Though I didn’t come to faith in Christ until I was in college, I grew up going to church multiple times a week. One of the things that stands out from the Sunday School teachers I had and conversations I overheard was the amount of Scripture many of these faithful Christians had memorized. As I started out in my Christian life I didn’t see the importance of Scripture memory and therefore didn’t learn many basic passages of Scripture Christians need to know. It took a few years after becoming a believer to realize I didn’t know many of the passages of Scripture more mature believers referred to most often.
The Psalmist said, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Memorizing and meditating on God’s word provides fuel for our growth as Christians. Sometimes when we face discouragement or temptation we remember a word we have memorized and it is exactly what we need in that moment to encourage us or give us strength. In evangelistic conversations or times when you are discipling another believer, you often don’t have time to flip around and try to find a passage of Scripture. When you have devoted yourself to scripture memory, you already have it and are able to speak it as part of normal conversation.
Many believers don’t know where to start when they are memorizing the Bible, so here are eight passages that are central to understanding the message of the Bible and the basics of the Christian life. While there are many more Bible verses to memorize, these eight provide a great starting point.
The Ten Commandments
For most of my childhood, I saw plaques of the Ten Commandments on people’s walls next to their pictures of Jesus and Bear Bryant. The plaque always looked the same. They had to tablets on each side and the commandments were listed with Roman numerals. When we turn to Exodus 20:1-17 in our Bibles though we don’t see the commandments listed in this way. They begin with a word about God’s redemptive act of rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and then tells them what it looks like to live as his people in the world. Memorizing the Ten Commandments will remind us of our need for the grace found in Jesus Christ and give us guidance for living the Christian life.
The first Psalm offers a glimpse into the practices of the godly person and the attendant blessings that come from walking this way. The Psalmist shows the blessed man does not walk according to the course of the world but meditates on the law of God day and night. Since it is always day or night, this serves as a wonderful reminder to stay immersed in the Lord’s word. Then he shows that the result of separation from the world and meditation on the truth is a stable, fruit-bearing life which is constantly nourished by the flowing streams of God’s word.
While we could point to many passages of Scripture that remind us of the character of God, this Psalm has encouraged and helped many Christians throughout the centuries. Psalm 23 points to the loving kindness of God our shepherd who feeds, guides, and cares for his people. Also, familiarity with this Psalm helps us to better understand Ezekiel 34’s promise of God’s shepherd who is come and Jesus’ claim to be the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep.
Jesus’ words at the opening of the Sermon on the Mount show us the true, inner character of the Christian. Each of the eight beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 begin with a statement of blessing upon the people who embody and certain virtue and then it names the blessing. Memorizing and meditating on these verses will remind us that Christian virtue begins in the heart and permeates every aspect of our lives.
The Lord’s Prayer
Many Christians struggle with knowing how to pray. Thankfully Jesus told us, “pray then in this way.” Jesus’ model prayer provides us with a framework for understanding how we can pray. Each petition shows us something we should praise God for, thank God for, or ask God for. As you memorize Matthew 6:5-15, use each phrase to lead you into a time of prayer.
Few passages of Scripture summarize the heart of the Christian message like this important paragraph from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul reminds us we have sinned, we cannot work for our salvation, and Jesus died to bring us back to God. Paul emphasizes Jesus’ death as a substitution for our sins and that Jesus’ death vindicates the righteous character of the God who saves.
1 Corinthians 13
We often hear the “love chapter” at weddings, but this is not its immediate context. Chapters 12 and 14 deal with the role of spiritual gifts within the church and Paul shows the character of love to remind us that we cannot exercise our spiritual gifts in a way that is not fueled by love. The application spreads from spiritual gifts to our other relationships as we remember that everything we do must be done in love.
The Armor of God
Christians face spiritual opposition every day from the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we think about the devil’s lies and accusations, we often find ourselves at a loss for how to defend ourselves. Paul instructs Christians in Ephesians 6:10-20 to put on the full armor of God to help us stand against the schemes of the evil one. Each piece of the Christian armor shows us how the truths of the Gospel protects us in the battles we encounter.
This is not a complete list of every passage a Christian should memorize, but it provides a great start for the Christian wanting to learn the basics of the Christian message and the Christian life. It’s possible I missed an important passage, what other passages would you say every Christian needs to memorize?
“Why You Should Read the Bible“
For Further Reading:
An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andrew Davis
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney