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The Benefits of Topical Memorization

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
(1 Peter 3:15)
Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

Knowing that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16), I'm always excited to meet fellow Christians who have taken the time to commit any portion of God's Word to memory. Whether they can walk me down Romans road, recite the genealogy of Christ, or simply quote a favorite verse that has had a special impact on their own lives, I'm always mindful of the invaluable promise of God found in Isaiah 55:10-11,

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."


In other words, just as any form of precipitation accomplishes God's purpose of watering the earth, any part of the "living and powerful" Word of God can be used by the Lord to transform a life "from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (Heb. 4:12; 2 Cor. 3:18) Time spent committing any part of God's Word to memory is never a waste.

It has been my observation, however, that those who memorize by topic are often very well equipped to defend their faith and convictions. That's not to say there is no value in memorizing entire chapters (nearly half of my memory verses belong to complete chapters I've learned), but it is rare that we encounter a need to share a lengthy passage of Scripture in conversation. More often than not, a verse or two that applies to the topic at hand is all that's needed.

Topical memorization's most obvious downside is that verses memorized out of context may not be applied correctly, and may not be as easy to reference as entire passages. Quoting Isaiah 53 is a fairly straightforward task; either you can do it or you can't. Being asked what the Bible says about atonement might lead you to those same verses, but knowing they apply to that topic requires us to have carefully studied their meaning and application in the first place.

The first step you should take toward a topical Bible study is a very simple one: decide on a topic. Consider where you are at in your relationship with God as well as your current ability to defend fundamental Biblical doctrines. If you are struggling with anxiety, perhaps memorizing 5-10 verses on the peace of God would be appropriate. If you don't quite know how to defend the deity of Jesus, pick out a few verses that deal specifically with this teaching.

Once you've decided on a topic, compile a list of verses you'd like to memorize. OpenBible.Info is a great way to search for Bible verses by topic, as are the cross-references printed in most study Bibles. Our own web store includes a vast selection of memory books with pre-selected verses and study notes on topics such as the promises of God, praise, and the plan of salvation. As you memorize each verse, consider all of the possible ways you may have an opportunity to use it in conversation. This will make you more likely to recognize those opportunities later.

Have you ever memorized topically? If so, what did you study? In your experience, is topical memorization more or less effective than memorizing full passages or chapters?

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Topical Memorization”

  • Jim Woychuk

    Jesus and Paul both deploy Scripture topically (Matt 4, John 7, Rom 3), but I think both topical and bulk passages serve different purposes in the spiritual life.

    Reply
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