Why Memorize Scripture?

If you have ever tried to memorize a speech or a part for a play, then you know that it is hard work to learn something so that you can repeat it word for word. Further, if you do not review it regularly, a couple of weeks after you have memorized it, you have forgotten it. Memorizing passages from the Bible is no different. It is hard work, and could take a huge portion of your time. However, if we look into the Bible to see what it teaches, then we will see that this hard work is not only worth the effort, but it is essential and it is expected of us. I have titled this article "Why Memorize Scripture", but I could also have called it "Why Study the Bible" or "Why Meditate on God's Word" or "Why Put God's Word Into Practice." All these things are vital to Christian growth. 

The Bible--God's Word. Fully Inspired and Infallible  

The place to start, then, would be to make sure that we know just what the Bible is and what authority it must therefore have over us. Perhaps before we proceed, you would like to read some quotes from various Creeds and Confessions regarding the nature of the Bible. The Bible is inspired by God himself. It contains no error, teaches no error, has authority over our lives and is our only guide for truth in spiritual matters. Without the Bible, we would have no significant knowledge of God or of his will. What better thing is there to memorize than the very words of God himself?  What reason could you give for not memorizing it to the best of your ability? 

The Inspiration of the Scriptures

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:14-17)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Is the Bible made up of the very words of God or is it a book of human wisdom? Your answer to this question will determine your response to its teachings and will significantly influence your world view. It is the starting point and most important doctrine of the Church and it will be a basis for the beliefs and practices of its members. All other doctrine of the Church is based on the Bible, so if the Bible is not reliable then neither is the doctrine and neither is our faith and neither is our salvation.

The Bible is not a book of human wisdom, nor is not a book which only contains the words of God, mixed in with human teachings. Rather, the Bible is entirely inspired by God himself. This is why it says that all scripture is 'God-Breathed'. It comes from God's own mouth. This leads us to two inseparable doctrines of the Christian Church. These are the verbal inspiration of scripture and the plenary inspiration of scripture. Verbal inspiration means that the documents written by their original authors are word for word what God wanted it to say. Plenary inspiration is similar. It means that inspiration extends to the entire bible, completely covering every idea, thought and concept.

Harold Lindsell, in his book The Battle for the Bible, writes the following concerning the inspiration of the scriptures:
Inspiration may be defined as the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of chosen men who then wrote the Scriptures so that God got written what He wanted. The Bible in all of its parts constitutes the written Word of God to man. This Word is free from all error in its original autographs. It is wholly trustworthy in matters of history and doctrine. However limited may have been their knowledge, and however much they may have erred when they were not writing sacred Scripture, the authors of Scripture, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were preserved from making factual, historical, scientific, or other errors. The Bible does not purport to be a textbook of history, science or mathematics; yet when the writers of Scripture spoke of matters embraced in these disciplines, they did not indite error; they wrote what was true. (1)
Calvin, in his Commentary on II Timothy 3:16 says:
"Whoever then would profit by the Holy Scriptures, let him first decide this within himself, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine which has been given according to the desire or will of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit"
Calvin also says:
"the same reverence that we have for God is due also to the Scripture, because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it"
Now we must note that God worked through the people who penned the scriptures. He used the personalities, experiences, vocabulary and such of each of the authors during the process of inspiration. To say 'nothing of man was mixed with it', Calvin means that the wisdom of scripture is from the mind of God, not from the mind of man.

The Inerrancy of the Scriptures

The Bible is flawless and contains no factual errors whatsoever in anything it speaks of or alludes to. This applies to the the original texts as first written, but not the copies. None of the originals are available to us today - only copies. However, the science of textual criticism has shown that the text of the Greek and Hebrew Bibles we have today is approximately 99.5% the same as what was originally written and no fundamental doctrine rests on a disputed reading. God's inspired word has been preserved for us today. The manuscripts we have are the careful combination of a great many copies that we have found over time so the result is a nearly perfect representation of the originals.

What about translations to other languages such as English? The short answer is that a translation can be considered God's Word as long as it is translated properly. Put another way, we can say that a translation is God's word the extent to which it teaches the same thing the original does. In the English language, we have many different translations available to us today. This is a blessing from God because there was a time when you could not get a Bible in English, you had to read Latin or Greek or Hebrew. For the most part, all the translations say the same thing, but some are better than others. For example, versions which rely on the wisdom of only one person are more prone to error than those translated by a large team. Some translations are written to be paraphrases while others attempt to maintain as much of the grammatical structure of the original as possible. However, mis-translations such as the 'New World Translation' of the Jehovahs' Witnesses have been polluted and should not be taken seriously. The safe course of action is to study from a few different versions. For example you may wish to use the NIV for devotional reading, but when you wish to study a passage in detail you will want to read the selected passage in several different versions.

And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.

Psalm 12:6

The Infallibility of the Scriptures

According to Webster's, the words infallible and inerrant are synonyms. Inerrant means 'free from error' but infallible means 'not liable to mislead, deceive or disappoint; incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals.' The Bible has been a trustworthy source of instruction for thousands of years. It has only been in the last 200 years that anyone ever seriously doubted its inspiration and authority. It is the Church's only guide in matters of faith and practice.

We can safely rest in its promises of salvation and forgiveness. We must also tremble before his threats of judgment. The Bible does not lie in any matter on which it speaks. It must be interpreted properly by the reader. The Bible contains literature of many kinds (Historical accounts, poetry, parables, proverbs, conversations, personal letters, apologetic dialogues, etc.) and each must be interpreted accordingly. All passages of scripture must be interpreted in the context in which they appear. Generally speaking, everything should be taken literally unless a figurative interpretation makes more sense. It is the task of the reader to attempt to understand the purpose the author had in writing what he did to his original recipients. In doing this he can understand what God is trying to say. After this the reader needs to consider how it applies to his own life.  There is a good guide on how to study the bible here.

