We know we ought to be studying the Scriptures, but sometimes we don’t know how. Here are five of 10 common Bible study mistakes to avoid:
10. Starting without prayer
The Bible is unlike any other book because it was inspired by God himself. Paul told us that “the things of the Spirit of God . . . are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14), and Jesus said that the Spirit guides us into the truth (John 16:13). We have access to God through prayer, so we should be looking to him for guidance as we seek to understand his Scriptures. It doesn’t matter what incredible resources and study tools we use if we do not first go to God.
9. Studying by yourself
Scripture was intended to be read and studied in community. We’ve all but lost sight of that in our modern individualistic culture. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do personal study—there is definitely a time and place for that. But if we study on our own in exclusion to studying with others, we’ll miss out on the rich insights the community of God has to offer. Additionally, we all need the checks and balances of other believers to keep us accountable. So do your personal study, but then bring what you learn to a group setting and discuss it together. You can also facilitate your group studies by using Fathlife Community Notes.
8. Bringing preconceptions to the text
It is tempting to read the Bible selectively, trying to prove an idea we already believe to be true. If we come to the Scriptures with a predetermined conclusion, we can force them to say whatever we want. That might make us feel better, but it won’t be doing us any good. Rather, we should open the Bible with humility, knowing that some of our beliefs are wrong and ought to be changed. We must let the text speak for itself without forcing our own preconceptions on it.
7. Reading from only one perspective
Similar to the above mistake, it is tempting to only use study resources we already agree with. But this severely limits our spiritual growth. I’ve found that those whose perspectives differ from my own often have the most to teach me. When Logos selected contributors to write the notes and articles in the Faithlife Study Bible, we wanted to avoid getting stuck in one particular viewpoint. So we reached out to a wide range of different theologians. You’ll find contributions from such men as Timothy Keller, N. T. Wright, and everywhere in between. They all share a love for God, but their differing perspectives bring unique insights to the Scriptures.
6. Using only one translation
We’ve discussed this point on the blog before, but it’s worth repeating. Different Bible versions follow different translation philosophies. The basic categories include formal equivalence (seeking word-for-word accuracy), dynamic equivalence (seeking thought-for-thought accuracy), and paraphrases (rewriting the overall message). Furthermore, the Greek and Hebrew texts have many nuances that can’t be captured by a single translation. If you don’t read Greek or Hebrew, comparing multiple translations can help you see the various nuances each passage has to offer. While Ray recommended pairing the NASB with NLT or the ESV with NIrV, my personal preference would be to pair the NET with the LEB.
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Have you made any of these mistakes before? I know I have. Let’s learn from our past mistakes. What steps can we take to avoid them in the future? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to come back next week to see five more common Bible study mistakes to avoid.