How to Memorize Scripture
 Learning Long Passages

Chapter 5  Table of Contents Conclusion

It is important to memorize selected short passages of one or two verses as they will give you quick access to all the important teachings of the Bible. But it can be even a greater blessing to memorize longer passages such as entire chapters (or books) of the Bible. Here are some reasons why you my want to memorize by the chapter.

How to memorize an longer passage of Scripture

It needs to be said again that there is nothing spiritual about memorizing Scripture unless the scriptures you learn is used as a mechanism for transforming your mind and heart. You need to make use of it after you have learned it. There is limited spiritual gain in memorizing Scripture if you do not understand what it means. There is limited spiritual value to your efforts to memorize scripture if you do not learn it well.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezr 7:10)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

The following is an outline of what I recommend to do to memorize a large passage or chapter of Scripture. Find your own system. The goal is to know it well and to understand well what you know. Remember, quality is more important than quantity. This may seem like hard work. It is, there is no question about it. If you are convinced that this is a good way to memorize scripture then just resist the urge to do it the easy way. Remember that this is the word of God and you owe it to yourself to tackle it as hard as you can with dedication and determination.

As time goes on you will be able to do this sort of thing quicker than you may first think. Work at it every day and you will see the power in taking a small step forward every day. Soon you will know a whole chapter then two and more. Soon you will know a whole book. If a few years you will know a couple of books or even much more. The alternative, of course, is to rush through it quickly so that you can move onto the next section. But after that same few years, you will be disappointed because you will not know what you learned well at all.

  1. Select the chapter of Scripture you wish to memorize.

  2. Read the passage over and over again for familiarity. Read it over a few times each day while you are learning it and for some time afterwards. Read it carefully and slowly, making sure you look at each word, each time.

  3. Do a Bible study on the passage you are memorizing. Use a commentary and any other resources that you can get access to. Make sure that you have a reasonable understanding of what the passage is about.

  4. From your study, write out a brief outline of the teaching of the passage.

  5. Break up the passage into several logical sections or paragraphs. Do not worry about the verse references.

  6. Write the passage out on a strip of paper as illustrated below. A half a piece (of 8-1/2 x 11) paper holds most chapters and fits in a pocket when it is folded in half. Assign topics where it is applicable. Think carefully about the topic you assign. On the paper, highlight the first five words of each paragraph. They are the key to that paragraph. Paying special attention to the key will assist in remembering which passage is next in the chapter.

  7. Start memorizing the entire batch, starting with the first paragraph.

  8. Do not move onto any other new material until you can recite the entire chapter quickly and in a loud enthusiastic voice, as if you were reading it to a group. You should also be able to write it out longhand with no errors and without peeking. Recite it out loud to another person too.

  9. Read the previous point again, because it will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful scripture memory program.

  10. Do not neglect the time it takes to meditate on each portion and figure out what your response to it should be.

  11. Read the previous point again, because it also will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful scripture memory program.

The following table is an illustration of what you could prepare if you wanted to memorize the third chapter of Philippians. The first part is the outline of the chapter. I have broken the chapter up into seven paragraphs. You can use the first five words of the passage as a 'key' to which paragraph it is. If you memorize these seven 'keys', then you will be able to remember which order the paragraphs occur easier because that is the way they will be associated in you mind. I suggest that you be able to take the outline and say all 7 of the keys both from 1 through to 7 and from 7 back through to 1.

Philippians Chapter 3    21 verses
7 Paragraphs

  1. Finally, my brothers, rejoice in
  2. Watch out for those dogs
  3. If anyone else thinks he
  4. But whatever was to my
  5. Not that I have already
  6. All of us who are
  7. Join with others in following

Philippians 3:1-1    Paragraph 1 of 7


Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

Philippians 3:2-4     Paragraph 2 of 7


Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh- though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

Philippians 3:5-6     Paragraph 3 of 7


If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

Philippians 3:7-11    Paragraph 4 of 7


But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:12-14     Paragraph 5 of 7

Topic: Pressing on towards the goal

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:15-16     Paragraph 6 of 7


All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Philippians 3:17-21     Paragraph 7 of 7


Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Learn the components of the chapter until you have the ability to quote the entire chapter without peeking. Then you may go on to the next chapter of the book and do the same thing. You can start memorizing the second chapter before finishing the first only as long as you do not get ahead of yourself and do a poor job on the first one. Breaking the chapter up into chunks makes it more practical to memorize and to review. Memorizing the outline helps you keep the passages in order. When reviewing, now and always, try to review a whole paragraph at one time.

