Most Christians would agree that they want to memorize more Scripture. But for many, memorizing Scripture stops there—as a thought. It is harder to translate thought into reality when memorizing doesn’t come easily, you feel too busy, or past failures plague your memory.
Last January, my small group of five men and I decided to memorize Ephesians 1 and 2 at the pace of one verse per week. This has proved revolutionary in my memorization of Scripture.
Andy Davis, the guy who literally wrote the book on memorizing extended passages of Scripture, recommends starting in Ephesians, because “I like to urge people to start with something relatively short that really grabs their heart’s affections. If they have no preference, I point them toward Ephesians, because it is manageable and so incredibly rich for such a short length.”
I had memorized short passages of Scripture before, but this was my first dive into an extended portion of Scripture—an experience that I have found difficult, but life-changing. We typically memorize a few verses a week, recite an extended portion during small group, discuss the passage (or read from a commentary), and encourage each other to press on.
Reveling in Gospel-Riches
Ephesians is a remarkable book, and choosing to memorize large portions of it has proved remarkably transformational for us. (We plan to finish memorizing the book this year.) If I had to use one word to describe Ephesians, I would choose a word that repeats several times in it: riches.
In Ephesians, Paul reveals many glorious gospel-truths that were once hidden from before time began. Take Paul’s joyful exclamation of praise in Ehpesians 1:3-14 for instance. Paul can’t keep his heart from worshiping as he walks through many spiritual blessings in Christ, including God’s eternal loving predestination, adoption, forgiveness, and our future inheritance. This is a passage I’ve read and heard preached countless times, even preaching it myself, but the exercise of memorizing and meditating day after day for months drove these truths home with force.
I felt like if the Bible’s story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation was a DVD, Ephesians 1:3-14 would be the behind-the-scenes interview with the director and Creator of the universe describing his eternal intentions for his creation and for my life. He loved me so much that he would plan from before time began to choose me to be a holy part of his family. This choice proved costly, but the spilling of his Son’s blood for our redemption was also planned from before time began, and all of this is so that we would live “to the praise of his glory.”
Grasping Glorious Truths
A natural response to tasting such riches is desiring a greater experience and understanding of these glorious truths—and that’s exactly what Paul prays for in Ephesians 1:15-23, where Paul responds to the glorious truths of Ephesians 1:3-14 by asking for enlightened eyes and a deeper knowledge our hope in Christ (v. 18), the riches of God’s love for us (or as Paul puts it in verse 18, “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”), and the unbridled power of God toward us who believe (v. 19).
Echoing Paul’s requests has led me to worship and grown me in humility. I can honestly say that God has answered those prayers in my life. The gospel is more precious to me because of all those times sitting on the couch or in the car rehearsing the verse of the week and making it my prayer.
I now understand more of the extravagant love and manifold wisdom of God expressed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians—and this would never have happened if I hadn’t committed this passage to memory. And that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t commit to memorizing in a group.
Like long-distance runners in packs, it helps when others run alongside you to accomplish big goals that can often fall by the wayside when motivation wanes. A key element for memorizing together is the built-in accountability and a positive peer-pressure of not wanting to be “that guy” who is either lazy or uncommitted.
As we’ve looked back at the past year and shared the fruits and struggles of memorizing extended portions of Scripture, we share one thing in common: We are changed people.
Yes, there were weeks when I fell behind, wanted to quit, or didn’t drink as deeply from the well of truth. But like the effects of a long-soaking rain, my soul has reaped the benefits of meditation: yielding fruit in season, remaining strong through adversity, and prospering spiritually (see Psalm 1:1-3).
If you’re contemplating memorizing large portions of Scripture or even an entire book—do it. Yes, you will sacrifice and work hard, but God will use your efforts and richly bless you by deepening your faith and experience of him. Perhaps a greater dedication to memorizing Scripture is just what you need to overcome social media addiction or the sometimes-exhausting effects of news consumption.
So much of our lives will wither like the grass in light of eternity (1 Peter 1:24), but as we meditate on God’s eternal Word and hide it in our hearts, his grace and power will sprout new life and lasting fruit, to the praise of his glory.