Sometimes I wonder who decided which verses of Scripture would be the most commonly memorized. While some of them are good, many of them are incomplete in what they say about the nature of God or of salvation or of whatever they talk about.
This wouldn’t be so huge of a problem except that a lot of Christians know nothing more of God or of Christianity or of the Bible than those few verses that they memorized as children.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This is good. It teaches us about salvation by grace through faith… it clearly denies salvation by works… but in the long run, I think this has been a pretty damaging memory verse because of its incompleteness. Many people take this to be cheap grace–grace that costs nothing and leads, as Bonhoeffer puts it, to the justification of sin, instead of the justification of the sinner.
It continues in verse ten to say, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This verse is rarely, if ever, memorized by Christians. Here Paul is clearly saying that saving faith is followed by “good works.” Of course there are a lot of different ways to interpret what kind of works it is exactly talking about, but I think it probably includes things like service, mercy, love, caring for the poor and downtrodden, that sort of thing, more than it includes things like not smoking, not cussing, not drinking, and handing out tracts.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I don’t even need to give the reference for that one. I think this verse has caused more of the easy-believeism that plagues evangelicalism today than anything else. Sure, it is true. It is only by grace through faith that we are saved. But what about verse 21? “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Once again, things concerning the Christians obligation to actually follow Christ in faith are left out. Jesus called his disciples to have faith, sure, but he also expected them to follow him.
John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We’ve all heard that one as well. But it doesn’t really make much sense on its own. The verse before it says, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We need to abide in his word. Not simply memorize a few random verses. Abide.
I don’t do it nearly enough. God’s word is powerful. God’s word is authoritative. God’s word is the power unto salvation. The whole thing. Period. And it really will set you free.