Memorizing Scripture has been one of the most beneficial forms of Bible intake I’ve practiced over the last several years. Here are some thoughts on the importance of Scripture memory and how to do it.
Biblical Examples of Scripture Memory
Jesus Memorized Scripture
Jesus obviously had much of Scripture memorized, because we often see him quoting Scripture in the gospels. For example, each time Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, he responded by quoting Scripture (“it is written . . .”). There are many other places in the gospels where Jesus quotes Scripture as well (e.g., Matthew 19:4-5, 22:44; Mark 7:10; Luke 19:46; John 13:18).
Early Christians Memorized Scripture
Like Jesus, his early disciples also practiced the discipline of Scripture memory. In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ disciples, the apostle Peter stood up to preach the gospel to a large crowd. He began by quoting Joel 2:28-32 from memory, and telling the people that this passage was being fulfilled in their midst. Obviously, Peter had set this passage (and probably many others) to memory.
Throughout the book of Acts, we get snippets of the preaching of the early disciples of Jesus, and it is filled with quotations from Scripture. One of the longest of such sermons in the book of Acts is from a disciple named Stephen. Just before he was stoned to death by angry Jews, Stephen preached a sermon in which he quoted many passages from the Old Testament (Acts 7:2-53).
The apostle Paul also quoted Scripture in his sermons. For example, in Acts 13 Paul preached a sermon in a city called Antioch of Pisidia while on one of his missionary journeys (Acts 13:16-47). In that sermon, he quotes several passages of Scripture.
The authors of the New Testament epistles frequently quote Scripture in their letters as well (e.g., Hebrews 1:5-13; Romans 4:7-8; Galatians 3:10-13). More than likely, the authors of these New Testament letters were quoting these passages from memory rather than copying them from their Bibles, since most people did not have their own personal copy of God’s Word in those days.
Benefits of Scripture Memory
There are several ways memorizing Scripture can benefit you. Here are just a few:
1. Helps Resist Temptation
Just as Jesus quoted Scripture when he was tempted in the desert, being able to call Scripture to mind quickly and accurately can help you resist temptation by reminding yourself of God’s truth.
2. Helps in Witnessing and Counseling
When you are sharing the gospel with a lost person or when you are giving counsel to a fellow believer, it is helpful to be able to use Scripture without having to look it up first. Scripture memory can equip you for this.
3. Helps in Meditating on the Word
Throughout Scripture we are commanded to “meditate” on God’s Word, and to “store up” God’s Word in our hearts (e.g., Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”). This means that we are to think deeply and prayerfully about what Scripture means and how it should change us. Memorizing Scripture allows you to meditate on God’s Word more easily, because the passages you have memorized can be brought to the forefront of your mind at any moment. When you have set a passage of Scripture to memory with your mind, it is much easier for the truths of that passage to make it down into your heart.
Approaches to Scripture Memory
There are basically two approaches to Scripture memory: (1) memorizing individual verses, and (2) memorizing extended passages or books.
1. Memorizing Individual Verses
Memorizing individual verses of Scripture is helpful because it allows you to memorize key verses from anywhere in the Bible. The Topical Memory System is a 60 verse Scripture memory system that we encourage our church members to use. After memorizing all of the verses in this set, you can easily add any verse you would like by using blank business cards.
2. Memorizing Extended Passages or Books
Memorizing several consecutive verses in a passage of Scripture, or even an entire book of the Bible, is also a great way to memorize God’s Word. One of the benefits of this approach is that it allows you more easily to keep the verses you are memorizing in context, helping you understand how each verse fits into the overall flow of the passage, chapter, or book. Try using the method laid out in Andy Davis’s booklet “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture” for memorizing large chunks of the Bible or an entire book of the Bible.