oh, how love I thy law!” “Lord,” said Augustine, “let the holy Scriptures be my chaste delight.” Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden, every truth is a fragrant flower, which we should wear, not on our bosom, but in our heart. David counted the word “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” There is that in Scripture which may breed delight. It shows us the way to riches: Dt 28:5 Pr 3:10; to long life: Ps 34:12–note; to a kingdom: He 12:28. Well, then, may we count those the sweetest hours which are spent in reading the holy Scriptures; well may we say with the prophet (Je 15:16), “Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”
Aldous Huxley (who was interested in the supernatural but was not a believer) made a statement that relates to Scripture memorization when he declared that “Each man’s memory is his private literature.” (Interesting thought!)
Isaac Watts – Without memory the soul of man would be a poor, destitute, naked being, with an everlasting blank spread over it, except the fleeting ideas of the present moment.
William Evans – It has been said that “all other abilities of the mind borrow from memory their beauty and perfection.” In a very real sense it is true that all other faculties of the soul are useless without memory. Of what profit is all our wisdom, our reading, our study if we are unable to preserve the knowledge we have acquired? Of what benefit to us are all the intellectual attainments of our lives if they are lost as soon as they are obtained? Memory makes rich the mind by preserving all the results of our study and learning…Memory is the treasurer of the mind. (How to Memorize)
Rob Morgan – Think of (Bible memorization) as a shopping spree for the mind, a chance to collect and store up treasures you’ll enjoy for years (Ed: I would add for eternity!, cp 1Ti 4:7-8– note, Isa 40:8, Mt 24:35). Restoring the art of Scripture memory is crucial for us, our churches, and children. It’s vital for mental and emotional health and for spiritual well-being. Though it’s as easy as repeating words aloud, it’s as powerful as acorns dropping into furrows in the forest. It makes the Bible portable; you can take it with you everywhere without packing it in purse or briefcase. It makes Scripture accessible day and night. It allows God’s Word to sink into your brain and permeate your subconscious and even your unconscious thoughts (Ed: Illustration – think of a tea bag dipped in a cup of hot water – the more it is dipped, the greater the permeation of the water by the flavor of the tea. God’s Word is the “flavor” and our heart is the cup!). It gives you a word to say to anyone, in season and out of season. It fills your heart and home with the best thoughts ever recorded. It saturates the personality, satiates the soul, and stockpiles the mind. It changes the atmosphere of every family and alters the weather forecast of every day. It takes one minute a day, or five or ten—whatever you can devote to it. It can be done in your bath, your bed, at your desk, or in an airplane (you can’t say all that about too many things). It can be done on the go, in traffic jams, while shaving, at sunup, or before bedtime. It can be done alone, with another person, or in groups. It’s an amazingly versatile habit but also a vital one, profitable whether we’re in the nursery or in the nursing home. (100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart- Robert J. Morgan – Highly Recommended) (Also available on Wordsearch Bible software)
Free resources –
C H Spurgeon tells a story which illustrates the importance of “internalizing” the Word of God…
Now what is a diamond? Suppose it is one worth two hundred thousand pounds — and some of those I have mentioned are said to be worth more than that — yet it is nothing but a little solidified gas. This diamond may fitly represent the whole world, with all its pomp’s, and vanities, and pleasures, and glories. Puff! it’s gone into thin air; death turns; it all to gas. Set your affections on those things which time cannot destroy, which eternity cannot impair.
There is a very beautiful story connected with the “Sancy” or “De Sancy” diamond, which is said to be worth about eighty thousand pounds. It is a comparatively small stone; and if I were stupid enough to wear such ornaments, I could wear it on my finger, if set in a ring. This stone was sent on one occasion by the Baron de Sancy, to whom it belonged, to his king, who was in ‘want of cash, and had proposed getting a loan of 40,000 pounds. The diamond was to be the security; in fact, to put it plainly, it was “to be left at the pawnbroker’s.” The Baron gave the stone to a trusty servant to take to the king. The servant disappeared, and people suspected that he had gone off with the diamond; but his master declared that he knew his servant too well to believe such a thing possible.
After some time the servant’s body was found, a little way from the road: he had been murdered and robbed. The Baron commanded that his clothes should be carefully searched for the missing diamond; but it could not be. found. He then ordered that he should be cut open, and the diamond was found in his body. He had swallowed the gem, which he had been unable in any other way to conceal from the robbers.
