The problem I have with SOAP is the application portion. This trips us humans up every time because we simply cannot apply the Scriptures to our lives. We can't; it's not our job. Every single time we do, we become built up with pride and that application portion becomes our all-in-all. We don't stop with the mirror, either, but we take what we've applied to our own lives and project that onto others.
The minute any Bible study becomes about our response, it is no longer about Jesus Christ.
When it is no longer about Jesus Christ, it is no longer relevant.
Here are a few reasons I won't use SOAP, or any other Bible study method that uses application as a step in its process:
1. Human application of Scripture falls through human filters. These filters are not inspired, making them dangerous. Every single cult that started from a religious standpoint, started as a result of someone applying Scripture out of context as a means to control others. This was done through a human filter. Jesus tells us to learn from Him (Matthew 11:29). He does not fit through human filters.
2. Human application is nothing more than behavior modification. Behavior modification is not of the heart, it's out of a human effort to be righteous. This goes against Scripture since Scripture says "there is none righteous, no not one." (Romans 3:10) Beware of behavior modification. Lots of people have behaved well all the way to Hell.
3. Human application leads to legalism. Legalism is not only dangerous in that it focuses solely on human behavior, it also leads to spiritual abuse. Every single time.
4. Human application is not about God. As soon as we take it upon ourselves to apply things the way we see them, we take God out of the picture. His Word does not need human application. If you become driven to share the gospel more, that is NOT because you are applying God's Word to your life, it is because His Holy Spirit is working in you to create that drive. When you find yourself responding in grace to something that might have made you mad in the past, that is not because you have applied God's Word to your life, it is because His grace is at work in you through His Word. It is all by Him, through Him and for Him.
5. Human application leads to guilt. As soon as a preacher says, "we should" or "you should" I tune out. I'm not interested in what he thinks I should or should not do. Not everyone is in the same place in life. Not everyone can live in the same way. I was at a ladies retreat one time when the speaker tried to lay guilt on us because she felt that some of us were not grateful enough to be there. She had decided that ungratefulness was the sin of the hour and railed on us to be more grateful and compared us to the grumbling children of Israel in an attempt to warn us of God's impending judgement upon us. But, she was totally wrong. I had been going through a rough time in my life and was so, so thankful to be able to go to the retreat. She had decided everyone needed to be hammered about ungratefulness and she took Scripture out of context to try to prove her point. Guilt is not a fruit of the Spirit.
6. Human application nearly always requires Scripture to be taken out of context. Entire cults have been built around this fact. Study up on a few cults; the ones which were started by religious followings were started with Scripture being taken out of context. This is not true of just cults; it's also true of many, many movements we've seen throughout history. Modern day movements are no different. They are built on mankind's ideas, false interpretation of Scripture and wrong applications of Scripture. Pick a movement, any movement, and hold it up to the Light of Scripture. You will find it is full of holes of non-contextual application.
7. Human application fuels human pride. This fact is clearly evident all over social media. We see people taking pictures of their Bible study time and posting it online for all to see. No more closet prayers done in secret. That scares me since God said He resists (opposes) the proud. (James 4:6)
8. Human application blinds us to the Truth. I once knew a preacher who constantly said things like, "I will not sacrifice godliness. I will not sacrifice righteousness." while his own behavior wasn't godly at all. He was busy not sacrificing "godliness" while he was (and still is) lying to and misleading his congregation on even small issues. All in the name of "godliness." He is blind to the Truth because he is wrongly applying things to his own life without the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to worship God in spirit and in truth. Human application blocks the way. Men like that declare themselves godly, outside the context of God, and people, fearful of disagreeing with what they perceive as God's anointed, allow this to happen. This is really an example of spiritual abuse. When someone tells you they will not sacrifice godliness, they are intimating that they have already attained godliness. Beware of those people. Do not sit under their teaching or follow their leadership.
9. Human application shows lack of faith. Because it's His Word, all fruit from His Word is His. Isaiah 55:11 promises that His Word will not return void, it will accomplish what He sends it to accomplish and will prosper in what He sends it to do. What's interesting about this verse is that it promises His Word will accomplish what He intends; it says nothing about our human intent or our human intervention. Be wary of people who tell you God can't do what He needs to do in your life without your cooperation. He gives no conditions to the accomplishment of His will. It will be done. Jonah's story is a good example of this.
Insist on studying God's Word in purity and Truth. A system like The Priscilla Principle, which does not include application at all, is better suited to unaltered Bible study. My life was transformed, but not by my application of God's Word to my life. It was transformed by His Word, alone. I had nothing to do with it. There were things He conquered in my life that I had no idea needed conquering. How would I have applied anything to them? The Priscilla Principle method does not include application. Rather it operates on the Scriptural promise that God's Word does not return void. (See point 9 above.)
Beware of books that insist you have an application step in your Bible study process. Applying His Word to our lives is not our job. I am seriously surprised that this is such a popular thing for people to do. But, I see it all over social media. I also see the results. I see people taking pictures of their Bible study time and posting it online. Farewell to the closet prayers we're commanded to have. I see people naming a ministry after themselves. Farewell to the humble servant who exalts Christ.
Any fruit we have in our lives is fruit of the Spirit. Having the fruit of the Spirit is a result of His work in our lives, not of our decisions to do/say/think/feel the "right" way. We cannot produce godly fruit. It's impossible. We have to stop trying. Perhaps one thing pushing people to try to apply God's Word to their lives and the lives of others is impatience. There is so much incredible power in waiting on the Lord. David says repeatedly in the Psalms, "Wait on the LORD." Isaiah (40:31) told of a great promise to those who wait. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint. I think I should add waiting as a Bible study step in The Priscilla Principle, for in the wait is strength.
Read the Scriptures > Observe without Speculation > Interpret > Pray > Wait
Not an acronym.
Study, then wait on the Lord. When He wants you to act, you will not be able to be still.