BE FULLY PRESENT, LIVING IN THE MOMENT! – Brian Allison is a spiritual counsellor and life coach. He specializes in marriage counselling, couples and relationship counselling, family counselling, individual counselling, bereavement counselling, and life coaching. He is also the creator of the motivational modality called Hypnenergy, a revolutionary new technology of personal transformation that results in significant improvement in the overall health of one’s spirit, mind, and body. This new energy science may be much more effective than various psychotherapy.

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The Basics of Christian Counselling

Dr. Allison delivered this lecture at the Ninth International Baptist Conference, held in Toronto.

Following Jesus: Does Counseling Have a Role?

Yes – this succinctly (and I suggest self-evidently) summarizes my response to the question: Does counseling have a role in discipleship? But I speak as a convinced convert; some others would not so readily condone or confirm this contention. I want to speak primarily to the skeptical and suspicious – those who apparently have no time nor tolerance for this thing called counseling. Many well-intentioned, Bible-devoted Christians derogate counseling as unnecessary nonsense at best, and devilish deviation at worst. They contend that the use of counseling theory, and reference to counseling categories, compromises Biblical truth and God-honouring methodology in the execution of Christian ministry. However, such a contention suggests a confusion and misunderstanding concerning the nature and purpose of counseling. I contend that counseling – that is, Biblical Counseling – is essential to the pursuit and prosecution of discipleship which itself is a central concept and indispensable requirement in practical Christianity.[1] Counseling and discipleship inextricably relate to each other. Counseling stands to the pursuit and prosecution of discipleship as rain and fertilizer stand to a plush flower garden – an intricate cause-effect relationship.

In this paper, I will address some basic questions, such as: What is discipleship? What is Biblical Counseling? What is the nature of Biblical Counseling? What are the goal and objectives of Biblical Counseling? What is the relationship between Biblical Counseling and discipleship? What role does Biblical Counseling serve in effectuating growth in the process of discipleship? What are some specific counseling strategies for effectuating growth in the process of discipleship?


The term mathetes in the New Testament, translated ‘disciple’, means one who learns; a taught-one.[2] For instance, Acts 11:25,26 reads, “And he [Barnabas] left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples (mathetes) were first called Christians in Antioch.” The believers who “received systematic instruction in the principles of the new way”[3] inaugurated by Jesus Christ were thus specifically identified as disciples, and formally called Christians. Mathetes denotes a pupil who apprehends, appropriates, and adopts knowledge (and conduct) in a deliberate and determined manner. Hence, there can be no learner (mathetes) without a teacher (didaskalos) or a master (rabbi). Matthew 10:24,25a reads, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master;” and Luke 6:40 reads, “A pupil [mathetes] is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (cf. Jn 13:16; 15:20). A true disciple seeks to emulate his teacher in knowledge and conduct, but should always remain respectful, recognizing his indebtedness and proper position in relation to his teacher. The teacher provides his disciples with a prescribed philosophy, as well as personal praxis and ethics; and thus the pupil remains dependent upon his teacher until such time that he or she has acquired a certain level of competence and wisdom. Practically speaking, as Geldenhuys writes, “Because a pupil is dependent upon the guidance given to him by his master, he must see to it that he chooses the right master.”[4]

Christ came to earth for the primary purpose of disclosing God’s truth. John 18:37 reads, “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’.” Testifying to the truth (i.e., the saving purposes and plan of God) naturally assumed the communicative form of teaching. Teaching constituted the primary and practical means by which Jesus bore witness to the truth; and thus discipleship became a primary concern and goal for Him (cf. Mt 5:1,2; Lu 6:17,20). John 18:19 indicates incidentally the inseparable connection between teaching and discipleship. We read, “The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching.” Disciples are products and reflections of the teaching that they receive. They themselves stand as the embodiment and conveyor of such teaching. The teaching pertaining to discipleship differs from teaching in general in that the former involves the intellectual, as well as the behavioural and ethical.[5] The teaching pertaining to discipleship entails the elements of training and imitating. The personal relationship that the teacher sustains with the pupil, along with the teacher’s own lifestyle, comprises the educational context in which the teacher carries out his teaching. Further, the relationship and lifestyle themselves comprise a substantial part of the content of the overall teaching, as well as gives the verbal teaching inculcating force, as well as demonstrative and veridical significance. As Rengstorf writes, “Mathetes always implies the existence of a personal attachment which shapes the whole life of the one described asmathetes, and which in its particularity leaves no doubt as to who is deploying the formative power.”[6] The teacher’s instruction (and training) is clearly defined and directive, with the chief goal consisting of the assumption and emulation of the teacher’s character and behaviour, as well as the promulgation and propagation of the teacher’s philosophy (or theology) and ethics. Accordingly, Jesus commanded His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19,20). Disciples are taught what they should profitably think and how they should prosperously (not materialistically) live. As Carson states, “Disciples are those who hear, understand, and obey Jesus’ teaching.”[7] True disciples of Christ render unswerving allegiance not only to His teaching, but also to His person. As Bonhoeffer writes, “When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person…. Discipleship means allegiance to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship…. Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”[8]

Accordingly, Christian discipleship essentially means following Jesus, in the most comprehensive sense.

Biblical Counseling

Definitions of, and approaches to, counseling[9] abound.[10] Jones and Butman view counseling as endeavouring to promote spiritual and psychological maturity through actualizing the image of God at every level.[11] Adams writes that Biblical Counseling is synonymous with pastoring; it involves “ministering to men and women who suffer from the pains and miseries that stem from personal sins.”[12] He would define counseling in terms of “nouthetic confrontation;”[13] and would generally understand it as “an application of the means of sanctification.”[14] For Adams, the counselor’s approach should be directive,[15] as well as Spirit-guided and Spirit-controlled.[16] The earlier Crabb would define Biblical Counseling as changing people’s thinking (and thus their behaviour) in a way that touches to the depths of their inwardness.[17] The counselor must teach right thinking (i.e., Biblical truth) by first identifying negative feelings, behaviours, and thinking.[18] Collins defines Christian Counseling as the application of “God-given abilities, skills, training, knowledge, and insights” by “a deeply committed, Spirit-guided (and Spirit-filled) servant of Jesus Christ” in “helping others move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence, mental stability, and spiritual maturity.”[19] For Collins, the goal of Christian Counseling is to guide people, under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, to spiritual and psychological maturity.[20] Narramore advocates that counseling is helping people to meet specific needs and to address personal problems, at the deeper level, through two-way communication, with a view to bringing about personal, spiritual, and behavioural change.[21] He advocates that counseling involves the communication of Biblical wisdom.[22] Meier, Minirth, and Wichern broadly define Christian Counseling “as a relationship in which one individual, by virtue of both spiritual and psychological insights, seeks to help another individual recognize, understand, and solve his or her own problems in accordance with the Word of God.”[23] MacArthur views Biblical Counseling as the mutual ministry of employing and applying the Scriptures among believers.[24] Powlison defines Biblical Counseling as the application of the Scriptures to life’s problems through encouragement and admonishment.[25] Specifically speaking, it is “case-wise pastoral care.”[26]

According to the Scriptures, the concept of ‘word’ constitutes the essential meaning of counsel; and to offer counsel simply means to provide a directive or instructive word. For instance, the psalmist prays, “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel [27] You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psa 73:23f.). This instructive word may be negative in tone and aim, addressed at either wrong or unwise behaviour and conduct. So, Wisdom bemoans, “And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof” (Prov 1:25). This directive or instructive word may be strictly identified with wisdom itself; and counseling may be properly understood to be the communication of (Biblical) wisdom. Thus, Solomon writes, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion…. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine” (Prov 8:12,14); also, “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Prov 19:20). Such counsel has the design of morally changing behaviour and conduct, as the New Testament counterpart indicates, “I advise [counsel – sumbouleuo][28] you to buy from Me [Jesus] gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Rev 3:18).

Biblical Counseling[29] may thus be defined as one of the primary means of helping people to change covenantally,[30] by providing instruction and direction, through a specified, skilled, and straightforward communication of Biblical truth and wisdom. Moreover the ‘heart’ itself is the fundamental reference point of Biblical Counseling (i.e., the interior life consisting of the will, the emotions, the desires, and the thoughts), vis-à-vis the unconsciousness, the subconsciousness, stimulus-response behaviour, etc. We read, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). The Revised English Bible renders this verse more strikingly, “Guard your heart more than anything you treasure, for it is the source of all life.” The contents and dynamics of the heart determine – fundamentally and primarily, not exclusively – the interpretation, experience, and direction of one’s life. Life issues are essentially heart issues. Apart from a physical basis (e.g. organic disease, bio-chemical imbalances, etc.) and demonic influence and intrusion, relational and personal problems are heart problems. A good heart produces good fruit (behaviour); a bad heart produces bad fruit (behaviour). Concerning a good heart, we read, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Lu 8:15); and concerning a bad heart, we read, “So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion…He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness'” (Isa 10:12).

The key and central issue in Biblical Counseling concerns covenantal change (that is, living in a way that is pleasing and honouring to God). The main focus and goal should be assuming more of the image and character of Christ (Rm 12:1f.). Thus, counseling should be primarily directive, with the emphasis being on understanding absolute Biblical truth, rather than pervasively non-directive, with the emphasis being on getting in touch with one’s true feelings and personal values (e.g. Carl Rogers – Client-centred Therapy); it should be goal-oriented, conforming to God’s will, rather than past-preoccupied, searching for the root psychodynamics of complexes (e.g. Sigmund Freud – Classical Psychoanalysis); it should be action-focused, practicing vigorous godly conduct, rather than mere talk therapy, simply expressing feelings and unearthing the secrets of the unconsciousness (e.g. Carl Jung – Analytical Psychology); it should be training from the Scriptures, rather than self-development through positive conditioning and imaging (e.g. Alfred Adler – Individual Psychology); it should stress singular obedience to God, rather than satisfying basic human needs by structural and transactional analysis (e.g. Eric Berne, Thomas A. Harris); it should stress true repentance and responsible transformation, rather than mere external behavioural modification (e.g. B. F. Skinner, Joseph Wolpe); it should stress acquiring the knowledge of Jesus Christ, rather than achieving deeper self-awareness and tapping into one’s potential, or ‘healing’ the inner child (e.g. Frederick Perls – Gestalt Therapy, John Bradshaw).

The principal perspective in Biblical Counseling centres on the counselee’s relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Though psycho-emotional matters are addressed and discussed, the spiritual must be viewed as foundational and fundamental. One must understand himself, his situation, and God in the light of the teachings of Scripture. One must realize what is going on in his or her heart, and how the heart is the basic and necessary focal point in understanding why he or she acts/behaves in a certain way.[31] As Jesus teaches, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Mt 15:18-20). Again, counseling issues are heart issues. Repentance, restoration, reconciliation, and renewal should thus constitute the main aims of Biblical Counseling.

Discipleship and Biblical Counseling

Biblical Counseling is a specific and concentrated kind of discipleship.[32] It serves to address-along with the typical challenges of spiritual growth-the obstacles and difficulties with which the believer may struggle as he or she endeavours to be obedient to Christ as a disciple.[33] The central concern for both discipleship and Biblical Counseling consists of the communication and inculcation of Biblical truth (and wisdom), with a view to spiritual maturity-the assumption of, and conformity to, the imago Christi. Biblical Counseling often involves the special, personal, and pointed application of the truth, usually in a one-on-one setting, whereas discipling tends to be more general in scope, typically extending over a longer period of time, with a concentration on developing the spiritual disciplines and training for Christian service.

The defining text for understanding the gist and goal of discipleship is Matthew 16:24,25, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’.” The way of discipleship is the path of self-denial (or better, denial of self),[34] sacrifice, and surrender. It is the path of relentless submission, obedience,[35] and allegiance. Similarly, the teleological objective of Biblical Counseling should be practical and experiential death to self (and a living as unto God). Freedom from self releases believers from the hindrances and hardships which prevent them from achieving the aim of assuming, and conforming to, the imago Christi. Personally speaking, I have been counseling for about 18 years. I have taught counseling courses at the seminary level. I have done extensive reading in different psychotherapies and various psychologies; and for all that, I have found the truth of Galatians 2:20 more effective, generally speaking, in promoting mental health, emotional stability, and a fulfilled life than any other insight that I have encountered. It reads, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This text captures the quintessential aim of Biblical Counseling.

What follows is a brief analysis of this pivotal verse. Galatians 2:20a reads, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Altering the language slightly in order to appreciate the truth of this statement (though not changing the sense), we may translate as follows, “I have been nailed to the cross with Christ.” At a point in time, every true believer was nailed to the cross with Christ. The perfect tense of the verb is used – that is, the action is something that has happened in the past which continues to have present effect and relevancy. The text does not read, “I am being nailed to the cross,” or “I will be nailed to the cross,” but rather it reads, “I have been nailed to the cross;” the reality of that crucifixion should continue to be realized and experienced.[36] Further, the passive voice is used-that is, this action is performed on believers. Christians do not nail themselves to the cross, but another does – God.

This language of crucifixion with Christ infers a mystical union and participation.[37] Believers have not been merely positionally or objectively crucified with Christ, but rather, they have been spiritually crucified with Him. Guthrie boldly states, “But he [Paul] does not give a theological exposition. Instead he shows the part played by the cross in his own experience. The expression of it is mystical, and for that reason is difficult to fathom, but it is clear enough that Paul conceives that he had a part in Christ’s experience on the cross.”[38] Through this mystical union, believers are spiritually identified with Christ – to the extent that what happened to Christ is certainly reckoned to have happened to them.[39] At the point of conversion, believers died to the dominion of sin and the power of self. When the apostle Paul states, “I have been crucified,” he is not referring to his psychological “I” or self, nor is he is referring to his existential “I” or self – the fact that he exists and has self-consciousness.[40] But rather, he is referring to his ethical “I” or self, that is, his self-centred life; his fallen, sinful nature – the root of psychological and emotional problems. Thus, Galatians 5:24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified [again, the verb refers to a past act, with present consequences] the flesh [the sinful, self-life] and its passions and desires.” At the point of conversion, in being nailed to the cross, the believer’s selfish passions and self-centred desires were nailed there too – the desire for wealth, prestige, reputation, power, unwholesome sex, fame, recognition, greatness, etc. Everything that once drove and motivated believers to live for themselves was nailed to the cross, and must remain there. Again, Galatians 6:14 reads, “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Believers ideally should no longer be attracted by the world’s allurements and pleasures because they stand spiritually dead in reference to them.

The parallel passage of Galatians 2:20 is Romans 6:6,7, “Knowing this [it is a fact, it is indisputable], that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin [these physical instruments in which is the power and dominion of sin in our fallen state, which is the instrument by which believers commit particular sins] might be done away with [become completely ineffectual], that believers should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed [dikaioo] from sin.” I suggest that this affirmation of freedom from sin should not be construed only in an objective, judicial sense, but also in a subjective, experiential one.[41] Indeed, believers have been acquitted, but this text is saying more than that.[42] If believers have died to the self-life, having been nailed to the cross with Christ, then it logically and necessarily follows that they have been actually freed from sin. When Christ hung on the tree, He died to sin once and for all; and believers are reckoned to have died to sin in Him. Hodge comments, “The word apothanou [die] may be taken in a physical, a moral, or a mystical sense…. The mystical sense of the word is the only one consistent with the context.”[43] Believers are Christ’s freed persons. Believers are free from sin – from sin’s bondage, dominion, power, and principle. Even though believers live in ‘clay tabernacles’ and thus are still confronted with the presence and vestiges of sin, they nonetheless have died to sin’s rule when they died with Christ on the cross. They are now free to be holy and righteous (not morally perfect).

The finality of spiritual death issues into the fullness of spiritual life.[44] We read, “And it is no longer I who live [that self-life has been obliterated – no longer controlled by self-centred goals, self-ambition, selfish hedonism, etc.], but Christ lives in me” (Ga 2:20b). Again, this is experiential language. In being mystically engrafted into Christ, and knowing spiritual union, believers are not only fully and completely identified with Him in His death, but they are also fully and completely identified with Him in His life. Believers died to self in order that they might live to God; and having died to themselves, they are now free to know the fullness of the Christ-life.[45] Through dying to self, Christ lives in believers by His Spirit. The Spirit mystically connects them with Christ and spiritually opens up to them all the blessings to be found in Him – including psychological and emotional wholeness.

