Studying Scripture can feel like you’re engaging with it. You’re reading and re-reading, following trails of cross-references, and completing word studies left and right. Maybe you’ve even read from one, two, or ten different academic resources. You’ve engaged with the text more than you ever have! But what if studying and engaging Scripture aren’t the same thing?

The Abide Study Bible has a message for all of us. Let’s learn to study and engage Scripture (because… hint: they aren’t the same thing).

The Abide Study Bible is available in NET and NKJV translations.
The following content is drawn from the NKJV Abide Bible.

Engaging Is Not the Same as Studying

Engaging the Bible is not the same as studying the Bible; it complements deep study of the Scriptures. The relational reading of Scripture engagement should not detract from Bible study. Second Timothy 2:15 teaches us to correctly handle “the word of truth.” The apostle Paul was a scholar (see Acts 22:3). So we need to study and engage.

The Goal of Studying Scripture

Inductive study of the Bible—the process of observing, interpreting, and applying—is how we understand what the Bible means and how to obey it. We must know what the Bible says in order to gain an accurate understanding of God. Though Bible study is important, it is not enough. It is possible to study the Bible as a mere academic exercise, to read it in a way that does not impact life because we have no encounter with God. You have probably met people who have head knowledge of a topic without a heart or life change, a kind of empty scholasticism.

The Goal of Engaging Scripture

On the other hand, the goal of Scripture engagement is not to be so subjective with the Bible that we move away from the original meaning of the passage. The sole question can never be, “What does the passage mean to me?” Scripture engagement calls us to both analyze and apply the Bible, to be both students and followers. The goal is to listen with our minds and with our hearts. The ideal process is to come to the Bible, working hard to study what it means, and then to reflect, in the power of the Holy Spirit, on the meaning of the passage for our lives and communities.

Ideally reflection brings up more questions about the meaning of the text, and study brings up fodder for reflection. The two practices work synergistically to bring you closer to God.

Learn How to Read and Reflect

Few would disagree about the need to teach people how to study the Bible, learning the principles of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics), understanding the historical and cultural settings of the Bible, and discerning the meanings of words in the original biblical languages. But aren’t people naturally reflective? Once they understand what the Bible says intellectually, won’t they examine and act on that understanding? No, reflection and application need to be taught too. In some ways, understanding the Bible intellectually is the easier of the two processes. The reflection process through which we are mostly likely to meet God and be changed by Him is what we especially need to learn.

Why is Reflecting on the Scriptures Sometimes Challenging?

One reason is our natural tendency to avoid anything that brings change. Meeting and knowing God are always for our good, but obeying Him involves death to ourselves (see Matt. 16:24). Meeting with God will change our lives. Being willing to change is a critical first step in the spiritual reading of the Bible.

Scripture engagement is also difficult because reflecting on Scripture is a whole-person process. We offer our intellect and our emotions. We contemplate personal and community life changes. And we yield our attitudes and our actions to God’s direction. It’s much easier to use a corner of our brains to skim the surface of a Bible passage, preventing it from penetrating our lives.

Scripture uses a number of words to show us ways to reflect:

These basic actions can be mixed and matched in different ways, using different practices based on our needs. But all are needed for the best results.

A Soccer Metaphor

The basic idea of soccer seems fairly simple: kick the ball into the goal. Even children can play the game. But with practice and good coaching, kids can grow up to be brilliant World Cup–level athletes, masters of the game. Similarly, everyone can engage the Bible at some level. But with practice and coaching we can grow in the life-changing skills of Scripture engagement and experience real transformation.

Just as we need good instruction about how to study the Bible, we need good coaching in how to reflect on and apply it. The bottom line is that Scripture study and engagement are equally important practices.

With The Abide Bible you can put both to work!


Do you yearn for life-giving, intimate communion with God? The Abide Bible is designed to help you experience the peace, hope, and growth that comes from encountering the voice and presence of God in Scripture. Every feature in Abide is designed to teach and develop Scripture-engagement habits that help you know the power and spiritual nourishment of abiding in Christ.

Created in partnership with Bible Gateway and the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, The Abide Bible’s features include articles, book introductions, and practical Scripture engagement prompts based on five ways of engaging deeply with the Bible:

  • Praying Scripture: Pattern your prayers after biblical texts, personalizing the prayer and gaining language for the thoughts and emotions you want to express.
  • Picture It: Place yourself in a biblical narrative as a bystander or participant in important events.
  • Journaling: Focus and reflect on Scripture and its meaning for your life, opening yourself to God’s voice as you ponder.
  • Engage Through Art: Consider a classic piece of art—photograph, sculpture, painting—and let it deepen your meditations on scriptural truths.
  • Contemplate: Follow the church’s longstanding practice of reading, meditating on, praying, and contemplating a passage of Scripture in order to experience God’s presence through the words of the Bible.

Abide is a unique tool for discovering Scripture at an exciting new level. Specially crafted prompts guide readers to engage biblical passages with more depth and imagination than ever before. By considering scriptural truth via classic art, journaling, and praying biblical texts, readers enjoy fresh, life-altering encounters with God and His Word.


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