Review a chapter like this:

Philippians chapter 3 of 4
7 paragraphs

Complete passage with pause between paragraphs

Memorizing scripture has two components. The first is spiritual and deals with understanding, attitude and obedience. The second is purely mechanical and is really not very spiritual at all. Much of the process of Scripture memorization is not spiritual because it deals with the hard and time consuming work of putting the text into your mind accurately. But, I have been emphasizing that a 'successful' Scripture memory program is not measured according to how much scripture you have put into your mind. A 'successful' Scripture memory system takes the memorized Scripture and makes it a part of your life through meditation, prayer and application. Meditation and application are spiritual. Meditation on the memorized word will also reinforce what you have learned so that you will never forget it.

The mechanical process can be further divided into two parts. The first is initial memorization and the second is review. Each of these requires a different set of skills which must be developed. You will find that the bulk of the time spent will not be in the memorization of the chapters you want to learn, but in review. Also, after a while, it will be easier to memorize new material, because your brain becomes trained to take in the new information. The difficult task will be to maintain it and still learn new chapters at an acceptable rate. The solution has to be to make review of scripture a way of life.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. (Php 4:8)

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Jos 1:8)

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Ps 119:97)

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Ps 119:148)

I think we should be able to discipline ourselves to do this. It has to be just a matter of choice and training. Whenever you have a moment of free time, instead of grumbling about this or that why not 'think-through' a chapter of Scripture? By default our minds often tend towards things which are not beneficial. Why not refuse to do this? For example what do you think about when you are washing dishes, sweeping, driving, waiting, folding laundry, walking, eating, etc. etc? Is it really of value? Are you pleased with it? I find that I spend almost all of this time thinking about that which is either not profitable or just sinful. Renounce sinful and unprofitable thinking and replace it with God's word. If you can memorize a few chapters of Scripture, the review part will be done almost automatically, if we place our minds on 'continuous playback' of the scripture we know. There are hours in the day were we are waiting for things or doing things which does not really require a lot of concentration. Use this time to replay the Scripture you know in your mind. When you get up each morning, put the chapters you plan to review in your pocket so you can refer to them when you need to. The value to your walk with God could be immeasurable. I have been doing this and can testify that it works. It did not take too long to train myself to do it either. I am a busy person be I have reviewed up to 10 chapters of Scripture per day and not have to dedicate any special time to it.

(Note added in 2004, about 5 years after writing the above paragraph:  I was able to do this, but have not been able too keep up the pace.  Perhaps it was my own lack of discipline, or perhaps I was trying to do too much.  I still think the idea of making Scripture review a sort of continuous background task, but it has to be done at a sustainable level.  Currently I am working through the book of James with my children as I drive them to school each morning.  We started off in September with chapter 1 verse 1 and all a few words each day.  Each day all three of us say what we have memorized  from the beginning to the part which is new.  It is going to take two years to do it, 10 minutes a day, but all of us will know the book so well by the end of it that we will never forget.  We also learn to talk quickly.  The good thing about what we are doing here is that it seems to be sustainable.  )

What I am saying is, make sure that you are reviewing Scripture at all times you are able to. With this amount of review, you will not have to worry about how fast you are learning new chapters. You will always have time to review it.

I am finding that I can review scripture like this each day for a week, then the next few days I spend learning new material before going back to review again. I carry around the printed out chapters in my pocket at all times. I keep a mental bookmark as to which paragraph needs to be done next. Whenever I see an opportunity to review a paragraph I recite the next one in my mind to myself. If I am in the car I can say it out loud. Wherever I am, if I have 30 seconds of time to give to review, I can do one paragraph. If I have more time, I try to do more. At night I sometimes have used a small flashlight that I can use to look at the printed material if I get stuck. I can review while I go to sleep, and for a few moments when I wake up in the middle of the night.

If you spend your spare moments like this, it will be less likely that you will fall into sin because your mind is always on the word of God. Each day the 'world' gets a large chunk of my attention and time. Many of the things we encounter in our daily lives will draw us away from a pure thought life. This type of meditation ensures that we can stay close to God.


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