We should carry the truth of God within ourselves, in our hearts; so that if we were dissected, there would be found the truth of God in our innermost being. You remember that the Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Ps 119:11) (What the Stones Say)
Do you have difficulty memorizing Scripture? You are not alone. The most common reasons I hear for not memorizing Scripture are “Bible verses are for the children” or “I don’t have a good memory” or “I’m too old to memorize” and probably the most honest “It’s too much work and to tell you the truth I’m just too lazy!” But considering the advantages of memorization and meditation gleaned from just the two verses quoted above should be reason enough to motivate every believer to seriously consider (or re-consider) Scripture memorization as an integral part of disciplining (gymnazo – what does this sound like? what does it say about “spiritual discipline? Will it be a “no brainer”? Obviously not.) ourselves
“for the purpose of godliness” which “is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7, 8–notes).
As an aside note that Paul is not giving Timothy [or us] a suggestion but is commanding [Present imperative] that spiritual discipline be an integral component of one’s lifestyle, one’s daily delight! Be careful! Don’t fall into the subtle trap of legalism! Memorizing God’s Word is to be our our delight, not our dread, not our drudgery! All of God’s commandments come pre-packaged with all necessary components because His commandment always includes His enablement. The only way redeemed but still fallen men and women can keep the command continually (which is what the present tense calls for) is by continual yielding to and dependence on the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is God’s provision of enablement for every commandment! May our Father grant each of us to continually walk in the freedom and power that found only in the Spirit of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen
If we truly believed what Paul wrote his young protégée Timothy, I think we would take the approach of the suffering saint Job who declared…
I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured (tsaphan = same Hebrew word found in Psalm 119:11 – “I have treasured [tsaphan] Thy Word…”) the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. (Job 23:12–note)
Two verses earlier Job had made the incredible (considering what transpired in his life in Job1 and Job 2!) declaration…
But He knows the way I take. When He has tried (bachan/bahan = Investigation to determine essential qualities of object – for an informative study see the 9 uses in Ps 7:9; 11:4-5; 17:3; 26:2; 66:10; 81:7; 95:9; 139:23 – note 3 synonyms in Ps 26:2, the first “examine” = bachan/bahan) me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10–note)
Here’s the question — Do you see any relationship between Job 23:10–note and Job 23:12–note? Specifically, do these verses suggest some insight into how Job was able to persevere (“You have heard of the “endurance of Job” James 5:11) in the face of incredible sufferings and afflictions? I think you see the point — the value of Scripture memorization in surviving in a cannot be overemphasized!
I hear so many serious believers say “I ought to begin memorizing Scripture” only to find out weeks or months later they never followed through. Let me encourage you. Today is the best day in your life to begin the adventure of “eating” God’s Word in Scripture memorization. You will never regret your decision to launch out into the “great adventure” that lays ahead.
For additional motivation, read through some of the articles in the next section and then in the following section consider one of the established programs to begin your journey. If you would rather not use a computerized program, I would recommend the Navigator’s Topical Memory System – TMS (see also Scripture Memory Secrets) because it won’t overwhelm you and yet is still solid food which if you practice it, will train (gumnazo) your senses…to discern (diakrisis) good and evil. (He 5:14–note).
The Bible is the language of heaven, and will not pass away (Mt 24:35), so let us enter into this spiritual discipline with delight, great joy and a sense of expectation, not out of a sense of guilt, legalism or onerous duty. We are not our own but are children and “bond-servants (doulos) of the Most High God” (In the OT the Name is El Elyon – Sovereign Over All) (Acts 16:17), who should be motivated by the love of Christ (2Cor 5:14) to have as our earnest “ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor 5:9) As with any “spiritual discipline” there is always the subtle danger of becoming pharisaical or prideful and we are ever in danger of failing prey to a subtle form of legalism.
JOHN PIPER’S TESTIMONY
RE: MEMORIZING THE WORD
At the beginning of 2009, John Piper challenged his congregation to memorize Scripture in his sermon entitled If My Words Abide in You…
(John Piper began this sermon by reciting Psalm 1, Psalm 16, Psalm 103, Romans 5:1–8, Romans 8, Matthew 6:25–34, and 1 Corinthians 13.)
