A few months ago, I listed eight passages of Scripture every Christian needs to commit to memory. The response to the post has been great and I have been encouraged at the hunger to memorize Scripture I have seen. At the end of the post, I asked what passages people would add to the list. If you look back at the original post, every passage contains at least six verses and some close to twenty. My aim in that post was to point to longer foundational passages for Christians to commit to memory. Most of the feedback I received listed single verses and I realized that new Christians following my advice would miss many well-known verses that Christians usually memorize early in their Christian life.
In light of this, I put together a list of passages for young or new Christians to memorize so they would grow in their understanding of the character of God, the work of Jesus, salvation by faith alone, and the basics of the Christian life. We need to focus on these issues early in the Christian life because if we just start learning Scripture’s commands without understanding who God has revealed himself to be and the heart of the Christian message we will develop an unhealthy view of what it means to live as a Christian.
When memorizing these verses, work on learning them for the long haul and not just to check them off of a list. Learn them thoroughly and accurately, then develop a system for reviewing them so they stay fresh in your mind. As you learn and review these verses, meditate on them, take notes on them, and pray through them. You will find that committing Scripture to memory, studying it, meditating on it, and praying through it will give you aid during trials, temptation, discouragement, and evangelism opportunities. (If you need help memorizing Scripture and developing a system for review, I recommend the ScriptureTyper app. It has been a great aid to my Scripture memory over the last two years.)
If you are a new Christian, young Christian, or have never memorized Scripture, these are the first 15 verses and short passages I would commit to memory.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
The Bible’s first verse introduces us to the God who always has been and always will be. He created the heavens and the earth by the word of his power, which sets the stage for his creating humanity in his own image.
“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”
Moses asked to see the Lord, so the Lord placed Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered him with his hand while he passed by him in his glory. As he passed by Moses, he proclaimed these truths about himself. These verses form a central confession of the character of God and the biblical writers quote them in Numbers, Nehemiah, Psalms, Jeremiah, Joel, and Jonah.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Moses’ declaration teaches us about both the character and uniqueness of God. When we confess with these verses that God is one, we confess that he alone is God and there is no one like him. Then Moses shows the exclusive claim that the covenant Lord has upon our heart and lives.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
The longest chapter in the Bible proclaims the beauty of God’s word and the transformative role it plays in our lives. Psalm 119:11 reminds us that when we put God’s word in our hearts, it aids us in our war against indwelling sin.
”All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
To properly understand the message of the Bible we must understand the centrality of Jesus’ death on behalf of his people. Isaiah 53, written seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, points forward to the day when the sins of wayward people would be placed on God’s faithful servant.
”And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Matthew records these last words from Jesus. Speaking to his disciples before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded them to take the Gospel to every nation on earth, baptizing those who believe and teaching them to obey Jesus’ words. As we read, study, and memorize the Great Commission, we remember that we are called to join Jesus in his mission so that more people might become his disciples.
”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This stood as the best-known Bible verse in our culture for many years, and rightfully so. Jesus, speaking about the time when he would be lifted up on the cross, tells Nicodemus that this happened because God in his love wanted to bring life to those who are perishing. This verse teaches us about the love of God, the deity of Jesus, and that we experience new life through faith alone.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Our culture often exhibits an allergy to Christianity’s exclusive truth claims, which means we need to be able to know, understand, and explain them. In this simple and straightforward text Jesus explains that he is the only way to the Father. Through his life, death, and resurrection, he makes the way for sinful people to know the eternal hope offered by our gracious God.
”For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In this succinct statement, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if we stand before God with only what we have done we will experience death. However, God holds something out to us we could never earn- eternal life. This verse exalts the grace of God and reminds us of the futility of trusting in our own goodness.
”And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Every Christian needs a deeply rooted trust in the promises of God for when the storms of life crash in. Romans 8:28 stands as a rock-solid promise that God takes everything through which we walk and works it for our good. The Christian going through difficulties and trials can hold tightly to this verse and be reminded of the goodness and providence of God.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
”For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
These two verses proclaim the central truths of the Gospel message, so Christians must know, understand, and cling to them. Paul reminds us that Jesus died in our place bearing our sins, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead never to die again. The Christian never moves beyond this main thing to which the Scriptures testified from the beginning. Without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have no good news for sinful people.
2 Corinthians 5:21
”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
At the heart of the Christian message stands a great exchange. Jesus took our sins upon himself and gives his perfect righteousness to us. For the person united to Christ by faith, we no longer stand before God dressed in the shreds of our own sins, but robed in the perfect life of Christ. This simple verse helps us understand, rejoice over, and explain this good news
”But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
When we seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ we will grapple with the desires of our sinful flesh. Rather than giving in to those desires or venturing into crippling legalism, Paul says we should let every step of our lives be in step with the Spirit so we will not gratify our flesh. This verse helps us to see the role of the Spirit in our lives and to know the freedom that comes from consciously walking by him each day.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Verses about the free grace of God saturate this list because we never grow out of our need for it. Here Paul reminds us that our salvation is not through our good works, but by his grace through faith in Christ. When I learned these verses growing up we always stopped at verse 9, but that is to miss the wonderful news of how grace transforms us. We may not be saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. These verses help us grasp the connection between our free salvation and the transformation it effects in our lives.
”Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Every Christian wrestles with difficulties, stresses, anxieties, and hurts. Here Paul instructs us to stop wallowing in them and to pray instead. This alone is good news because this means that God wants to hear where we are hurting and struggling. He invites us to bring our deepest fears and lay them on him. In exchange, God gives us peace to guard us. Hiding these verses in our hearts will remind us to pray in every time of need.
The most difficult aspect of writing this post was not coming up with fifteen Bible verses for Christians to memorize, but narrowing down the list so that it would be a helpful and unintimidating guide to those starting out in Scripture memory. If you were working with a new Christian, what are some passages you would advise them to commit to memory so they might grow as followers of Jesus?
“Eight Passages Every Christian Should Memorize“
“Why You Should Devote Yourself to Scripture Memory”
For Further Reading:
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer