Everybody enjoys the preacher that can quote scripture from memory in his preaching. I suppose every preacher aspires to be one that has that ability. Some have it. Some don’t. Some moderately so. Some preachers simply read most of the scriptures they use. The important point is that they preach the Word of God, which seems to be a dying art these days, however one might go about it.
In my preaching I try to use as many scriptures as I can. How many are enough? Who knows? Are there enough? Are there too many? Some brethren count how many scriptures a preacher uses. Some brethren just know that you may use a lot, or a few. James W. Boyd, in discussing “Faulty Measures of Sermons,” once said,
Some measure the soundness of a sermon by the number of Scriptures used. Sermons should include the Word of God, and passages pertaining to the given subject should be cited. But some subjects, though solidly based on Scripture, need not have a long array of passages. Many good sermons have been preached from just one verse. It is a mistake to measure a sermon by the mere number of Scriptures quoted or cited. The soundness of a sermon should be measured by whether the Scripture has been handled aright or rightly divided, properly taught and applied. (East Main Informer, bulletin of the East Main Church of Christ, Tupelo, MS. March 6, 1984).
The reason we speak of “book, chapter and verse” preaching is because our English translations are arranged that way – books with chapters and verses. According to Herbert Lockyer chapter divisions originated in the Latin Old Testament about the year 1240. Verse divisions are credited to Robert Stephens in 1560 (All the Books and Chapters of the Bible, Introduction). The point being that the original scriptures were not divided into chapters and verses. It would therefore never have been said of the New Testament evangelists that they were “book, chapter and verse” preachers. The late Franklin Camp, in his teaching, was often heard to say, “Ignore the chapter divisions,” when reading the Bible, because we often assume a change in thought is there where none exists.
A point of interest is that some of the newer Bibles being published are arranged in single columns without chapters and verses, and some with just chapter divisions. My youngest son, Jon Paul acquired an English Standard Version Reader’s Bible some time ago. It has chapter, but not verse, divisions. I told him that he can only be a “book and chapter” preacher, but not a “book, chapter and verse” preacher. Of course, the earliest evangelists only had the books without chapters and verses.
Recently I acquired the new book, Beyond the Verse: What I Discovered Reading the Bible One Book at a Time, by Wes McAdams. He makes the point that we basically view the Bible as a collection of verses. We pick our favorite verses for memorization or devotion, frame them and hang them on our wall. If we want to prove a particular point of truth we look for the right verse to nail it down. And it may well be that the verse is divorced from its original context and forced to bolster an idea that was never in the mind of the inspired writer. McAdam’s counsels the reader to look beyond the verse, but I would caution, don’t ignore it! He recommends reading the Bible as we would a letter, as a single unit, or as a whole. He points out that it is not very time consuming to sit down and read 4 or 5 chapters, or more as the case may be. His point is well taken. I think I will act upon McAdam’s advice and my youngest son’s example and order a Reader’s Bible, and read the Bible without verse divisions. It might be a refreshing change, while at the same time moving back a little closer to the way Bible reading was originally meant to be done.