The point of reciting these Scriptures is to motivate you by way of example to memorize Scripture in 2009. This message is a mingling of my testimony of the value of memorizing Scripture with Jesus’ testimony in the Gospel of John.
My testimony can be summed up in eight short sentences.
Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.
Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.
Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.
Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.
Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.
Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.
Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.
Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.
That’s my testimony. I hope it will motivate you to make your own discoveries. But what matters most is the testimony of Jesus. So focus for a few minutes with me on a phrase in John 15:7. (If My Words Abide in You)
Pastor Ray Stedman has a great discussion of the danger believers face in this area of legalism. His transcript is very good but if you have time I would recommend listening to his message as it adds inflections, etc, not possible in a written document. (Legalism – transcript or Legalism – Mp3)
The practice of Jesus Himself is ample testimony to the value of Scripture memorization. Jesus said Thus saith the Lord or God said or It is written or Have you not read that it was said 92 times! Clearly our Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and fully Man, left an example (hupogrammos) for (us) to follow in His steps (1Pe 2:21–note). As Paul commanded the saints at Ephesus we should be imitators (mimetes) of God, as belovedchildren (Ep 5:1–note)
Many years ago the village priest in Kalonovaka, Russia, took a special liking to a pug-nosed lad who recited his Scriptures with proper piety. By offering various inducements, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels, which he recited nonstop in church one day. Sixty years later he still liked to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would have horrified the old priest. The prize pupil who memorized so much of the Bible was Nikita Khrushchev, former premier of the Soviet Union! John W. Alexander, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, gives us this warning:
“There is little merit inherent in the mere process of memorizing Scripture. One could memorize voluminous portions and be an atheist. Satan memorized enough to use it to tempt Jesus…Memorizing is helpful when we yearn for Scripture to energize our whole lives….What makes the difference between superficial and beneficial Scripture memorization? I believe it is prayerful meditation. Memorization in itself may sharpen our intellectual capacities, but that’s about all. Memorization with a view to meditation helps us think straight in a crooked world. (excepted from Memorizing God’s Word)
Dr. Howard Hendricks has made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn 1000 verses word perfect before they received their degree. May his tribe increase!
Well known Bible teacher Dr. Chuck Swindoll has written:
“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.” (from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life)
Considering such indisputable benefits to one’s spiritual health, one has to wonder why there is not more emphasis on Scripture memory and meditation in the average American church. Could it be that it is still true that
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart? (Mt 13:19)
But (Jesus introduces a dramatic contrast) the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest (kalos) and good (agathos) heart (kardia), and hold it fast, and bearfruit (karpophoreo in the present tense = they have the blessing of being continually “spiritually fertile and fruitful” bearing fruit that will last throughout eternity – Jn 15:16NIV, Jn 15:5, 8) – Do miss this “once in a lifetime offer too good to refuse”! You only go around once! cp James 4:14, Jas 1:10, 11–note, 1Pe 1:24–note, Job 7:7, Ps 103:15–note) with perseverance (hupomone). (Lk 8:15).
So brothers and sisters let us persevere with great delight in this discipline of Scriptural memorization for one day we will discover the glorious truth that this was one of the most fruitful investments of our time that we could have ever made in this life.
INVEST IN A “STOCK”
THAT WILL NEVER DECLINE
AND WILL PAY DIVIDENDS FOR ETERNITY!
In my own practice of memorizing God’s Word, I have found that one of the most critical aspects (other than a constant dependence on prayer that God might graciously grant me a heart hunger to eat His Word) is frequent and systematic review of verses. I use a “multi-pronged attack” including: Typing or writing out scripture on small cards that I keep in my pocket for those times I’m stuck in elevators, long winded meetings or long lines at the super market. I also dictate the current verses I am focusing on into a mini recorder (Ipods work too) which is great for redeeming those times I get caught in traffic jams on the freeway and allows you to have several cassettes of your “favorite” verses. Most of these recording devices allow easy playback so that you can keep your eye on the road while driving. I also keep a small pocket sized Bible close at hand (car, briefcase, etc) to allow quick review of verses in context and I highlight those verses I have already memorized.
