Introduction

In the foreword of the book Psychobabble, John MacArthur wrote,

We who know the Lord, who have His Word, and who are indwelt by His Spirit are entrusted with too many heavenly resources to be mucking about with the utterly bankrupt wisdom that is the best this world has to offer. We err seriously if we ignore the Scriptures or the power of God (cf. Matt. 22:29). We sin grievously if we neglect the divine truth in favor of the foolish wisdom of this world (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20; 3:19).[1]

These words by John MacArthur reminds us not only of the importance of sound doctrine in the practical daily lives but also, of the dangers to which the Church today is exposed. A close look at the church shows that the world religions and secular thinking or philosophies are greatly influencing the Church to the point that it has lost its anchor in the holy Word of God. Many Church leaders, for example, use secular methods in the counseling process and some do not hesitate to entrust their church members to psychologists and psychiatrists for treatment of moral, emotional and behavioral problems. The Word of God is thus seen as not being sufficient enough to handle such problems. “There is growing confusion in today’s Christian community about the best way to help people overcome their personal problems of living. Some believe that Christians should submit only to biblical counseling, while others passionately support psychological counseling so long as it is integrated with the Scriptures.”[2] This is due to the fact that believers today are poorly equipped in the word of God or, they are simply seduced by the world’s philosophies and methods. Effective counseling rest upon a clear understanding and acceptance of God’s inerrant and infallible Word as the sole authority. In order to know who we are, we must know about God and what he says about man. Bulkley says, “A comprehensive biblical counseling is essential, therefore, for successful Christian counseling. If we want to understand ourselves, we must first learn about God. He must be accurately portrayed and perceived in His fullness.”[3]

This article will focus first on the importance of pure doctrine in the counseling process. And, secondly, I will also make a point on the importance of love in counseling.

1. The Importance of pure doctrine in the counseling process

God has made provision in His perfect Word for an effective counseling. In the book of 2 Peter 1:3, it is written that according to His divine power, God has “given us everything necessary for life and righteousness, through the knowledge of him who has been our guide by his glory and virtue.”[4] In this verse, Peter uses the absolute word “everything” to express the extent of God’s provision for believers. He has provided every essential truth necessary for physical and spiritual life. The Apostle further says that God has not only made these provisions so that believers might live a balanced and godly life, but also so that they may escape the corruption of the world (verse 4). The Word of God is all-sufficient to transform lives and bring solutions to problems of human beings. God has provided everything necessary for such a change, and there is no area His word cannot touch. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”[5] (Hebrew 4.12). The author of the book of Hebrews used the words “quick” or “alive” (Ζῶν) and “powerful” (ἐνεργής), which could also be translated “effectual” or “active,” to qualify the word of God. The word of the Living God is alive and energetically efficacious to transform lives. It is not only alive and active, but also, it can effectively act in every area of man’s heart and mind. Tucker comments,

How then do we handle life’s problems victoriously? How do we respond to life when our expectations appear to be unfairly resolved? One thing is for certain, if you remove the reliability of God’s Word, you eliminate the only source that provides a God-glorifying solution to handling life’s problems.[6]

In 2 Timothy 3.16-17, the Apostle Paul declares that “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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” This verse teaches that all Scripture is inspired by God, and its purpose is to mature and prepare the man of God for every good work. Scriptures are used for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The right teaching is a strong foundation for spiritual growth and permanent change. The change operated by the word of God is not superficial. It is an inside change, and as William Kilpatrick says, the aim is to change convictions instead of merely changing behaviors or attitudes.[7]

God, the Creator, is the only One who knows the heart and the thoughts of men. He alone can make a perfect description of who man is. The Bible declares that the heart of man is deceitful and sick (Jer.17.9), and his thoughts are thoughts of iniquity (Isa.59.7). In fact, ever since sin entered the world through Adam, man is in a state of total depravity that separated him from God and placed him under the curse of God as it is written in the book of Romans 5.12-14. Sin and the fact that man is separated from his creator are the main sources of human suffering. No amount of self-esteem or nobility of man doctrine can change this situation. God alone is able to bring a change, and He has made provisions for that through His Son Jesus Christ. Still, in the book of Romans, Paul says,

“But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:15-21, KJV)

This truth is not only essential in showing the way to salvation and freedom from sin and all its consequences but also, it is essential in reassuring man of God’s grace and love for him. These verses also point to the all-sufficiency of Christ. A Christ-centered doctrine is very important in the counseling process. In Him with we are justified and sanctified (1 Cor.6.11), in Him also, we find a genuine example of a daily walk in sanctification (1 Pet.2.21). Ryrie says, “Probably the most important doctrinal fact underpinning the spiritual life is the believer’s union with Christ. It is foundational to the truth of crucifixion of the Christian with Christ, which in turn the basis for freedom from the power of sin.”[8]

Ed Bulkley adds,

The solution to our deepest problems of living is not psychotherapy, but Christotherapy. Rather than analyzing our painful dysfunctions, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2)[9].

