How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


Paul told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). In order to have the word of Christ dwelling in us richly, at least we have to memorize the Scriptures. Of course, memorization alone may not result in God’s word dwelling in us. But we can say that if one does not memorize God’s Word, he certainly cannot have it dwelling in him richly. If a man merely memorizes the Scriptures with his mind, but his heart is not receptive or open to God and he is not submissive or meek, his memorization will not result in God’s word dwelling in his heart. Yet if a man thinks that there is no need to memorize God’s word because he only needs to be meek and submissive and open and receptive to God, he also will not be able to have God’s word dwelling in his heart.

Paul told the Ephesians, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In order to remember the Lord’s word, we have to memorize it. If we do not memorize it, we cannot remember it. The Lord Jesus memorized the Scriptures while He was on earth. He was able to quote the words of Deuteronomy to deal with Satan’s temptations (Matt. 4:1-10). When He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, He was able to open up to the book of Isaiah and speak forth the commandment and commission He had received from God (Luke 4:16-21). This shows that our Lord was very familiar with the Scriptures. For this reason we should give all the more diligence to study and memorize the Word. If we do not memorize it, we will forget what we have read, and we will reap little benefit from it. The young people in particular should try to memorize and recite it as they read it with a searching mind. We should spend time during the first few years of our Christian life memorizing the Scriptures. Many portions of the Word need to be memorized. For example, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Matthew 5—7, John 15, Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 2—3, and Revelation 2—3 all need to be memorized. Those with a strong memory can memorize over ten verses a day. Those with a poor memory can memorize at least one verse a day. All we need to do is spend five to ten minutes a day to study a verse thoroughly and to search and memorize it. In about six months we will finish a book like Galatians or Ephesians. A book like Philippians can be finished within four months, and a book like Hebrews can be finished within ten months. The Gospels may take a longer time. But even a book like the Gospel of John can be memorized in eighteen months. If the young brothers and sisters would study the Bible diligently from the beginning of their Christian life and memorize at least one verse a day, they would be able to recite most of the important verses in the New Testament in four years. The above discussion pertains to those with a poor memory. Those with a better memory can do better. But even those with a poor memory can memorize one verse a day during the first four years of their Christian life. If they would do this, they would build up a solid foundation for themselves in their understanding of the New Testament.

If our hearts are open to God and meek in attitude, it will be easy for us to memorize the Scriptures. If our minds are set on the Lord’s Word all the time, memorization will be an easy task. While we seize every available opportunity to memorize the Scriptures, the word of Christ will dwell in us richly. If we do not allow the Scriptures to dwell in our heart, it will be hard for the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Whenever God grants us a revelation, He does so through the words of the Bible. If we do not memorize the Scriptures, it will be hard for revelation to come to us. This is the reason we should have God’s Word in our mind all the time. Memorizing the Scriptures is not for memorization alone; it is to lay the groundwork for us to receive revelation. If we memorize the Scriptures often and well, it will be easy for us to receive revelation and enlightenment, and the Holy Spirit will find it easier to speak to our spirit. This is the reason we have to spend time to memorize the Word, not just outlines but the actual text. We have to memorize it accurately and carefully.

Besides the above-mentioned crucial passages, other critical portions should also be put together and memorized as a whole. For example, the journey of the Israelites is an important piece of information. The journey which Elisha took when he followed Elijah, the journeys related to Peter’s preaching, and the journeys related to Paul’s preaching are also important. It is best to memorize all these facts. If we can recall the number of places in Judea and Galilee where the Lord Jesus worked, we will have a clear idea of the Lord’s work as a whole in the Gospels. The Lord’s work is divided into two sections, the first being carried out in Judea and the second in Galilee. There is also the need to spend some time to memorize the seven feasts and the six offerings in Leviticus. These are basic truths. Once we memorize them, we will realize the riches in God’s word. It is not a bad idea to memorize the two prayers of Paul in Ephesians and the ten references to the Holy Spirit in the same book. Verses like these can be found throughout the Bible, and it would do us good to memorize them all. If it is a crucial passage, we should memorize the whole chapter. If it is some isolated verses, we should memorize the verses. We also have to memorize the sixty-six books of the Bible according to the proper order.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)