Memorise the Bible

The underlying assumption in all that we have considered together is that we are in fact teaching our children and young people intentionally from the Bible.  Our desire must be for our children to have a good working knowledge of the whole of the Scriptures, and to grow up understanding how to make sense of them.  Obviously we want to give the children and young people at St. John’s an overall view of the Bible (that shapes how we teach in Sunday Groups, for example).[1]  But in addition, we should aim to instil in the minds of our children and young people a specific knowledge of Biblical texts – or to put that in everyday language: memorizing the Bible from as early an age as possible.  Few other things will equip them as effectively for godly thinking, living and decision making throughout their lives. 


Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified”.  There is absolutely no reason to assume those benefits are exclusive to those over the age of 21. 


One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible and knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 1:17, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.


So here are a few reasons why Scripture memorization is essential to the Christian life.[2] 


1. Conformity to Christ

Paul wrote in II Cor.3:18 that if we would be changed into Christ likeness we must steadily see him. This happens in the word. “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21). Bible memorization has the effect of making our gaze on Jesus steadier and clearer.


2. Daily Triumph over Sin

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Paul said that we must “by the Spirit . . . put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The one piece of armour used to kill is the “sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). As we face temptation, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.  When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he recited Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (Matthew 4:1-11).


3. Comfort and Counsel for People You Love

The times when people need you to give them comfort and counsel do not always coincide with the times you have your Bible handy. Not only that, the very word of God spoken spontaneously from your heart has unusual power. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth.


4. Communicating the Gospel to Unbelievers

Opportunities to share the gospel come when we do not have the Bible in hand. Actual verses of the Bible have their own penetrating power. And when they come from our heart, as well as from the Book, the witness is given that they are precious enough to learn.


5. Communion with God in the Enjoyment of His Person and Ways

The way we commune with (that is, fellowship with) God is by meditating on his attributes and expressing to him our thanks and admiration and love, and seeking his help to live a life that reflects the value of these attributes. Storing texts in our minds about God helps us relate to him as he really is.


I used the word “enjoyment” intentionally when I said, “communion with God in the enjoyment of his person and ways.” Most of us are emotionally crippled—all of us, really. We do not experience God in the fullness of our emotional potential. How will that change? One way is to memorize the emotional expressions of the Bible and speak them to the Lord and to each other until they become part of who we are. If we memorize emotional expressions from the Bible, and say them often, asking the Lord to make the emotion real in our hearts, we can actually grow into that emotion and expression. It will become part of who we are. We will be less emotionally crippled and more able to render proper praise and thanks to God.


There are other reasons for memorizing Scripture, and for teaching our children to memorize it.  I hope you find them in the actual practice.


With the exception of the opening paragraph, and footnotes, this is substantively an abridged version

of an article:  Why Memorize Scripture, by Dr. John Piper, available at



[1] The question of which Bible to use with children is more complicated than you might first imagine.  I’m generally disappointed with ‘Children’s Bibles’ both in terms of what they leave out, and in how faithful they are to the parts they leave in.  I also think the artwork can be pretty unhelpful in some Children’s Bibles.  For younger children we found The Jesus Story Book Bible (written by Sally Lloyd Jones and published by ZonderKidz) pretty useful – and it has the added bonus of having matching videos online.  Also, ‘My First Bible’ published by Marks and Spencer.  Older kids might benefit from the Lion Graphic Bible (Jeff Anderson & Mike Maddox).  My own thinking is that certainly by eight or nine, a child should be reading, and being taught from, a full text version of the Scriptures.  There are some good, accessible versions available, including a children’s NIV; children’s ESV & New Living Translation, if you feel a standard text might be inappropriate.

[2] There are a number of Bible memorisation programmes on the market, e.g. Fighter verses, from children desiring God (available through Amazon) – or check out 

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