How can man free himself from fear, despair, and depression? Tucker replies, “The believer’s view of Christ’s authority as Lord of his life deeply impacts his ability to respond to difficulties. …when Christ is viewed in His rightful position as Lord, the heart is quieted from fear, and the mind is free to reason from Scripture of the eternal hope that is within the soul.”[10] The understanding of Christ’s love and work is a sure foundation for a new start. Christ is man’s greatest foundation for change. He alone can convict, forgive, renew, strengthen, heal, encourage and comfort.

In an article published in The Master’s Seminary Journal, Wayne Mack says,

In Christian counseling, the Christ of the Bible will not be an appendage, a “tack on” for surviving life in the “fast lane.” He will be the center as well as the circumference of our counseling. Understanding the nature and causes of our human difficulties will include understanding ways in which we are unlike Christ in our values, aspirations, desires, thoughts, feelings, choices, attitudes, actions, responses, and other aspects of our lives. Resolving those sin- related difficulties will include being redeemed and justified through Christ, receiving God’s forgiveness through Christ, and acquiring from Christ enabling power to replace unchristlike (sinful) patterns of life with Christlike, godly ways of life.[11]

2. The importance of love in the counseling process

In the book of 2 Timothy 3.16-17, Paul says that Scriptures are used for teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. Scripture does not only provide us with a strong doctrinal basis but also it is used to reproof, to correct and to instruct in righteousness. Besides teaching the right doctrine, we are also called to rebuke, to reproof or to admonish wrong beliefs, attitudes or even actions in the sense of exposing them. The purpose here is to correct, “straightening up again” according to the Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. This act of reproof and correction conveys an idea of confrontation. Thus, in a sense, counseling is confrontational. However, it should not be insensitive or without love. The Apostle Paul says in the book of Ephesians 4.15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Revised Standard Version). The biblical counselor, as well as all the church, have to minister to each other in love so as the build a strong body.

In first Thessalonians, we read that we are to “warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men (1 Thes. 5:14, KJV). The last part of this verse exhorts us to patience, and there is no patience if there is no love.

Richard Ganz wrote,

Even our patience has an end in the exercise of discipline, for we are to discipline the unrepentant and have nothing to do with a divisive person after a second warning (Tit. 3.10). Clearly this approach following Biblical guidelines cuts deep. But it does not mean we lack care, concern, warmth, understanding, or patience.[12]

Our duty is to help all those who are struggling with serious adversity or sin. Paul recommends Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.” However, he exhorts him also to this in love (2 Timothy 4.2.). In 1 Timothy 5.1, he tells Timothy not to “sharply rebuke” the older man and woman, and the young. Those in need of counseling are brothers and sisters in Christ we need to see them as such.

Paul exhorts in Galatians 6.1-2, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (KJV). He highlights a certain number of things in these verses. First, he says that if a man is overtaken or caught in sin, he needs to be restored. While rebuking those who fall into sin, we should not lose sight of the fact that the main aim is to help them stand right again. Therefore, counseling is helping people to stand up on their feet again spiritually. Moreover, it is important here to note that it is the duty of every church member and not some experts or professional. Paul says that those who are spiritually strong should make use of their strength and gifts to restore such people. Secondly, he says that this should be done in a spirit of meekness or gentleness. Third, those who are spiritually healthy should bear the burdens of those who are weak (Romans 15.1). It is their duty not only to make sure the weak stand on their feet, but also they should make sure they do not fall again into sin, they should hold them so they that remain on their feet. They need constant spiritual support, counsel, prayer, and encouragement. Carrying another’s burden calls for genuine love and such love would produce results that are praiseworthy.

The Greek word for restore used in Galatians 6.1 is καταρτίζω. The word does not just convey the meaning of mending or repairing, but also it has the idea of “to complete thoroughly”[13] or to make perfect. This word used in relation to the counseling process carries a sense of helping someone to recover fully. This is to be done in love and with much patience. Those who are confronted with sin and serious difficulties need to be taken care of by people who are full of mercy and love.

