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The Many Benefits of Scripture Memorization

By Koa Sinag

The Many Benefits of Scripture Memorization


The Role of God’s Word

There are numerous spiritual benefits to the memorization of Scripture. A proper assessment of these benefits begins with understanding the role of the written word of God in our lives and in our spiritual growth. First of all, our salvation begins in our souls by the gospel of Jesus Christ. By hearing and believing the words of the gospel, we are born again (John 3:3) and justified by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:16). Saving faith comes to individual sinners by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). So the word of God is essential to our salvation from the very beginning. But Scripture also reveals that the way we make progress in our Christian faith is the same way we begin—by hearing God’s word with faith (Col. 2:6–7).

Once we have come to life spiritually through faith in Christ, I believe that God has set before every Christian two infinite journeys: the internal journey of growth in holiness and the external journey of evangelism and missions. For this reason, my online ministry is called Two Journeys (www.twojourneys.org).1 Foundational to both of those journeys is the ongoing work of the word of God within us. By the word of God alone, we make progress toward Christlike holiness, and by the word alone, we win lost people to Christ.

The Internal Journey: Sanctification

Quoting from the Old Testament, Jesus Christ said that our spiritual life depends on the word of God as much as our physical life depends on food:

Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

Every word from the mouth of God is written in only one place: the Bible. Also, according to the apostle Peter, we have an ongoing responsibility to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) and to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge” (2 Pet. 1:5).

But how are we to grow? Growth in the Lord is called “sanctification,” the process by which we become more and more like Jesus Christ and more and more separated from the world. Christ says that happens by the word of God: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17). However, the word of God must enter us through our minds—through our understanding—in order to change our hearts. Thus, we are to meditate deeply on Scripture in order to understand it better, so that our hearts may be changed. And we are to meditate on “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). There is no more useful discipline to this careful process of scriptural meditation than memorization. Memorization is not the same as meditation, but it is almost impossible for someone to memorize a passage of scripture without somewhat deepening his or her understanding of those verses. Plus, once the passage is memorized, a lifetime of reflection is available through ongoing review. Whether when you’re driving on a long trip, walking alone on a beach, or even conversing with friends, memorized verses can flow within you and from you, causing a deepening of understanding.

Furthermore, these internalized verses also sanctify us by causing us to hate sin and to determine to fight it vigorously. Through memorization, we are able to stand in the moment of temptation through “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Therefore, the psalmist says,

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. (Ps. 119:9)

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11)

In addition, the word sanctifies us by transforming our entire worldview from worldly to heavenly: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The “renewal of your mind” happens by the flow of Scripture through it like a pure river. As this river of truth flows through your mind constantly, you will see things more and more the way God does if you are a child of God, for “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). This gives us more and more wisdom to deal with the evil of this present age.

However, this benefit does not merely bless us in our own growth and development but also becomes a treasure trove for the life and growth of others. One who memorizes Scripture will be used mightily by God to teach and encourage other Christians with an apt word from the perfect word of God: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). How better can you obey this exhortation than through Scripture memorization? The “word of Christ” will indeed “dwell in you richly” as you memorize it and work it over in your mind through meditation. Then you will most certainly be useful to God in “teaching and admonishing” other brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture builds the church to its final doctrinal and practical maturity (Eph. 4:13–16), and God uses those who memorize it to do this building in a powerful and eternally fruitful way.

For pastors whose regular ministry is the preaching of the word of God, no investment of time will be so richly repaid as memorizing whole books of the Bible. When the time comes to preach through a book of the Bible, think how deep and rich will be your preaching. Memorizing the whole book will give you a perspective on the entire message of the book (the forest, the big picture), as well as the details in each paragraph (the trees). My time in preparing new sermons from books I’ve already memorized is greatly reduced; or more accurately, I have already invested hundreds of hours into the sermon before I ever start to write it.

When judgment day comes, we will regret the waste of a single moment not used for the glory of Christ.

For me, one of the greatest delights in almost four decades of memorization has been the steady stream of new insights that come to my mind from memorization. Sometimes these insights come after I have reviewed the verses for months. Suddenly, light dawns in a new way on one of the verses, and I see things I’ve never seen before. This continually renews my love for Scripture and gives me a sense of the word of God being “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). These insights become the food I then pass on to people as I preach the word week after week from the pulpit. These same moments of thrilling illumination by the Holy Spirit are waiting for you as well. They are the nuggets of gold your mind will excavate from the mine of truth (the Bible) after hours of hard labor. These insights make it all worthwhile. Along with this thrilling journey of discovery is the ever-deepening sense I get of the stunning interconnectedness of the Bible as a whole. Only the perfect mind of God could have assembled these sixty six books into one coherent message for the human race. I cannot adequately put into words how much the detailed work of Scripture memorization has given me this rock solid conviction that all Scripture is God-breathed and perfect.

Besides ministry of the word in formal settings, Christians of all sorts can be prepared to engage in excellent biblical counseling for their brothers and sisters. God will bring people to you to hear the wisdom he’s stored up within you.

People who are battling secret sins, slipping into depression, struggling in their marriages, despairing about how to raise their teens in the Lord, or experiencing many other challenging circumstances will come to be fed and nourished by the word stored up in you.

The External Journey: Evangelism

The memorization of Scripture also enables us to bless lost people with an accurate and vivid presentation of the gospel of salvation. The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Those who memorize Scripture obey Peter’s command in this regard: “Always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). The preparation Peter had in mind is powerfully done by memorizing Scripture. Remember that Scripture is able to make sinners “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The apostle John said that the account he gave of Jesus’s life in the Gospel of John was written so that his readers “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [they] may have life in his name” (John 20:31). So the words of the Bible are essential to winning lost sinners to eternal life in Christ.

The evangelizing Christian who stores up Scripture on the life of Christ can vividly retell some of the miracle stories in the Gospels to a generation that is biblically illiterate and knows very little about the life of Christ. For example, having the account of the healing of the paralyzed man in Mark 2:1–12 memorized enables a Christian to captivate a hearer with the details of the miracle and cause that person to consider that Jesus has “authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). A believer can also explain the theology of salvation from Paul’s epistles, if he or she has memorized those books. In short, Scripture memorization makes one a much more powerful and effective evangelist.

There are other benefits: power and intimacy in daily prayer, comfort during trials and bereavement, the development of heavenly mindedness, the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit, conviction over indwelling sin, fruitful use of time while experiencing a delay, and more. Suffice it to say that this is well worth our time. When judgment day comes, we will regret the waste of a single moment not used for the glory of Christ. We will, however, not regret one moment we spent diligently studying God’s word and hiding it in our hearts. We will only wish we’d invested more time.

Notes:

  1. See Andrew M. Davis, An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness (Bingley, UK: Emerald, 2014). The journey in holiness and the journey in evangelism are infinite because they require God’s infinite power, and they have an infinite (eternal) impact. Although we will complete both journeys, they will not be finished in this lifetime. We cannot retire from either of them while we live.

This article is adapted from How to Memorize Scripture for Life: From One Verse to Entire Books by Andrew M. Davis.



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