To be a good preacher you have to believe in your bones that all Scripture is inspired by God and useful; you have to believe that the Word of God will never return void, and if you believe that then you will want to base your sermon in the text and to season your speech with the text on every occasion.
Toward that end, I have assembled the following list of 100 passages that I have made frequent and fruitful use of in my preaching ministry.
I find that having a stock of core text memorized allows me to be more free and passionate in my preaching, particularly when I am making an appeal. I don’t want to be looking at my manuscript when I am pleading with people to believe in God, repent of their sins and trust in Jesus – I want to be looking into their eyes and to do that, I need to have a stable of core texts that I can draw upon from memory.
When you memorize a passage, it becomes part of the raw material that your mind draws upon when forming thoughts and working through problems.
I also find that having a well-rounded stock of verses memorized helps to shape my thinking according to biblical categories. When you memorize a passage, it becomes part of the raw material that your mind draws upon when forming thoughts and working through problems. Each memorized verse is like a piece of code that gets picked up and reused in all subsequent plans, programs and computations.
Most of the following passages are presented in the ESV, which is the version we preach from at the church where I serve. A few are presented in the KJV, which is the version that was most common when I was a child and first memorizing Scripture verses in Sunday School.
I have found that once something is locked in it cannot easily be displaced by a more modern version, and so I suspect I will be quoting these verses in the old KJV until I die.
I have divided the list below into 10 categories that represent frequent themes and areas of focus in regular preaching. The passages are presented in canonical order.
When Talking About God:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about God. They stress his identity as Creator and his Sovereignty over all things. Several of them reflect upon his revealed character and his disposition toward his covenant children.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3 ESV)
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)
For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 ESV)
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV)
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV)
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39 ESV)
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2 ESV)
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 ESV)
God is love (1 John 4:16 ESV)
When Talking About Human Beings:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about human beings. They stress our created status and our tremendous dignity as the image and likeness of God. They also focus on the intentionally gendered nature of human beings as male and female. Several of them also reflect upon the corruption of our nature because of the fall.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26 ESV)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18 ESV)
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 ESV)
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25 ESV)
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:3-8 ESV)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
When Talking About sin:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about sin. They stress the foolishness of sin, the rebelliousness of sin and the extent and impact of sin upon human beings.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1 ESV)
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5 ESV)
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me (Psalm 66:18 KJV)
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13 KJV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Romans 2:14-15 ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ESV)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12 ESV)
For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 ESV)
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4 ESV)
When Talking About Salvation:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about salvation. The list begins with the protevangelium, the promise that a hero will come who will defeat our enemy, at some cost to himself and return human beings to their original intimacy with God. There is a mixture of passages from the Old Testament, which anticipate the coming of the Savior, and the New Testament, which reflect upon the salvation effected by Jesus Christ.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15 ESV)
For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. (Psalm 18:27 ESV)
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)
It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25 ESV)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18 ESV)
When Talking About Sanctification:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about sanctification. Some of the following verses focus on what we as Christians need to do in order to grow up in Christ, whereas others reflect upon the resources provided to us by God as undeserved grace. This is appropriate, as sanctification is a two-handed work. In the longer passage from 2 Peter 1:3-8, which I do not currently have memorized word for word, I have bolded and underlined the parts that I frequently cite from memory in my preaching.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11 KJV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12 ESV)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1 Peter 4:1-3 ESV)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8 ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
When Talking About the Church:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about the church. Some of the following passages reflect upon the nature, function and future of the church and several deal with the “one another” passages that teach how believers ought to treat each other within the covenant community.
I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10 ESV)
Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12:16 ESV)
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7 ESV)
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV)
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV)
Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:15 ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
When Talking About Mission:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about mission. They stress the intention of God to gather people from every tribe, tongue and nation on earth into relationship with himself through the line of promise, which ultimately culminates in the person and work of Christ.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. (Psalm 67:3-4 ESV)
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10 ESV)
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 ESV)
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.” (Isaiah 54:2-3 ESV)
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV)
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10 ESV)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14 ESV)
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
When Talking About Ethics:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about ethics. Evangelical preaching has been weak on ethics for the last 20 years or so as it overreacted to the moralism of the late 20th century. The correct balance can be seen in the letters of the Apostle Paul, several of which are evenly divided between Gospel indicatives and ethical imperatives (Ephesians and 1 Thessalonians, for example). The grace of God saves us from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin, and thus the Christian should be helped to live as God intended in the home, in the church and in the public square.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. (Proverbs 5:15 ESV)
Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD, and false scales are not good. (Proverbs 20:23 ESV)
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17 ESV)
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9 ESV)
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 ESV)
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7 ESV)
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10 ESV)
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27 ESV)
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17 ESV)
When Talking About the Future:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about the future. They stress the trials and tribulations that will come and increase as we approach the end, the importance of being active in our commission, the certain coming of Christ, the resurrection, the Final Judgment and the renewal of all things.
Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV)
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27 ESV)
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13 ESV)
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11 ESV)
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 ESV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV)
For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV)
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5 ESV)
When Talking About Jesus:
The following 10 passages can be used when talking about Jesus. The first few are from the Old Testament and reflect the expectations and hopes of the Old Covenant prophets. Following that are several citations from the New Testament describing the identity and mission of Jesus, the last several of which are in his own words.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1 ESV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35 ESV)
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 ESV)
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9 ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 ESV)
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13 ESV)
Seasoning your sermons with memorized Scripture will add power and freedom to your preaching. It will allow you to leave the page, so to speak, so as to appeal to the heart, from the heart. The practice of memorization will be a blessing to your people, not to mention, a gift to your own soul as well. I highly recommend the practice.
And may God alone be glorified!
Pastor Paul Carter
If you are interested in more Bible teaching from Pastor Paul you can access the entire library of Into The Word episodes through the Audio tab on the Into the Word website. You can also download the Into The Word app on iTunes or Google Play.