Here are some suggestions from a recent article I wrote for Ligonier’s Tabletalk magazine:
First, use your study Bible discerningly.
The most important feature in a study Bible is the horizontal line that divides the biblical text from the biblical interpretation. Everything above the line is inerrant and infallible. Everything below the line is filled with good intentions but may not be true. We are to be like the noble Bereans who cross-checked the teaching they received with the authoritative Word of God (Acts 17:11; see 1 Thess. 5:21). To paraphrase Galatians 1:8-9, “Even if we or a bestselling study Bible should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let it be accursed.”
Second, use your study Bible for more than just the notes.
I am convinced that the most underutilized and yet important parts of a good study Bible are the introductions to each biblical book. A careful reading of the introduction will help you see the big picture. Use study Bible introductions well, and you will be less likely to take a passage out of context.
Third, use more than one study Bible.
Not all study Bibles are created equal. There are some I would highly recommend and some I would highly discourage Christians from using. Don’t make your decision primarily based on the quality of the Bible or the attractiveness of the design or the promises on the box. Rather, do some research to find out the theological position of the study Bible, who wrote and edited the notes, and whether there is a focus or theme that it is trying to advance.
Fourth, use your study Bible as an opportunity to interpret the Bible with the communion of saints.
Some people object to study Bibles. After all, do we need all these notes to tell us what Scripture really says? But “God has appointed in the church … teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28). As C.H. Spurgeon noted, “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”
The best study Bibles don’t present startling new interpretations. They put you in dialogue with the best interpreters—teachers who are gifts of God to the church—to help us rightly handle His Word. When they do, we can truly say: all glory to God alone.
You can read the whole article here, in which I try to show how good study Bibles, used well, can give good guidance in understanding history, practicing exegesis, and making theological application.