The reality of Christ’s life is realized through faith – “And the life which I now live in the flesh [i.e., bodily existence] I live by faith in the Son of God” (Ga 2:20c). Faith is the sphere in which believers now function; it is the spiritual context in which they live. There is no other response required from them – not self-righteous works, nor self-sufficient effort, nor self-dependent striving. Faith must be the believer’s life-principle; and as he lives by this life-principle, he will experience the life-power of the indwelling Christ. Believers are called to simply trust, simply rest – absolute surrender (which is not synonymous with inactive passivity, but rather entails passionate seeking). Believers are called to simply believe and accept God’s Word, and to live in obedience and in complete dependency upon Christ. Christ does not simply give believers life, He is their life.[46] John 15:4f. presents the metaphor of Christ as the vine and believers as the branches, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The spiritual good that believers can produce is that which Christ Himself generates (which does not deny nor cancel out human responsibility). Any spiritual fruit that believers can produce simply results from the demonstration and manifestation of Christ’s life in them, and through them, in accordance with the response of faith which necessarily will result in vigorous obedience (an essential aspect of that fruit).

The phrase “by faith in the Son of God” (Ga 2:20c) may be better translated “in the faith of the Son of God (en pistei zo te tou uiou tou Theou).”[47] The faith belongs to Christ. He must vouchsafe it. Every spiritual grace that believers have is of Christ, even their faith. The peace that believers experience is Christ’s peace. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (Jn 14:27). His joy is their joy. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn 15:11). In actually experiencing Christ’s life as their life, believers live on a different plain-free from slavish worry, self-centred fear, defensive reactions, etc.

Believers know that Christ indwells them, and thus know the power of His life, only in so far as they experientially and practically know the reality of being nailed to the cross. There is no manifest life without a prior realized death. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal” (Jn 12:24,25). As Westcott postulates, “Sacrifice, self-surrender, death, is the condition of the highest life; selfishness is the destruction of life.”[48] The aim of Biblical Counseling is to help the counselee appropriate Christ’s death (complete denial of self and absolute surrender) by which he or she will experience and enjoy His life (spiritual power), which is the essence and end of true discipleship.[49] Even though God has judicially and mystically nailed them to the cross, believers must practically and personally reckon themselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (see Rm 6:11) before they can experientially know the full joy of this blessed truth. Believers progressively enter into this fulness (while still in their physical bodies of death). Christian discipleship involves steady growth and maturation.

A Case Study: Sylvia

I met Sylvia[50] for the first time on a Friday afternoon in the month of September. She appeared happy, but she wasn’t. She was very angry, and she didn’t know why. In her words, she complained, “I am sick and tired of being angry – it seems the harder I try to leave it behind the more angry I get.” Her anger had become so dominant and pervasive in her life that she even feared for the safety of her children. Sylvia viewed herself as unstable. She was finding it increasingly difficult to control her frustrations and discontentment; and she was worrying about the possible consequences of her present state of mind. Sylvia thus sensed her urgent need for immediate intervention before something regrettable should happen. She had become afraid of her anger. This fear had driven her to seek some counseling.

Sylvia was a 33 year old housewife who had remarried. She has three children, the eldest child is from her first marriage (her ex-husband has visiting privileges). Her present husband manages his own accounting firm. They are a well-to-do family. Sylvia has been a Christian for about two years, endeavoring to live the Christian life. At the time that she came to see me, her husband was not a Christian. She described him as hard working, likable, humorous, mild, and cowardly. She complained that he was selfish and inconsiderate. Sylvia apparently had lost her feelings of love for him. She said that she hated him, that she had lost respect for him, and that she wanted to kill him.

Sylvia brought her own written assessment of her personal and home situations to our first session together. She reported that communication between her husband, Bob, and her was virtually non-existent. She relayed that he would accuse her of becoming too “emotional” when they talked; but she felt that she was “pushed to that point.” Presumably, he was very insensitive, uncaring, and showed little respect for her. She stated that he showed more interest and respect toward his friends and acquaintances than he did towards her, which resulted in her feeling much hurt. She complained that he would fall asleep in his chair by nine o’clock most evenings. Accordingly, she had come to resent him. When Sylvia came to see me, her desire and goal were not to change her husband, but to change herself, to become more like Christ. She realized that Bob was a source of unhappiness, but she had concluded that she herself had a “problem.” She was finding that life was becoming increasingly unbearable. She often wanted to scream. She remarked, “I want to be able to deal with it without the anger.” Moreover, Sylvia concluded in her mind that she probably disliked men because they had “done nothing for [her].” Her first husband still had a way of making her “uptight” by being selfish and making her question her decisions. Moreover, in referring to her dad, she remarked, with only one statement, “My dad aggravates me.”

During our first session together, Sylvia appeared defeated and discouraged, and evidenced a fearful helplessness. She bemoaned, “I consistently take it out on the kids. My language is foul, I am quick at hitting and calling names and [I do] a lot of screaming. But I feel like I’m all bottled up and need to scream, more because I can’t talk to Bob, Dad, or Jack [first husband].” Sylvia felt “trapped” and overwhelmed, and she wanted out of the marriage. After our first session, it was clear that Sylvia was not only angry, but also depressed. Her obvious anger and depression were the emotional expressions of frustration and disappointment, which were the result of unfulfilled perceived needs. The main and immediate source of this frustration and disappointment was the behaviour and response (or lack of response) of her husband toward her. Through the disapproval and criticism from both Bob and Jack, Sylvia felt a sense of personal unworthiness. She evidenced a poor self-image and suffered from a deep sense of rejection. She deeply disliked herself, and she harboured debilitating guilt and shame. Moreover, she felt incredibly lonely. Just prior to our first session, Sylvia had written, “Heavenly Father, I am in so much pain, my back is aching so much, I have a headache and my legs also ache as a result…Lord, I don’t like when my head is fuzzy and aching as it makes me impatient with the kids. Forgive me my weaknesses, Lord – I truly cannot do anything without You.”

