So, what is the right use for a study Bible? What should you do if you, too find it limits your Bible study because it is just too easy to consult? I would suggest the following:
Don’t throw it away; just put it away.
Keep your study Bible on the shelf when you read. Get a Bible with only cross-references to use as your primary copy. Investigate cross-references to help you comprehend and interpret.
Treat study Bible notes as what they are: commentary and brief commentary at that.
Remember that they are man’s words, subject to bias and error. Read them respectfully but critically.
Consult multiple sources.
Study notes should be a starting point for further inquiry, not a terminus. Once you have read for personal understanding in a note-free Bible, consult not one, but several study Bibles and commentaries from trusted sources. Look for consensus and disagreement among them.
Ask the Holy Spirit for insight.
Humbly ask the Spirit to reveal truth to your heart and mind as you read for understanding on your own and as you compare your own discoveries to those of trusted commentators. Even if you find you have drawn the wrong conclusion from a text, you are more likely to remember the better conclusion because you have worked hard to discover it.
So use your study Bible as it is intended to be used: as a reference point for your own conclusions, but not as a substitute for them.
And get lost a little bit. Allow yourself to feel the extent of what you don’t understand. It’s a humbling feeling – but if your destination is wisdom and understanding, humility makes an excellent starting point for the journey.
Seek with all of your heart, trusting the promise that those who do so will find that which they seek.