One thing I try to do consistently when teaching from a book of the Bible is to start class with a full reading of the text at hand. It is important for scripture to be heard sans commentary. While we shouldn’t read the Bible so objectively that it might as well be arranged like an eye chart on the wall, each letter and word disconnected from the context and meaning of the surrounding words and themes, it is important for God’s Word to be heard on its own merit. It is important to realize that we can sit in class and discuss, interpret, make assumptions, and the like but in the end God says it better.
That being said it is necessary to point out that interpretation of the text is necessary. In fact, it is impossible to let the text stand on its own without interpretation. The only way to do that is to leave the Bible closed and on the shelf. Once the word is read our minds do what they do best. They begin sorting through the sensory experience of hearing. The words in the richness of their connections already present in our mind bring up sights, sounds, paralleled meanings and texts, stories and experiences. That is what our minds do. That is what God made them to do, especially when it comes to hearing His inspired word. John 20:31 tells us precisely that.
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The text is to be actively engaged so that belief and faith might be produced through the process of interpretation of what God has said, recorded in scripture.
While I do believe scripture can and will speak for itself I don’t believe God wanted the Bible to be passively experienced. Instead it is meant to intersect our lives at a particular point in time and do something to us and in us and through us. That is why you can read the same story in scripture at different times in your life and walk away with different lessons each time. Each time something different jumps out that is relevant in your current life situation. It only makes sense that since the because we, the word, and the Spirit, are all living and active that all three would be designed to work in concert with one another in a way that grows our faith and knowledge of God.
But in the end, no matter how many great commentaries there are, how many wonderful application questions we can muster, and how many word studies we do, God always says it better himself.