Sylvia told ‘her story’. She talked about the perplexities of her present situation, as well as the intricacies of her background and history: home environment, family relations, childhood experiences, social activities, etc., in order to possibly shed some further light on her present struggles and personal issues. Often a struggling counselee’s “problem” is bigger than the immediate circumstances; and for any significant behavioural and spiritual change to occur, a clear and comprehensive understanding of the whole picture is required. As Sylvia talked, she “had so many feelings and emotions just coming to the surface.” It became evident that Sylvia’s “problem” was bigger than merely an unhappy home. She was angry and depressed; but her anger and depression had deeper roots than the sour relationship in which she found herself. In fact, part of her present struggle and unrest was the result of these deeper roots. Her unresolved past complicated and aggravated her present. She was not simply dealing with present unhappiness, but also with past hurt.

As a child, Sylvia had been sexually abused. When Sylvia was 9 years old, she was sexually abused by her uncle. She was coerced repeatedly into abnormal sexual activity. She thoroughly detested it; and yet she felt constrained to passively comply. She became very angry with her uncle, secretly threatening revenge, even if it took her “half a life time.” The sexual abuse lasted for a considerable period of time. Such activity and abuse apparently perverted and damaged her sexual development, as well as dulled her moral sensibilities. She became sexually deviant. Before 18 years of age, she herself had sexually abused some children, and had experimented sexually with her brothers. At age 17, she had undergone an abortion.

Sylvia’s father had abandoned the family when she was 6 years old. She had to ‘grow up’ before her time, and she resented that; she also resented her father. She did not see her father again until she was 25 years old. As a woman, she could show him no respect. Furthermore, Sylvia had experienced a bad relationship with her mother who was critical and distant. She grew up being her mother’s friend, rather than her daughter. When Sylvia married, she realized how much of a poor role model her mother had been; and thus she felt betrayed. She also came to resent her mother. So, Sylvia had to deal with not only her unfulfilled perceived needs as a woman, but also her unresolved conflicts from past traumas, as well as the emotional and psychological disturbances ensuing from those traumas.[51]

Sylvia continued to talk (and I listened and taught). Questions were answered, insight was gained, connections were made, issues were clarified-the dynamics which shaped and effected her personality and behavioural development were discovered and explored. Self-understanding – why we are the way we are and how we arrive there – slowly dawned. Sylvia came to understand herself coram deo, as well as to experience the forgiving, renewing, and healing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. She began to feel the power of God in her life as the Spirit of God gave illumination through the Bible and prayer. Understanding gained through the Scriptures spawned liberty and hope. Sylvia was slowly becoming whole. The force of her anger subsided, the weight of her depression lightened, and the sense of inferiority and insecurity waned. Behavioural and spiritual change was gradual, but unsteady.

Those victims who have been sexually abused find it particularly difficult to talk about the past, but they must. They are often reluctant to do so because of the weight of the crushing, painful memories. Often the sexually abused person unconsciously blocks out these painful memories in order to cope and “get on with life.” In order to experience full freedom, these painful memories must be talked about (with discretion and sensitivity) and worked through (and this is one reason why skillful counseling is so critical to spiritual growth). Along with these memories, the paralyzing ‘flashbacks’ of the counselee must be managed. After two weeks of counseling, Sylvia prayed, “…Reveal to me anything that has not been dealt with yet. Have the Holy Spirit grant me the strength to acknowledge my weaknesses. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and for Your Glory. Amen.” Though she was receiving understanding, and guidance, and some measure of victory, Sylvia was still struggling. The home situation had become no better. During the first week of the month of October, she wrote, “Reduced to tears again…Lord, help me have the right attitude. Because right now I don’t like Bob or his thinking.” Sylvia was becoming more honest as she talked, and as the Lord searched, exposed, and enlightened. She rejoiced, “Praise you, Lord, for constantly working with me. It can be quite tiresome sometimes to listen to my inner battles – I used to ignore such things but now I am well aware and it can be scary and confusing. But I know that the mess that is my life must be brought to the surface so that I can reconcile with You and accept Your forgiveness and start anew in You. This is very exciting – to think of the end results. Lord, I pray for Bob’s salvation…” Sylvia’s previously conditioned patterns and modes of thinking were changing. She was becoming more spiritually renewed in her mind. She was receiving and applying God’s truth, and she was becoming whole. Yet, she had her setbacks.

Sylvia struggled, yet she grew emotionally and spiritually, as she faithfully followed her reading program, as well as diligently applied the oral teaching. Though she professed that she was “exhausted…mentally,” she experienced the renewing grace of Jesus Christ. She was being transformed. In reading some of the assigned material, she responded, “I’m on chapter 5 – I’ve just felt the Lord’s grace upon me. I fell on my knees to praise Him and give thanks for suffering so that He may understand my suffering; and He does, doesn’t He? I truly do not have to feel ashamed and alienated from Him. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” Sylvia made a resolve not to listen to the lies of the past, the “old tapes.” She resolved to listen to God’s evaluation of her, and to let God “reprogram” her until His truth would become a vital and intricate part of her thinking. She consciously resisted feeding her mind with distortion, “committing her thoughts to the Lord many times.” She was “consciously stop[ping] the growing feeling of disappointment.” She assumed emotional control of herself, and was becoming spiritually strong. She exulted, “Thank You, Lord, that You are healing me according to Your perfect schedule.”