The Authority of the Scriptures

We ought never to judge the bible. Instead, it must judge us, our actions and motives. We must consider the Bible to be the supreme truth through which all other information we encounter is filtered and tested - not the other way around. No wisdom of man can say something in the scriptures is in error. Science cannot disprove anything in the scriptures.  Fallible men with an ever-changing view of science are always quick to re-interpret portions of Scripture to come into conformity with current ideas.  This should not be the case. You can count on God's recounting of history and his promises. This includes both his promises of salvation of those in Christ and judgment of those who sin against Him. The work of our lives will be judged by our obedience to what is written in the word of God. Our lives on earth are a mere point, a speck, as compared with what will be an un-ending existence in heaven with God or in Hell without Him. Is the diligent study of Scripture today too high a price to pay to assure that we are living as we ought?

Our Dependence on the Scriptures

God has revealed himself in nature. If you look around and see the awesome and wonderful design of it all, anybody who can think ought to be able to see that God exists. This is God's general revelation to man and ought to be enough to cause us to seek God further.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
But, due to the hardness of our hearts, we have forgotten this and would rather say that the world evolved on its own. People say it created itself and that we are the center of all things instead of God.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is for ever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:21-32)
Even those of us who are able to see God in nature and who understand our accountability to him are still unable to find peace with God on our own. No man or woman can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ without receiving a special revelation from God. This information would be forever hidden to humanity if God had not revealed it. God has revealed himself to us and this revelation is in the Christian Scriptures - the Bible.

For more information you may wish to read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

Study and memorization is a command from God

The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1674 asks is: "What is the chief end of man?" The response is simple and beautiful. It says: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever." Solomon was a man of great wealth and power (2Ch 1:7-12; 1Ki 10:23-27; 1Ki 4:30-34) yet, in Ecc. 12:13,14 he says that obedience is the only thing that counts.  My purpose on this earth is to glorify God in whatever I do.  But I cannot do this unless I obey his word.  I cannot enjoy Him or have a proper relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ unless I have a desire to obey his word.  Read what does the scripture says about the importance of obedience (1Sa 15:22; John 14:15; Joel 2:11; Ac 5:32; Ro 2:13; 1Jo 3:24; ). However, there is one thing that is sure - and this is that unless I know God's word and understand it, I will never be able to obey it. We must read the Bible over and over again, study it as much as possible, pray about it, meditate on it and memorize portions of it. Then we will be able to obey it. We are, in fact, commanded (Dt 6:6-9; Dt 11:18-21; Josh 1:7-8; Ps 37:28-31; Ps 119:9-11) to memorize it.  It is astonishing to think that many Christians do not even open their Bible from week to week. How can we profit from God's word if we do not even know what it is? 

His Word is a delight to the soul The entire 119th Psalm is dedicated to the praise of the Word of God. Read it several times and you will see how David, Israel's King, finds special delight and freedom in knowing and following God's Commandments.

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Psalm 119:35

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Psalm 119:32

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands because I love them.

Psalm 119:45-47

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Psalm 19:7-8

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

ROM 15:4

There is true freedom in the word of God. His word was made for us and we for it. It teaches us how we can regain the fellowship with God for which we were created. This is the fellowship which was taken from us when sin came into the world. It heals us and strengthens us. It guides us, renews our spirits. It gives us joy. The more we know his word, and the more we meditate on it the closer we will grow to God. 

Keeping us from sin and folly  

If the word of God is in your heart, you will be able to use it when facing temptation. God's word teaches us how to resist sin, why you should do so and what will happen if you don't. It teaches us how to do what God requires of us:

Our purpose is to become more and more like Jesus Christ. But how can we do this if we don't obey God's word?  And how can we obey it if we do not know it and understand it?  And how can we understand if we do not study it, memorize it and meditate on it as much as we can?  Obedience to the word of God gives us guidance in everything we do today and into the future.  But, it also purifies our minds and heals our hearts from any damage it may have received from past ignorance and sin.  Many Christians did not grow up in Christian homes where the word of God was central.  Many Christians are trapped in sin and the damage done by these and past sins is hindering their fellowship with God.  It is easy for our minds to become filled with rubbish and our hearts to become hard towards God.  This is what happens when things are left to run unattended. Whatever you put into your head determines what you think about. What you think about determines what you do. Together, all this determines the kind of person you will be. The things I think about in my heart form my character - whether for good or bad.  Meditation (PH 4:4-9) on the scriptures cleanses and transforms the mind (RO 12:1-2) and heart (De 30:14; Job 22:22; Ps 19:14; Pr 15:14; Pr 16:23; Mt 15:18; MA 7:20-23; Lu 6:45; Pr 27:19; Pr 4:23).  It helps erase the bad programming in our heads. It washes and cleans out rubbish and filth and makes room for the beauty of the character of Christ. Memorizing God's word can purify your heart and will make a profound impact on your life. What are you putting into your mind and heart? The fear of the Lord (PS 111:10; PR 1:7; PR 9:10) is the beginning of wisdom and a deep knowledge of the word of God will give you this wisdom (PR 4:5-9). We are told to meditate it on it day and night. These are good reasons to memorize it. 

It prepares you for a life of productive Christian labour and growth. A thorough knowledge of God's word helps us in our every day life:

Conclusion After all has been said, when you ask the question, "Should I memorize scripture?", you can only reply "What else would I do?" It is the very words of God. One reader sent me a comment and said "I will memorize scriptures until there is nothing left to memorize".  May we all have this attitude.

"Even at night my heart instructs me" (Ps. 16:7)


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