The goal of good Bible study is simple: to get at the plain meaning of scripture. In order to do that, there are things we should do and things we should not.
What NOT to do if you want to have a good Bible study.
1. Do NOT rely on the internet. Instead, learn to use reputable sources.
While there are many resources on the internet that are reputable and useful, MOST Bible-related content you find online should be taken with a grain of salt, and a very large amount should be avoided completely.
It can be difficult for a student of the Bible – especially one who is just learning – to discern a good resource from a bad resource. The wisest approach is to use resources that have been peer-reviewed by biblical experts. Even among expert-reviewed resources you will find some that are better than others and disagreements between them, but overall the resources you’re using will be much more reliable and better for your pursuit of truth than a random website or odd opinion found on a YouTube channel.
Reputable sources for Bible study include 1) a good translation of the Bible, 2) a good Bible dictionary, and 3) a good commentary (for specific books of the Bible). If all you’re using to aid in your study of the Bible is the internet, chances are you are not utilizing good sources and will have a hard time getting at the meaning of scripture.
2. Do NOT choose a position then look for ways to justify it. Instead, see what the Bible says then determine your position.
A good word to describe what we mean when we say we want to get at the plain meaning of scripture is the Greek word exegesis.
Exegesis describes the process of learning what a given passage of scripture meant to the people who originally read it. To do good exegesis, we usually have to rely on the help of an “expert” (that is a Bible scholar who knows the original language, historical context and background). If we can get at what the passage meant to the people back then, we can figure out the actual meaning and how to apply it today.
Unfortunately what people are often tempted to do is the opposite of good Bible study – a practice known as eisegesis.
Eisegesis occurs when a student of the Bible reads their own opinion into a text instead of studying a passage to take meaning out of a text.
As a church leader, I’ve seen several instances where people want the Bible to say something in order to justify a belief or practice they’re involved in that they don’t want to change. When this occurs, a person is dangerously putting their opinion over the word of God instead of humbly living under it.
It says in the book of Proverbs:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.
The way of the wise is to embrace God’s correction and direction by humbly living under His word. The way of the fool is to reject correction by manipulating God’s word to say what I’d rather it say.
3. Do NOT study the Bible without application. Instead, learn and obey!
The end result of good Bible study can be summed up in two words: life change!
God gave us the Bible because He expects time in His word to result in a tangible difference in how we live as we learn to obey His commands.
It says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Notice the end result – exposure to God’s word is designed to produce tangible life-change through correction and continued obedience.
If we think we’re doing good simply by reading the Bible minus obedience to it, we’re deceived.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Bible study is pointless without application.
Obedience is the ultimate litmus test to determine who loves God and who doesn’t. Jesus said it succinctly:
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
To sum it up …
Good Bible study involves getting at the plain meaning of scripture so that we can obey what God says. Any approach to Bible study that keeps us from getting at the plain meaning is going to negatively affect our ability to faithfully obey and must be avoided.