At times, Sylvia slipped into self-pity, for she longed to be unconditionally loved and accepted. She would emotionally flail herself. She complained, “I can’t get out of this depressed state. Maybe I don’t want to – heck this feels so good to wallow in self-pity – I think I’ll stay like this forever. SHOOT!” Yet, she was progressing. Something quite remarkable happened to Sylvia a few days after this complaint. A significant break-through occurred. Who could put his finger on any one exact thing-the reading material? the videos? the oral teaching? the discussions? the questioning? No doubt, this significant moment of personal freedom was a combination of many things, under the supervision and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sylvia wrote, “Today…marks the first day of my life. Lord, it is indescribable how I feel. I’ve heard testimony after testimony of people accepting You as their Lord and Saviour and [have] felt the incredible joy and peace; and I asked You into my life Oct. 1995 and always felt I missed or didn’t understand this feeling of joy that engulfed their heart. I’ve felt You with me, answer prayers, understood messages – but longed for that peace, the joy that Your grace can bring. Today marks the day of re-birth, today I’ve felt the joy, the peace. Lord, in my heart and soul and in my head I am jumping for joy, I’m still dancing. I feel incredibly happy.” (I am reminded of John Wesley’s spiritual experience on May 24th, 1738, at a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street in London).

Sylvia wrote, “I am so happy that I am at the stage of healing that I am. It makes my head spin when I think back at what’s been said and done in the past 5 weeks or so…It is truly over – the past does not have a hold on me any more – I’ve committed it to the Lord to forever cast out of my life and replace the void with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.” Sylvia fully yielded her heart to the control of Christ, realizing that He would meet all her needs. True and lasting healing is only found through full surrender to God and through realizing the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the One Who primarily, though not exclusively, meets all our needs as human beings: the need for relationship, stability, security, significance, and purpose.

Sylvia, in understanding God’s grace and Christ’s forgiveness, forgave her uncle for sexually abusing her. She asked God to forgive her for harbouring “such hate for so long and for putting responsibility on [the] uncle…for all [her] failures.” Furthermore, she accepted God’s full pardon. Sylvia does not come to counseling any more; she is helping others now. Bob became a Christian about two months after our last counseling session, and they now have a happier marriage and family life. Sylvia is not free from all personal struggles, but she knows how to handle them and moves to conquer them. She is under the Lord’s control. Sylvia can now freely talk about her past to other hurting people and no longer become angry about it. Sylvia realistically prayed, “Though I still found I was impatient on a few occasions, I did refrain. I am so acutely aware of all my emotions, where they are going and why. Lord, I pray that I continue to search myself and redirect my feelings to better use and proper channels.” A little while later, she wrote, “Things have gone so well the past week. Not that I didn’t have some moments of ‘losing my cool’ but heh! I’m still dancing, I am at peace. I know that God loves me and that I can have an intimate relationship with Him (the greatest thought that can occupy the human mind). Amen.”

Biblical Counseling: A Necessary Form of Discipleship

The central issue of discipleship concerns communicating and inculcating the teachings of the Scriptures with a view to holiness of life, complete consecration to Jesus Christ, and faithfulness in Christian service. The central issue of Biblical Counseling concerns providing instruction and direction, through a specified, skilled, and straightforward presentation of Biblical truth and wisdom – with a view to overcoming personal problems – in order to facilitate and enhance the pursuit and prosecution of holiness of life, complete consecration to Jesus Christ, and faithfulness in Christian service. The goal for both discipleship and Biblical Counseling is spiritual maturity – the assumption of, and conformity to, the imago Christi. Biblical Counseling involves certain teaching strategies by which this goal of spiritual maturity may be achieved.

The key Scriptural text that succinctly outlines the main teaching strategies in Biblical Counseling is 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” This text, in comprehensive and concise fashion, presents the four possible kinds of counseling situations and the appropriate and correlative counseling strategy for each of these situations. The first counseling strategy is admonition or warning (noutheteo). Admonition presupposes a situation of transgression, disorderliness, or impropriety (atakatos)[52] (e.g. rebellion or adultery). The counselee, in this case, should be guided into obedience and repentance. Biblical Counseling thus has a moral emphasis. The second counseling strategy is encouragement or consolation (paramutheomai). Encouragement presupposes a situation of loss, disappointment, or hurt (oligopsuchos) (e.g. bereavement). ‘Faintheartedness’ may possibly be precipitated by, or identified with, temperament weaknesses.[53] The counselee, in this case, needs hope, empowerment, and healing. Biblical Counseling thus has a psycho-emotional emphasis. The third counseling strategy is supporting or assisting (antechomai). Supporting or assisting presupposes a situation involving some deficiency, burden, or stress, either physical or psychological (astheues)[54] (e.g. bankruptcy or obsessive-compulsive behaviour). The counselee, in this case, requires help in order to endure and persevere. Biblical Counseling thus has physical andpsychological emphases. The fourth counseling strategy is forbearance or showing patience (makrothumeo). Forbearance presupposes a situation in which there is resistance, rigidity, lack of cooperation, ignorance, etc. The counselee, in this case, requires a deeper commitment to the truth, to personal growth, and to spiritual maturity. Biblical Counseling thus has a relational emphasis.