The Bible on tape/CD/Mp3 is another great modality, especially if you have a long commute time. CD versions are advantageous because they can be quickly “rewound’ to the beginning of a chapter to facilitate repetition. REMEMBER that NONE of these ideas or the resources below are of any value in memorizing the Word of God if you have not first sought the God of the Word. Otherwise all of these “tools” can be misused and potentially produce pride, pedantry and a Pharisaical attitude as alluded to earlier. The foundational keynote of “humility” is sounded by James who reminds us after
putting aside (apotithemi) all filthiness (rhuparia) and all that remains (perisseia) of wickedness (kakia), in HUMILITY (prautes KJV = “meekness” – with a meek disposition, a gentleness of spirit) receive (dechomai) the word (logos) implanted (emphutos), which is able (dunamai) to save (sozo) your souls (Jas 1:21–note, cp the attitude of a little child in Mt 18:3,4)
As someone has well said sin will keep you from the Bible or the Bible will keep you from sin. Bibles that are “falling apart” usually belong to people who are not.
THE MEMORIZED “WORD OF LIFE”
IS THERE WHEN YOU NEED IT!
Beloved, you never know when you might need to recall the memorized Word. Darlene Diebler Rose was a missionary who was captured by the Japanese in WWII and spent four years in a prison camp. Below is her testimony to the power of God’s memorized Word, which truly became to her the “Word of Life!”
As a child and young person, I had had a driving compulsion to memorize the written Word (Ed: One cannot help but believe this was the All Seeing God’s gracious providence, His Spirit giving her the desire and power to “eat” His Word, for God knew WWII was coming!). In the cell I was grateful now for those days in Vacation Bible School, when I had memorized many single verses, complete chapters, and Psalms, as well as whole books of the Bible (Ed: Are you as convicted as I am?). In the years that followed, I reviewed the Scriptures often (Ed: This is the key – review, review, review!). The Lord fed me with the Living Bread that had been stored against the day when fresh supply was cut off by the loss of my Bible. He brought daily comfort and encouragement—yes, and joy (Ed: Cp 1Thes 1:6) —to my heart through the knowledge of the Word. . . . I had never needed the Scriptures more than in these months on death row, but since so much of His Word was there in my heart, it was not the punishment the Kempeitai had anticipated when they took my Bible. (Evidence Not Seen- A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II- Darlene Deibler Rose)
One note of caution – Be careful when memorizing single verses that you do not “wrench” them out of their context, lest you give the passage a meaning (and an interpretation) God never intended. Always examine the context surrounding the verse you are memorizing or even better memorize larger sections of Scripture, including chapters or even entire books.
As Billy Graham once said…
I am convinced that one of the greatest things we can do is to memorize Scripture.
When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture? God’s Word has a cleansing effect. You must (no excuses please – I include myself here!) get into the Word so that it can get into you and can then become effective in your life, as the Spirit uses it (“the washing with water through the word” – Ep 5:26–note) to renew your mind and transform your thinking (Ro 12:2–note) so that you are enabled more and more to discern the will of God (Eph 4:14–note; He 5:14–note). The Word daily imbibed and diligently obeyed is one of the best protectors and preventatives against the polluting power of this present evil age (Gal 1:4), an age which is in the process of passing away as are even it’s evil desires (1Jn 2:17–note).
William Evans (1910) writes…
A few suggestions will be helpful here.
1. Memorize the location of the verse together with the verse. You will find it just as easy to say, “John 1:29, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” as you would if you merely said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc., omitting to state the reference.
2. Learn it. Don’t get a faint, indefinite idea. If you want to remember any text in after years, let it make a deep, clear and vivid impression on your mind the moment you learn it.
3. Read the verse over, say twenty times; close your Bible and see if you can repeat it correctly, then to be sure, read it again. Once writing the verse is worth a dozen repetitions of it by mouth.
4. Review. This is the secret of memorizing. Review every day, every week, every mouth, and every year.
5. Practice. Use the passages of Scripture. Seek occasions for talking to persons who have difficulties.
See also William Evans’ book “How to Memorize”
Why Memorize Scripture?
by John Piper
First, a few testimonies:
I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.
Chuck Swindoll wrote,
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], p. 61).
One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later (Bucher, Richard. “Martin Luther’s Love for the Bible”). Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Ro 1:17–note, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.
So here are a few reasons why so many have viewed Scripture memorization as so essential to the Christian life.
1. Conformity to Christ
Paul wrote that
we all, . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2Cor 3:18)
If we would be changed into Christ likeness we must steadily see him. This happens in the word.
The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1Sa 3:21).
Bible memorization has the effect of making our gaze on Jesus steadier and clearer.
