THE BASIS AND BASICS
As we look at scripture, there is no “book of counseling”. The basis and basics of biblical counseling are formulated from scriptural precepts and examples, including the greatest example of all, that of our wonderful Counselor, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are three Hebrew words translated “counsel” in scripture. Taken together, they mean to deliberate, resolve, advise, guide, determine, purpose, consult, instruct, and plan. There are five Greek verbs for the word “counsel” which, when summarized, mean to beseech, exhort, encourage, comfort, admonish, and warn. All of these are components of biblical counseling.
There are basically three approaches to counseling:
-Expert knowledge: Based on research, education, and the work of secular psychologists.
-Common or traditional knowledge: Based on experience, observation, or knowledge passed down by traditions or previous generations.
-Divine knowledge: Based on God’s Word.
Although the first two may have some merit, it is divine knowledge based on God’s Word that provides the basis and basics of biblical counseling. This type of counseling is rooted in what the Word of God teaches regarding acceptable behavior, positive relationships, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.
THE BASIS OF BIBLICAL COUNSELING
The principles and examples provided within the pages of God’s Word provide the basis for biblical counseling. These include scriptural models of biblical counselors.
Jesus is the greatest model of a biblical counselor. As we look at Christ’s ministry, we see that His goal in every encounter was to effect change that would result in abundant life. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus declared:
The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed one, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound.] (Luke 4:18, AMP)
The following, qualities vital to effective counseling, were evident in the ministry of Christ:
-He loved people: John 3:16.
-He confronted people when necessary: Matthew 8:26; 18:15; John 8:3-11.
-He did not condemn people: John 8:11.
-He sought to save those who were lost: Luke 19:10.
-He ministered abundant life: John 10:10.
-He destroyed the works of the devil: 1 John 3:8.
-He spoke only what God told Him to speak: John 12:49.
-He spoke with authority: Matthew 7:29.
-His ministry was empowered by prayer: Luke 5:15-16; 6:12-13.
-He had compassion: Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2.
-He ministered in power: Luke 5:17.
-He made people take personal responsibility for their problems: Luke 5:24; John 5.
-He dealt with root causes: In Mark 2:5 He forgave sins first, then dealt with other needs.
Volumes have been written on counseling, from both Christian and secular viewpoints, and much of it is quite complex. As we look at the ministry of Jesus, however, we see that His encounters were simple, powerful, direct, and the results were immediate. He never referred people to secular resources, nor did He tell them it would take a long time for them to receive help.
The Apostle Paul is another great example of a biblical counselor. He said, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Paul’s efforts were successful because, as he continues to explain, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
This is a perfect model of biblical counseling: A counselor who dispenses the Word of God as tenderly as a father deals with his own children and counselees who receive and act upon what is shared from the Word of God.
And again–if you read through Acts and the Epistles–every person to whom Paul ministered received immediate help. There were no long-term counseling sessions and no referrals to secular sources of help. Many people believe it will take a long time for them to receive help simply because someone has told them it will take a long time.
Old Testament Principles: Here are some references in the Old Testament directly related to counseling.
-The counsel of God comes through the Word: Psalm 119:24, 105.
-God is mighty in counsel: Jeremiah. 32:19; Psalm. 16:7.
-God’s counsel shall stand forever: Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 46:10.
-Jesus Christ is called the Wonderful Counselor: Isaiah 9:6; 11:2.
-The Holy Spirit is our resident counselor: Isaiah 40:13.
-The counsel of the Lord directs the path of the believer: Psalm 73:24; 85:13;Proverbs 3:5,6.
-The believer is not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly: Psalm 1:1.
-It is beneficial to seek counsel from godly people: Proverbs 11:14;15:22; 24:6.
New Testament Principles: Here are some references in the New Testament directly related to counseling.
-The Scriptures were written for our counsel: Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:10,17.
-God’s counsel is immutable–meaning it does not change: Hebrews 6:17.
-Jesus, the Counselor, prayed that the Father would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit: John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7.
-Part of the ministry of pastors is to counsel their people: 1 Thessalonians 5:12.
-Believers are to counsel one another: Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16.
-Children are to be counseled in the ways of the Lord: Ephesians 6:4.
-Exhortation is one of the responsibilities of the church: Romans 12:8.
-The word “admonition”, meaning counsel, is used in 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 6:4; and Titus 3:10.
-The term “to admonish” is used in Acts 20:31; Romans 15:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,14.
THE BASICS OF BIBLICAL COUNSELING
The following are basic premises of biblical counseling:
The counselor must be a believer. You cannot provide adequate scriptural counsel if you have not been born-again as detailed in John chapter 3. As a believer, your mind is renewed so you can understand the things of God that unbelievers cannot comprehend. You are then empowered to counsel with the ability of the mind of Christ:
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things…For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
The counselee must be a believer. Unbelievers cannot understand, receive, and act upon scriptural counsel with an unregenerate mind. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is fundamental to the biblical resolution of problems.