In keeping with this four-fold counseling strategy, there is a correlative four-fold design of the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:16,17 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Scriptures clearly comprise the content of the teaching or instruction (didaskalia) in Biblical Counseling, the ministry of which imparts the knowledge of God and promotes life with Him.[55] Thus, the Scriptures have an educational design. The Scriptures are also the means by which error may be refuted, relevant rebuke given, and conviction achieved (elegmos), having the design of addressing sin and wrongdoing, and thus instrumentally effecting confession and repentance. Thus, the Scriptures have amoral design. This design of the Scriptures correlates to the counseling strategy of admonition. Further, the Scriptures are the means of correcting faults and addressing deficiencies (epanorthosis), the ministry of which restores health, wholeness, propriety, etc. Thus, the Scriptures have a therapeutic and sanctifying design. This design of the Scriptures correlates to the counseling strategies of encouraging and supporting. Moreover, the Scriptures are the means of guiding in the areas of spiritual discipline and Christian training (paideia), the ministry of which effects order, improvement, and enhancement of one’s conduct and lifestyle. Thus, the Scriptures have a disciplinary design. This design of the Scriptures correlates to the counseling strategies of forbearance and admonition. The Scriptures are fundamentally sufficient for addressing counseling needs and problems.


Biblical Counseling is a necessary ministry in the process of discipleship. The church throughout history has recognized this fact.[56] As Collins affirms, “So long as we remain on earth, however, if we are to take the Bible seriously in our counseling, we cannot ignore the Great Commission…. So important, in fact, is the concept of discipleship in Scripture that we might think of Christian Counseling as something which also could be termed discipleship counseling.”[57] It behooves pastors, in fulfilling the Great Commission, to be adequately trained so that they may competently and skillfully counsel the hurting and disturbed who require special help. God calls pastors to the esteemed role of ‘physician of souls’. Many people come into the Christian faith with emotional disturbances, psychological scars, and painful memories which cannot be ignored. These ones need a therapeutic ministry, as well as a strictly didactic one. To ignore these realities may result in persistent frustration and constant defeat by these troubled believers, perhaps eventually leading them to question, and even doubt, the power and sufficiency of the Gospel. Indeed, God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” but this power must be correctly understood and wisely appropriated. Broken, beleaguered, and bruised believers, as well as sinful and insubordinate ones, must be guided and equipped to advance in the life of discipleship. Biblical Counseling is discipleship, with a defined and detailed focus, which enables believers to experience freedom and delight in following Jesus Christ in His Spirit.

Works Cited

Adams, Jay. Competent to Counsel. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., Co., 1976.

– – – – – . The Christian Counselor’s Manual. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., Co., 1973.

Alford, Henry. Alford’s Greek Testament. An Exegetical and Critical Commentary. Vol. II.Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1976.

Amada, Gerald. A Guide to Psychotherapy. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

Barker, Glenn, William Lane, and J. Ramsey Michaels. The New Testament Speaks, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969.

Bogan, Martin and Deidre. How to Counsel from Scripture. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1963.

Broadus, John. American Commentary on the New Testament. Gospel of Matthew. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1886.

Brown, John. An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians. Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 1981.

Bruce, F.F. The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988.

Carson, D.A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 8. Matthew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House,1984.

Chaplin, J. Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1975.

Chrysostom. “Homily 12: Ephesians 4:17.” Early Church Fathers, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers. Series One. Volume 13. The Complete Christian Collection, CD ROM, L.L.C., Packard Technologies, 1999.

Cole, R.A. The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1965.

Collins, Gary. Christian Counseling. Waco: Word Books, 1980.

– – – – – . “Discipleship Counseling.” Helping People Grow. ed. Gary Collins. Ventura: Vision House, 1980.

– – – – – . The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling for People Helpers. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1993.

– – – – – . The Rebuilding of Psychology. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1977.

Crabb, Larry. “Basic Biblical Counseling.” Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy. ed. David G. Benner. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

Dunn, James D. G. The Epistle to the Galatians. London: A & C Black, 1993.

Edman, V. Raymond. They Found the Secret. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 1. Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974.

Ellicott, Charles. A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Minneapolis: The James Family Christian Publishers, 1978. Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.

France, R.T. Matthew. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985.

Fung, Ronald. The Epistle to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988.

Geldenhuys, Norval. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1951.

George, Timothy. The New America Commentary. Vol. 30. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994.

Goode, William W. “Biblical Counseling and the Local Church.” Introduction to Biblical Counseling. ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

Guthrie, Donald. Galatians. New Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1981.

Hardy, Carey. Introduction to Biblical Counseling. ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary. Exposition of I and II Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.

Hodge, Charles. A Commentary on Romans. Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972.

Jansma, Theodore. Toward a Christian Psychotherapy. Cherry Hill: Mack Publishing Co., 1973.

Johnson, Robert L. vThe Letter of Paul to The Galatians. Austin: R. B. Sweet Co., Inc., 1969.

Jones, Stanton and Richard Butman. Modern Psychotherapies. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991.

Kempis, Thomas à. Of the Imitation of Christ. Burlington: Inspirational Promotions, n.d.

MacArthur, Jr., John. “Rediscovering Biblical Counseling.” Introduction to Biblical Counseling. ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

Meier, Paul D., Frank B. Minirth, and Frank B. Wichern. Introduction to Psychology and Counseling. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982.

Narramore, Clyde. The Psychology of Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960.

Owen, Jim. Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word. Santa Sylvia: EastGate Publishers, 1993.

Powlison, David. “Biblical Counseling in the Twentieth Century.” Introduction to Biblical Counseling. ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

– – – – – . “Which Presuppositions? Secular Psychology and the Categories of Biblical Thought.”Journal of Psychology and Theology, 12 (Winter 1984), No. 4.

Rengstorf, K.H. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel. trans. and ed.

Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Vol. IV. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931.

Spurgeon, Charles. “The One Thing Needful,” Sermon No. 1015. The Spurgeon Sermon Collection, Vol. 3. The Complete Christian Collection, CD-ROM, Packard Technologies, L.L.C., 1999.

Tenney, Merrill. Roads a Christian Must Travel. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1979.

Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1946.

Vos, Howard. Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Gospel According to St. John. Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954.

