The Vast Benefits of Church-Wide Scripture Memory
When churches memorize Bible verses together, they take great strides toward glorifying God. Twenty-five years ago, on January 5, 1997, John Piper invited his congregation at Bethlehem Baptist Church to join him for church-wide Scripture memory with the Fighter Verses. He said then that a believer’s purpose is to glorify God and to not sin against Him. The way we do that is by treasuring His Word in our hearts:
Psalm 119:11 tells us one of the keys to not sinning. It says, speaking to God, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” The way not to sin is to treasure the word of God in your heart. Which means that the way to succeed in the ultimate goal of life — to live for the glory of God by enjoying him forever — is to treasure the word of God in your heart. ("Thy Word I Have Treasured in My Heart")
Paul described this Word-treasuring to the church in Colossae saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Paul’s exhortation to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” continues to this day. When we have verses memorized, they can flow out from us in prayer to God and encouragement to others.
Piper’s sermon that day challenged the congregation to join together in memorizing a set of verses strategically chosen to equip members to fight temptation the way Jesus did, with the Word of God:
The Lord Jesus memorized Scripture verbatim. We know he did, because when he was fasting in the wilderness there were no libraries or books, and with every temptation of the devil he quoted a passage of Scripture to defeat the devil (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
This is why we are calling the 52 passages prepared for all of us this year (one a week) “fighter verses.” Jesus defeated the devil’s temptations with the use of a memorized passage of Scripture. And in Ephesians 4:17, Paul called the word of God “the sword of the Spirit.” We cannot successfully overcome sin and Satan without the present treasure of precious words of God — “fighter verses.”
Sally Michael was there for that sermon, and others like it that followed at the start of each new year. She said,
Those weeks when Pastor John preached in January on the value of the Word of God were some of the best sermons for my soul. Every year I looked forward to the January sermon focusing on the importance of God’s Word. They were always an inspiring way to start the new year. The faithful yearly sermon highlighting the treasure we have in God’s Word, the importance of meditating on it and memorizing it, and the urging to hide it in our hearts was the glue that held together my determination to be in the Word through the ups and downs of daily life each year.
Why all this emphasis on memorizing verses with other church members? Because it is one of the best motivations to memorize. It helps the reluctant to try and creates momentum as the group makes progress together. Some members memorize quickly, others slowly; some memorize a verse or two, others whole chapters or even books. The main goal isn’t numbers or speed, but enjoying the blessings that come with feeding on God’s Word daily.
Memorizing Scripture this way has so many benefits, beginning with a deepening dependence on God’s Word. As church members continue memorizing together, they grow in Word-centered friendship. Memorizing Scripture enriches their prayers for one another, helping them to pray according to God’s will as it is revealed in his Word. Shared memorizing also builds unity that is essential to the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:13-16).
Still, for all its benefits, lots of folks think it’s just too hard to memorize. If that’s you, consider Pastor John’s challenge:
You may doubt that you can do this, especially if you are older. But ask yourself this question: If I offered you $1,000 for every verse you memorized in the next week, how many do you think you could memorize? Yet God says of his word in Psalm 19:10–11, “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The real value of the word is far greater than $1,000 a verse. The question is this: Do you believe it? Believing this will be the crucial motivation you need.
In the last 25 years, many churches have used the Fighter Verses to help their members memorize portions of God’s Word. Whether in the context of the corporate worship service, small group meetings, Sunday school classrooms, or men’s and women’s ministries, countless believers have worked together to encourage and support one another in the spiritual discipline of Bible memory for the building up of the body of Christ. How might shared Scripture memory serve your church?
We’ve published Hidden in My Heart: Memorizing Scripture to Fight the Fight of Faith to help inspire and equip individuals and church bodies to memorize Scripture. It includes practical tools to get started and encouragement to keep going. You can download a sample and order copies here.