Biblical counsel is based on God’s Word. It is not your experiences, ideas, or expertise that will help a counselee. It is not applying secular psychological models that transforms lives. It is the Word of God that effects true change:
… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty ,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
Biblical counseling is done by believers who base their counsel on God’s Word, as opposed to counselors who–though they may be believers–base their counsel on secular philosophies. The Apostle Paul said that he had not neglected to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). What was the counsel Paul gave? The entirety of God’s Word.
Biblical counselors believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God and that it is the final authority regarding faith and practice:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (1 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV )
Biblical counselors do not view the Bible as something to try to see if it works, nor do they view it as an option among others to be explored. It is the inspired Word of the one and only God. It is the answer to every need.
The Bible is profitable for:
-Doctrine—by which one can know truth, and it is the truth that sets people free.
-Reproof—by which we become aware of our sinful condition through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, without which there will be no real and lasting change.
-Correction—by which we learn how to overcome sinful habits, failures, and weaknesses, putting off the old, sinful life-style of the flesh.
-Instruction in righteousness—adapting a lifestyle which includes continuous study of God’s Word, regular prayer, and involvement in a fellowship of true believers.
Secular counseling is void of this life-changing Word of God.
The counselee must agree to the authority of God’s Word. The person you are counseling may be a believer, but may reject a portion of the Word of God because they don’t want to act upon what it says. They may want to retain sinful emotions such as anger and unforgiveness, continue harmful habits and addictions, or refuse to sever sinful relationships
Others want to do things their own way. Good advice for them is: You got to where you are today by doing what you have done. How has that worked for you? If you want things to change, you must do something different!
The Bible warns that:
…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 , KJV)
Some people will not endure–receive and act upon–sound doctrine. They do not want to hear the truth. Many people seek counselors who will agree with what they want to do rather than tell them what God says they should do.
The biblical counselor can provide only limited help to those who do not agree to the authority of the Word. The Bible is quite clear that because…
…they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. (Proverbs 1:29-32, KJV)
Even Jesus could not minister effectively in His own home town because of unbelief (Matthew 13:58). People continue in their problems because they reject the Word of the Lord. If a person refuses the Word, they are not rejecting the counselor. They are rejecting God Himself.
(1 Samuel 8:7).
Biblical counseling is not done on the basis of human wisdom. We counsel on the basis of divine wisdom from God “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3, KJV).
The Apostle Paul declared:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought.(1 Corinthians 2:4-6, KJV):
This supernatural wisdom is based on the fear of the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). The fear of the Lord is loving reverence for God, His person, His Word, and His actions (Malachi 1:5-6). When you fear God, you obey His Word (Ecclesiastes 12:13); walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 8:6); serve Him (Joshua 24:14); and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7-8).
Biblical counseling does not require a certified counselor. Training in biblical counseling is advantageous, of course, but because the Counselor dwells within, certification is not necessary in order to help yourself or others. When David needed encouragement, he encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:1-6). As New Testament believers with the Counselor resident within us, we can do likewise.
When Daniel was burdened, he did not seek counseling, talk to his friends, or call his spiritual advisor. He prayed to God (Daniel 9). The psalmist David turned to the Word acknowledging that: “Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalms 119:24, NKJV).
This is not to discount the value of trained biblical counselors. The Bible declares: “Where there is no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, KJV). But if you cannot find a Christian counselor who counsels biblically, you can still receive the help you need because the divine Counselor is resident within you and your answers are readily available in the inspired pages of scripture.
Biblical counsel aims for complete change. When David came to God seeking forgiveness for sin, he didn’t ask for a patched up version of his old self. He prayed, “Create in me a clean heart”–the word “create” means something new (Psalm 51:10). The Bible assures:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)
The counselor is not the one who effects change. The counselee does not change himself through self-effort. It is God that supernaturally changes a person from the inside out, creating a new creature in Christ. Not a patched-up version of the old person, but a completely new person!
Biblical counselors believe people are responsible for their actions. God is not interested in excuses for sinful behavior. He judges mankind on the basis of their response to Jesus Christ and whether or not their names are inscribed in the book of life:
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15, KJV)
Biblical counseling deals with sin which is the root of dysfunction. Secular reasoning would suggest that we have “problems” instead of sins. Many problems, however, are actually sin issues–either the sin of the counselee or the sins of others committed against them. Biblical counseling will identify sin issues and deal with them scripturally.
The Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). The solution to the sin problem is not rehabilitation, education, or legislation. It is regeneration through Jesus Christ:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, KJV)
Do not settle for tears of sorrow from a counselee who was caught in sin and is reaping the results. Don’t accept excuses such as “that is just the way I am” or “I am this way because of my parents.” Don’t allow counselees to shift blame for their behavior to others. We are not invited to deal with sin, rather we are commanded to deal with it. The precepts given by God in His Word are not suggestions to consider. They are commandments that, when accepted and acted upon, have the power to change a person’s life and eternal destiny.
Biblical counseling equips you to counsel others. The difficulties you experience for which you receive and act upon biblical counsel prepare you to help others:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, KJV)
All of the challenges you have experienced in your journey through life have prepared you to be competent to counsel. It is time to pass on to a needy world the comfort, encouragement, and help you have experienced through God and His Word. You have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).