(Biblical Counseling Basics Series)
Part One in this series, Is Biblical Counseling Applicable to Everyone, covered the topic of Salvation. In order for Biblical Counseling to be effective, the person has to believe the gospel and be in right relationship with God through Christ alone.
If a person does not truly believe the gospel of grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone then biblical counseling cannot be effective and any principles drawn from the Scriptures becomes nothing more than “take it or leave it advice.”
Here is an example of why getting the gospel right matters.
A very sweet Catholic lady had heard of my ministry at a former church and requested counseling for her and her husband for marriage issues. Her comment to me was along the lines of, “I like how you Protestants use the Bible.”
I thanked her for that but explained that “we Protestants” had major differences with official Catholic teaching on what the Gospel is. She said she knew that but never-the-less wanted to meet because she still thought the principles were valuable.
I agreed in the hopes that the Holy Spirit would lead the couple into the true understanding of the Gospel.
After a few meetings it became clear that what this sweet Catholic woman really wanted was for her husband to apply biblical principles to his life; in particular loving his wife as Christ loved the church and what that meant in her mind.
In other words she wanted the Bible to be relevant to him; Her not so much.
After a few meetings it became clear that a person could accept a biblical principle yet not embrace the power behind the principle.
In this dear lady’s case she would not accept the gospel of grace and stuck to a gospel of good works. She understood that Scripture could be relevant to their marriage but saw it through the lens of her husband doing good works. She and her husband viewed principles connected with the gospel as a series of do’s and don’ts rather than the very power to change in order to be like Christ. They left counseling after a few meetings because I had to return to the Gospel.
A person must, first, believe the true gospel, and second, then believe the Bible is relevant and authoritative. There is no other way.
Too often we conservative Protestant believers get the gospel right but counseling wrong because we really don’t believe the Bible is neither relevant nor authoritative and prove it by opting for one psychological model or the other.
Nevertheless, the Bible makes important claims about its relevance and authority.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Here Paul makes the basic claim the Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired) and is profitable (more than simply useful) for teaching (doctrine) reproof, for correction and training in righteousness.
The end result of taking Scripture seriously is maturity (completeness) equipping the person for every good work. The Scripture is therefore about life and because the Scripture is about life, it’s also about counseling.
“We live in a broken world where life is teeming with difficulties, pressures, concerns, and really tough circumstances.” [i]
The Catholic couple mentioned above wanted help with their marriage. The Bible speaks to all what biblical counselors call these presenting issues.
The Bible speaks of the biblical roles of men and women. The Bible speaks to conflict and anger. The Bible speaks to sex. The Bible speaks about parenting. The Bible speaks to forgiveness. The Bible speaks to sin; the obstacle in any marriage. The Bible speaks to finances; an issue mentioned in 50% of all divorces.
In other words, the Bible speaks to life in all these circumstances and more!
The only question is: does the believer see what the Bible says about these things as commands to be obeyed and/or principles to be applied to life as a RESULT of the Gospel working in their lives?
The Catholic couple can be excused for not “getting it” for the Holy Spirit has not yet opened their eyes to the Gospel of Grace. We Protestant believers do not have that excuse and the only question is: do we trust the Word of God to be relevant, sufficient and authoritative in our lives (2 Peter 1:3)?
[i] Scripture and Counseling, Bob Kelleman General Editor, pg. 30