2. Daily Triumph over Sin
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. . . . I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:9–note, Ps 119:11–note).
Paul said that we must
by the Spirit . . . put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body” (Ro 8:13–note).
The one piece of armor used to kill is the “sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God (Ep 6:17–note). As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.
Remember however as John Blanchard has warned…
There is more to Christian growth than knowing what the Bible says; nobody is ever nourished by memorizing menus.
3. Daily Triumph over Satan
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he recited Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (Mt 4:1-11).
4. Comfort and Counsel for People You Love
The times when people need you to give them comfort and counsel do not always coincide with the times you have your Bible handy. Not only that, the very word of God spoken spontaneously from your heart has unusual power. Pr 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” That is a beautiful way of saying, When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth.
5. Communicating the Gospel to Unbelievers
Opportunities to share the gospel come when we do not have the Bible in hand. Actual verses of the Bible have their own penetrating power. And when they come from our heart, as well as from the Book, the witness is given that they are precious enough to learn. We should all be able to sum up the gospel under four main headings (1) God’s holiness/law/glory; (2) man’s sin/rebellion/disobedience; (3) Christ’s death for sinners; (4) the free gift of life by faith. Learn a verse or two relating to each of these, and be ready in season and out of season to share them.
6. Communion with God in the Enjoyment of His Person and Ways
The way we commune with (that is, fellowship with) God is by meditating on his attributes and expressing to him our thanks and admiration and love, and seeking his help to live a life that reflects the value of these attributes. Therefore, storing texts in our minds about God helps us relate to him as he really is. For example, imagine being able to call this to mind through the day:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Ps 103:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14–notes)
I used the word “enjoyment” intentionally when I said, “communion with God in the enjoyment of his person and ways.” Most of us are emotionally crippled—all of us, really. We do not experience God in the fullness of our emotional potential. How will that change? One way is to memorize the emotional expressions of the Bible and speak them to the Lord and to each other until they become part of who we are. For example, in Psalm 103:1–note, we say,
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
That is not a natural expression for many people. But if we memorize this and other emotional expressions from the Bible, and say them often, asking the Lord to make the emotion real in our hearts, we can actually grow into that emotion and expression. It will become part of who we are. We will be less emotionally crippled and more able to render proper praise and thanks to God.
There are other reasons for memorizing Scripture. I hope you find them in the actual practice.
Listen to John Piper discuss his approach to memorizing Scripture. Two of the keys? Pray for discipline and set aside time. How do you memorize Scripture?
Simon Kistemaker on his comments on Jude 1:17 makes a statement that relates to Bible memorization…
In the days of the apostles, the believers relied on memory for the singing of psalms and hymns in their worship services. They learned by heart numerous messianic passages from the Old Testament and retained the message of the gospel they had heard from the apostles. They were forced to develop their retentive memories because they had only limited access to the written books of Scripture kept in local churches. In our day we have become accustomed to relying on the written word and therefore fail to exercise our memories. We claim that as long as we are able to refer to something in print, we have no need to memorize it. Our minds, then, are like erasable boards; we retain facts for immediate use but soon replace them with new information.
This mind-set also prevails when we worship God on the Lord’s day. Routinely we enter the sanctuary each Sunday morning to hear the pastor preach, yet our minds will retain his message for only a few days. As statistics show, during a given Sunday we retain only 30 percent of the sermon the pastor preaches that day. This percentage dwindles to less than 5 percent by the last day of that same week.
In the Old and New Testaments, however, we are told to treasure God’s Word. The psalmist rejoices in that Word and confides to God, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). And Jesus exhorts the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia with these words: “Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Rev. 2:25; with variation, Rev 3:11). (Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude)
From Valley Bible Church (Why Memorize)
Why we should memorize Scripture
A. It helps us
1. It renews our mind (Romans 12:2)
2. Purifies our heart (Psalm 119:9; Hebrews 4:12)
3. It helps us resisting temptation (Psalm 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11)
4. It helps us to know God (Psalm 119:10)
5. It provides guidance (Ephesians 5:17)
6. It aids us in worshipping God (John 4:24; cf. John 17:17)
7. We are commanded to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8)
8. It helps our prayer life (John 15:7)
9. It helps our study of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)
10. It can protect us against wrong doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)
B. It helps others
1. It helps us to evangelize unbelievers (ex. Acts 2:14-36)
2. It helps us to teach believers (Psalm 119:24)
Why we don’t memorize Scripture
Excuse: “I have a poor memory.”
