We are sinners. We are fallen and living in a sinful and fallen world. Our perspectives are skewed by our sin, and therefore our interpretations will be skewed by our sin as well.
I love Bible Studies. They are important, both individually and corporately. However, we must be careful when we study the scriptures. If we believe the words of Paul in (2 Timothy 3:16) that, all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, then we must too see the importance of ensuring we are correctly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).
A wise mentor of mine, once told me something that I'll never forget. He said,
"When people read their Bible, they often times say...what do these verses mean to me. This is dangerous. Instead they need to say, what do these verses mean."
Here's what he was getting at: When we read a cook book we don't ask, what does this recipe means to us. We accept the recipe as it is, not as some kind of metaphoric way of saying something else. If we don't our cookies don't turn out like cookies at all. There's very little room for misinterpretation. When we read blue prints for building a house, we don't ask what the blueprints mean to us. They mean what they say. We read them to discover a certain truth from them. The same is true for reading the Bible.
Far too many people read the Bible and attempt to interpret the scriptures independently from the scripture. This is dangerous. We are sinners. We are fallen and living in a sinful and fallen world. Our perspectives are skewed by our sin, and therefore our interpretations will be skewed by our sin as well. Why were so many people convinced in the not-to-distant past, that the Bible condoned things like slavery? The answer is simple. They were sinners...and because of their sin, looked for ways to justify their sin...and that's the lens they used to read scripture. We re no different than them, and we must be mindful in how we read the scriptures to prevent ourselves from making the same sinful mistakes.
So, what have we learned from all this? The question we should ask ourselves when reading the Bible is simple. What does this verse mean? What is the author was trying to say in this verse? (based on language, culture, geography, history etc) After we ask and answer these questions, we are then in a safe place to seek for ways to apply the scriptures to our lives today.
For His Glory,
For more on this subject, check out John MacArthur's post titled "How to Study Your Bible"