Excuse Files: File #45.6 — “But I Haven’t Memorized Scripture.”
Who has Jesus called to be His witnesses to the world? All believers, right? “But surely, He wouldn’t ask me to talk about the Gospel to others, would He? After all, I can’t perfectly spout off Scripture.” I think fear and lack of confidence bedevils many of us believers into keeping our mouths zipped when opportunities abound all around us for spiritual conversations.
“I can’t cite chapter and verse; therefore, I’d rather not get in above my head.” The obvious solution for not being able to cite chapter and verse is to first learn chapter and verse, and then work to memorize chapter and verse. But it takes time to build up a repertoire of verses, and few of us will memorize the entire canon. So, may I offer a simple solution? While you are being transformed by learning and memorizing the Bible, become comfortable saying, “According to the Bible…” Some simple examples for this might be:
“According to the Bible, God created the world and all life teeming upon it.” This is the first two chapters of Genesis.
“According to the Bible, the human race fell from its created perfection.” This is the third chapter of Genesis.
“According to the Bible, God sent His one and only Son to offer himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of mankind.” God’s grace is on display in Genesis 3:15 and continues throughout the rest of Scripture, encapsulated by John 3:16.
When you say, “The Bible says,” you are maintaining that the authority comes from God’s Word rather than from your own thoughts and opinions. It’s not a forceful authority as in a hammer blow, but it’s the authority of a transformed heart, steeped in the love of God, prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
What about the times when you could quote Scripture? Sometimes, it might actually be wise to forego direct citations of biblical passages for the sake of brevity and even clarity. When you say, “the Bible says,” and proceed to helpfully paraphrase what it says, you may better speak into the soul of the yet unregenerate than if you cited the complete Scripture. This is truth flowing out of a vessel like themselves — human to human.
Paul did something like this when writing to the church at Corinth about the Gospel:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
1 Corinthians 15:3,4
Notice that Paul, who certainly knew the Scriptures, uses the phrase “according to the Scriptures” instead of directly citing those passages. The facts of the Gospel are “of first importance” and the weight of Scripture undergirds those facts, even though it’s not directly referenced.
How well you can quote Scripture verbatim, as impressive or unimpressive that may be, is not of first importance. The Gospel, and its spread, are of first importance. No one likes to be perceived as fumbling around when speaking about the Bible. Rather, we all want to be perfectly poised like a gymnast who just stuck her landing. But take comfort because, “Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). No excuses. God supernaturally superintended the writing of the Bible, and He can carry along His disciple makers of today as well. Will the Holy Spirit lead us to use our words or God’s? Answer: yes!
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Jack Gross is a graduate of Advanced Leadership Training at Grace Polaris Church. He and his wife, Evon, came to Grace in the fall of 2008. Jack enjoys working with his hands and is employed by the facilities department at Worthington Christian Schools. He worked with the warehouse crew at Grace helping to build Living Christmas Tree sets. He has recently joined the nursing home ministry as a speaker at Friendship Village. He also enjoys the wonders of creation by tending his perennial garden. Jack and Evon have two teenage sons and have lived in Columbus all their lives.