Commenting on the word καταρτίζω, Richard Ganz says,

If we understand the meaning of the word katartidzo– to mend, to train, to promote unity, to restore- and apply them, I believe we will see the church equipped and strengthened immeasurably. As we keep our eyes and hearts open for those who are broken, their restoration and the “knitting of their bones” will bring considerable health and energy to the church. The church needs to be encouraged in this task, knowing that Christ will restore His hurting flock.[14]

In the same vein, we can read the following lines in the Bob Jones University’s Philosophy of Biblical Counseling,

God calls all believers to minister to one another with humility and compassion. These attitudes of the heart are even more strategic for those who minister to others during times of great suffering and uncertainty. These virtues are developed as the biblical counselor daily fosters his or her own relationship with Christ and seeks to imitate Him.[15]

Thus, without these ingredients of love and humility, counseling will sound no different than clinical or psychoanalysis sessions. A counselor who is loving, humble and caring will be sensible to the needs of others, and he will look for ways to comfort the hurting, to encourage, and they will always be ready to listen to others.

In the book of Matthew, the Lord who was for sure the greatest of all counselors gave us an example of love or compassion. Matthew tells us that “seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Jesus suffered with the needy multitudes. He felt for them and cared for them. His compassion gave the strength and a firm basis to meet their needs (Matt. 9:35, 37–38). Far from being a cold-hearted type counselor who merely attacked problems and treated people like statistics, Jesus was motivated and moved by compassion for them.

Also, the Apostle Paul besides being a great teacher was also a great counselor who had compassion for his fellow brothers. In the book of Acts 20:31 he wrote to the Ephesian elders, “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” The Greek word translated “admonish” (noutheteō) can also be translated “to reprove, ” and it most often means “to reprove gently or to warn.”[16] Even when Paul rebuked them for their sin, his tears communicated a genuine, caring, and loving heart.

Referring to a strong letter of rebuke he had previously written to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.” His love for the members of the church in Corinth was such that he identified himself to them in 2 Cor. 11:28–29. He spoke of the “daily pressure” of concern he had for all the churches.

Thus, a good counselor should not only focus on the sin or the problem exposed by the person in need of counseling. Showing genuine love and concern for the counselee is an efficient tool for an effective counseling.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we will notice that the Word of God is all-sufficient and it provides us with all that God deemed essential for the understanding of man’s inherent nature, man’s separation from God and God’s plan for reconciliation. Scripture also teaches on the divine standard for human thought, emotion and behavior and the divine solution for human problems. The Bible also gives a comprehensive teaching on how men and women can flourish, even in adversity, through a personal and maturing relationship with God. We also remark that love is fundamental in the counseling process not only for the counselor but also for the counselee. The Christian counselor is called to “speak the truth in love.” These two ingredients-truth and love- are inseparable and foundational for an effective and efficient counseling.

 

Bibliographie

Bob Jones University’s Philosophy of Biblical Counseling, (Bob Jones University, Greenville: South Carolina)

Bulkley, Ed Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology (Eugene: Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1993)

Ganz, Richard Psychobabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology – and the Biblical Alternative (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1993)

Kirk Kilpatrick, William Psychological Seduction (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. 1983)

MacArthur, John foreword in Psychobabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology – and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz (Wheaton: Illinois, 1993)

Mack, Wayne A. “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Counseling,” in The Master’s Seminary Journal, September 1, Spring 1998

Ryrie, Charles C. Balancing The Christian Life (The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1994)

Tucker, John Adams Do We Really Hold Scripture To Be Sufficient in, Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection In Honor Of Charles C. Ryrie (Tyndale Seminary Press, Ft. Worth, TX, 2008)

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

Footnotes

[1] John MacArthur foreword in Psychobabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology – and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz (Wheaton: Illinois, 1993)

[2] Ed Bulkley, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology (Eugene: Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1993), p. 23

[3] Ed Bulkley, Op. Cit., p.261

[4] Bible In Basic English (BBE) version

[5] All Bible quotes will be taken from the American Standard version unless stated otherwise

[6] John Adams Tucker, Do We Really Hold Scripture To Be Sufficient in, Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection In Honor Of Charles C. Ryrie ( Tyndale Seminary Press, Ft. Worth, TX, 2008),p.220

[7] William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. 1983) p.88

[8] Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing The Christian Life (The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1994), p.51

[9] Ed Bulkley, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene: Oregon, 1993), p.276

[10] Ibid., p.223

[11] Wayne A. Mack, “The Sufficiency Of Scripture In Counseling”, in The Master’s Seminary Journal, September 1, Spring 1998

[12] Richard Ganz, Psychobabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology – and the Biblical Alternative (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1993), p.77

[13]Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

[14] Richard Ganz, Op., Cit. p.99

[15] Bob Jones University’s Philosophy of Biblical Counseling, (Bob Jones University, Greenville: South Carolina), p.23

[16] Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary