Below are the Philippines’ top verses of 2023 as determined by YouVersion. With the help of Langham Partnership, Christianity Today asked three local Bible scholars for their analysis of what the list conveys about the state of Christianity in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Federico Villanueva, regional commissioning editor, Langham Partnership

What is your overall reaction to this list?

I wasn’t surprised. First, these verses reflect the situation of many Filipinos. In the midst of uncertainties, poverty, and political instability, it is understandable that many FIlipinos are drawn to Bible passages which remind them that God is in control.

He has been there from the very beginning (John 1:1). All things work together for good (Rom. 8:28). And he has a good plan for us (Jer. 29:11). So they do not need to worry (Matt. 6:33) but come to him (Matt. 11:28) and cast their cares on the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7).

Second, these verses reflect the influence of Protestant (particularly American) Christianity with its emphasis on personal spirituality and the concern for holiness in an evil and wicked world (Rom. 12:2).

Given the events of this past year, is there a verse you wish were on this list instead?

I wish Psalm 10:15 was included among the top 10 list of verses in my country, given the presence of wicked men in our country and in the world. But Christians tend not to involve themselves in politics and are more focused on the spiritual and inner needs. One of the reasons why our country is like this is there is a huge gap between what we do inside the church and what is happening in the society and the world.

Psalm 10 is part of a lament. The psalmist is complaining against God for his inaction while the wicked are annihilating the innocent poor. In the midst of the so-called War on Drugs by former president Rodrigo Duterte, the majority of the Christian population, according to a survey, was/is supportive of the deadly war. Most of the thousands of those killed are the poor, who do not have the power or resources to defend themselves. And so the situation is similar to that in Psalm 10. But why are we not lamenting? Why are we not praying that God “break the arm of the wicked” (Ps. 10:15)?

Edgar Ebojo, global translation adviser, United Bible Societies

What is your overall reaction to this list?

Admittedly, the list is something predictable and to be expected given the known contexts Filipinos are in. Whilst at first glance there are some passages that may seem more theologically desirable to have been included, the present passages are in fact very encouragingly realistic, and their relevance is on the spot.

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The list says a lot about how reassuring the Word of God is in the daily life journey of any Filipino Bible user … even during the most trying and difficult times. This message is to be expected from a book we call God's Word. These passages simply show how relevant the Scripture is in the lives and contexts of the Filipino Bible users! They show that his Word is powerful, relevant, and true!

What might the verses more unique to the list convey about the Philippines spiritual needs?

These passages are very familiar ones not just because they are more widely used in the Philippine church context than others but because of the extremely intimate message they clearly convey, which does not necessarily immediately require technical expertise to decipher its meaning and its significance to the Filipino Christian faith. They simply are very straightforwardly pointing to Christ—the primary (John 1:1) and central focus of all these passages!

Given our local socioeconomic contexts where there is dire poverty, painful difficulties, and discouraging prospects, these top 10 verses certainly highlight the importance of being assured of the “with-us-ness” of God emanating from Jesus Christ (the living Word) as promised in Holy Scriptures (the written Word). [They offer] assurance that even in a very difficult and challenging journey, God is with us!

In our pains and weariness (Matt. 11:28; 1 Pet. 5:7), in our lack and the apparent absence of provisions on our tables (Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:6), and in the midst of seeming direction-lessness of life (Isa. 41:10; Jer. 29:11; Rom. 8:28), the call to trust God faithfully and committedly for everything remain a strong conviction in the Filipinos’ worship and service of God (Rom. 12:2; John 3:16).

This assurance [not only] encompasses individual and ecclesiastical concerns but also includes national ones. Simply put, these passages are ultimate Scripture engagement materials!

Given the events of this past year, is there a verse you wish were on this list instead?

Considering our present local socioeconomic and cultural contexts, I do not see any other verses more appropriate than what are already in the list. These are on-the-ground information about how the Word of God is perceived and how it underscores the important role the Bible and its plain teachings play in the individual and corporate lives of Filipino Bible users. These chosen passages, derived from different parts of the Philippines and from Filipinos of all walks of life, are nothing but a direct proof of the place of Jesus and the Bible in the psyche of the Filipino.

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Athena Gorospe, chair of biblical studies and theology programs, Asian Theological Seminary

What is your overall reaction to this list?

I was not surprised by the verses listed, except for John 1:1. Most of the verses have to do with personal encouragement in times of anxiety and distress, but John 1:1 is more theological and has to do with the nature of Christ. This is an encouragement to me because it shows that Filipino Christians are not just concerned with their own personal existential needs but are thinking about who Jesus is, in a way that connects with the Old Testament and God as creator. Romans 12:2 is another surprise because it shows a desire among Filipinos to be countercultural, to understand the will of God, and to be transformed.

What might the verses more unique to the list convey about the Philippines' spiritual needs?

As I said [above], the top choice of John 1:1 indicates that Christology—the nature of who Jesus is—is an important concern in my context. Philippians 4:6 is not surprising because of what it says about worry and anxiety, but it is just an alternative verse to 1 Peter 5:7, which is among the top verses worldwide. Romans 12:2 has the phrase “be transformed,” which is interesting because transformation and not just salvation has been much emphasized here in the Philippines. The only problem is that Christians have different understandings of what transformation means, even though they all agree on the need for transformation.

Given the events of this past year, is there a verse you wish were on this list instead?

I would like to see a verse that shows a lament, such as Psalm 13:1 [or] Psalm 22:1. With the events of the past months, as Christians around the world go through so much suffering and conflict, they should be able to use Scripture to express their bewilderment and the feeling of being abandoned by God but then find comfort in the fact that God understands their questioning.

Editor’s note: CT’s regional analyses of the YouVersion top Bible verses of 2023 include Africa, Brazil, the Philippines, Singapore, and Ukraine.

Founded by John Stott, Langham Partnership trains, equips, and publishes pastors and leaders in growing Christian communities in the Majority World.