Excuse: “I don’t have time.”
Excuse: “I am too old.”
Excuse: “I have tried before and failed.”
Excuse: “Why bother now that I have my new computer program.”
Excuse: “Memorizing Scripture will make me spiritually proud.”
The real reason is that we choose not to.
Bible memory verses often taken out of context
A verse out of context is a pretext. We all have probably used Bible verses to say things that are simply not meant by the biblical author. We should understand what the Bible says and not divorce words from their context. Bible verses are often taken out of context when we have heard others use a verse in a certain way and believe that understanding to be correct. Then every time we read the verse in the Bible we impart to the verse what we think the meaning is, rather than reading it for what it says. This is a problem even if our misunderstanding does not lead us into doctrinal error. We still miss the true meaning of the verse that is misused. Furthermore, it begins to warp the context for other verses
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The common understanding – God works everything out for our good. The correct understanding -God works all things together for good as long as the condition is met: We must love God and be called according to His purpose. This certainly does not apply to everyone. Loving God and being called according to His purpose are two sides of the same coin. If this is true for us then this promise applies to us.
Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” The common understanding – Christ is standing at the door of every person’s heart. Each person has the opportunity to receive Him into their life and enjoy salvation which brings true fellowship with Jesus Christ. The correct understanding – Christ is addressing the church of Laodicea, through a messenger. This is not a verse directed at individual unsaved people that we may encounter in our evangelistic endeavors. It is to a church whose members were professing believers but were in fact spiritually dead. The church is called to repent and become zealous for God. (Read the entire excellent 8 page paper – Why Memorize – from Valley Bible Church, Lancaster, CA)
Rick Warren answers the question – Why Should You Memorize Scripture?
“Whoever looks intently into the perfect law … and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25NIV)
If you’re serious about being spiritually strong and mature, the greatest habit you can develop is memorizing Scripture. In fact, the Bible says in James 1:25 that it’s one of four habits that leads to a blessed life: “Whoever looks intently into the perfect law … and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do” (NIV).
- Read your Bible. “Whoever looks intently …”
- Review the Bible. “… continues in it …”
- Remember the Bible. “… not forgetting what they have heard …”
- Respond to the Bible. “ … but doing it …”
You don’t want to be a spiritual baby anymore. It’s time to grow up and live the blessed life you’re meant to live. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is an important way to start.
You may not think you have a good memory, but you remember what’s important to you. You remember the phone numbers and dates that you care about. I’ve heard people say they can’t memorize anything, but they can quote songs from the 1960s and rattle off the statistics of their favorite baseball players.
Memory is a skill you can learn. It’s a muscle you can strengthen. In fact, memorizing Scripture will cause your brain to have a stronger memory in other areas. I guarantee it. Study after study has shown this.
Why is it important to memorize Scripture?
- You’ll always have God’s Word with you. When you’re tempted, you don’t have a Bible open or by your side. When you’re witnessing to someone who doesn’t know Jesus, is under stress, needs comfort, or is in a crisis, there’s usually not a Bible around. You need God’s Word in your mind so you can remember it and review it right when you need it.
- You can meditate on Scripture wherever you go. You can’t review God’s Word unless you remember it. If you’ve memorized Scripture, you can think about it when you get into bed at night or as you drive to an appointment. You can think about the Bible because you’ve memorized it. That’s called meditation. The only promise of prosperity and success that God gives us in the Bible says that meditating on his Word is the key (Joshua 1:8).
Start memorizing Scripture today. Pick a verse a week. In a year, you’ll have memorized 52 verses. In two years, you’ll have memorized more than 100 verses.
Talk It Over
- What changes do you need to make so that you are regularly reading and studying the Bible?
- You already know the ways you learn and memorize best. What tools, tactics, or people can help you memorize Scripture?
- How do you respond when God brings Scripture to mind in certain situations? How should you respond?
Courtesy of http://www.preceptaustin.org, a wonderful website for study of Scripture. See http://www.preceptaustin.org/Memorizing_His_Word
Thank you so much for this post. It’s very well done. Always great stuff from you and that’s why I followed!
praying using the God’s Word is knowing your position as a child of God…. thanks for sharing