At this point we have considered six of the seven steps you may take in an in-depth bible study. Those steps thus far have been – surveying the text, analyzing the text (Contextual, formal, & detailed), synthesis, and the one we looked at last week, reflection. If the bible student has followed these steps there should be a better understanding of the text, then when they first started. This understanding may not be perfect or without flaw, but hopefully it is more developed then when first began.
The last step is expansion and refinement. Unfortunately, this is where some bible students begin, but it is error to do so. Expansion and refinement are where one considers outside writings in relation to their study. This would be where one might look at a commentary, study bible, or maybe even sermons. It is not a bad thing to consider these sources, but it should be the last step in the study after you have already begun to grasp the text yourself.
The reason this should be your last step instead of the first step is found in II Timothy 4:3,4. There are plenty of wonderful sources you can find to enhance your studies, however there are also many sources that promote false doctrines. If you do not have a grasp on the text for yourself when you go to an outside source, it may be easier for a bible student to be led astray. It may also be more difficult to clear the mind and develop your own thoughts in studying a text if there are already someone else’s thoughts swirling in your head. Expansion and refinement is an important step but it is a step that most not be done out of order.