Williams, David. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.


[1] Charles Spurgeon asserts that discipleship is as needful as faith, and that salvation is impossible without it. “The One Thing Needful,” Sermon No. 1015, The Spurgeon Sermon Collection, Vol. 3, The Complete Christian Collection, CD-ROM, Packard Technologies, L.L.C., 1999.

[2] For an extensive treatment of maqht”j, see K.H. Rengstorf, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Vol. IV, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967, 415-459. The Old Testament counterpart is dy EQ \O(I,m) EQ \O(:,l) EQ \O(-,T). It is found only in 1 Chronicles 25:8, “They cast lots for their duties, all alike, the small as well as the great, the teacher as well as the pupil.” All Scriptural references are from the NASB, 1995.

[3] F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Rev. ed., Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988, 228.

[4] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1951, 214.

[5] As Glenn Barker, William Lane, and J. Ramsey Michaels point out concerning Christian discipleship, “Discipleship for the followers of Jesus involved a call to a life situation with totally new requirements. Believing the word of the Kingdom, they were now to order their lives according to its demand.” (The New Testament Speaks, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969, 90.

[6] Rengstorf, vTheological Dictionary, 441. R.T. France writes, “There is thus a strong ethical emphasis in this summary of Christian mission and discipleship, as there has been in Jesus’ teaching throughout this Gospel. To ‘make disciples’ is not complete unless it leads them to a life of observing Jesus’ commandments.” Matthew. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, 415.

[7] D.A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Matthew, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House,1984, 596. John Broadus aptly writes, “To disciple a person to Christ is to bring him into the relation of pupil to teacher, taking his yoke of authoritative instruction (11:29), accepting what he says as true because he says it, and submitting to his requirements as right because he makes them…. Baptism is a mere ceremonial and initial act of obedience to Christ, which should be followed by a lifelong obedience to all his commandments…. They who disciple and baptize men must teach them the duty of obeying Christ in all things; and the Christian instructor has still fallen short of his task unless those whom he is called to instruct have both learned what Christ’s commandments are, and have learned to observe them.” (American Commentary on the New Testament. Gospel of Matthew, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1886, 593, 596).

[8] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1963, 63f.

[9] The term ‘counsel’ derives from the Latin consilium (Old French – conseil), meaning deliberation; consulere, ‘to consult’. Semantically, ‘counsel’ means to advise or recommend (a course of action) through consultation.

[10] Stanton Jones and Richard Butman write, “Our main premise…is that there are many ways to counsel Christianly. But it is not and cannot be the case that ‘anything goes’.” Modern Psychotherapies, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991, 15. See also, Gary Collins, The Rebuilding of Psychology, Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1977, 184.

[11] Jones and Butman, Psychotherapies, 401ff. They prefer to use the terms counseling and psychotherapy interchangeably.

[12] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., Co., 1973, 11.

[13] Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., Co., 1976, 41ff. For Adams, the main issue in counseling is basically one of sin which should be confronted (i.e., addressed and exposed), particularly through the verbal ministry of the Scriptures; and the necessary response should simply be one of repentance and obedience in order to secure a behavioural change for the good of the counselee.

[14] Adams, Competent, 73.

[15] Adams, Manual, 17.

[16] Adams, Competent, 20ff.

[17] Larry Crabb, “Basic Biblical Counseling,” Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy, ed. David G. Benner, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987, 100.

[18] Larry Crabb, “Biblical Counseling,” 101ff. In teaching right thinking, the counselor should secure the counselee’s commitment to that teaching, and to the subsequent choice of right behaviour which will result in the feelings of significance and security.

[19] Gary Collins, The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling for People Helpers, Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1993, 21.

[20] Gary Collins, Christian Counseling, Waco: Word Books, 1980, 16.

[21] Clyde Narramore, The Psychology of Counseling, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, 11ff.

[22] Narramore, Counseling, 18ff.

[23] Paul D. Meier, Frank B. Minirth, and Frank B. Wichern, Introduction to Psychology and Counseling, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982, 291.

[24] John MacArthur, Jr., “Rediscovering Biblical Counseling,” Introduction to Biblical Counseling, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, 3.

[25] David Powlison, “Biblical Counseling in the Twentieth Century,” Introduction to Biblical Counseling, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, 49.

[26] Powlison, “Biblical Counseling,” 44f.

[27] This word may be translated ‘advice’; or ‘plan’, ‘scheme’.

[28] The substantive is sumboulion (e.g. Mt. 22:15). The other New Testament term for ‘counsel’ is bouleuomai (e.g. Lu 14:31); substantive – boul (e.g. Acts 27:12,42).

[29] There is a distinction between Biblical Counseling and psychotherapy as generally understood. Psychotherapy is a broad term for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disturbance without drugs or intrusive means, such as electro-convulsive therapy. J. Chaplin defines psychotherapy as “the application of specialized techniques to the treatment of mental disorders or to the problems of everyday adjustment. In the strictest sense, the term includes only those techniques (e.g. psychoanalysis, non-directive or directive counseling, psychodrama, etc.) which are utilized by specialists” Dictionary of Psychology, New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1975, 432. Gerald Amada similarly remarks that the two markers of psychotherapy are relationship and techniques. Psychotherapy seeks to change and modify one’s thinking and feelings through the skilled application of techniques within the context of a nurturing relationship. A Guide to Psychotherapy, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, 1ff. Psychotherapy has a legitimate place within the scope of Christian ministry, but the emphasis must be on the communication and reception of Biblical truth and wisdom. There is a proper Christian psychotherapy (literally, ‘healing of the soul’). The psalmist prays, “As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me; heal my soul [moral healing], for I have sinned against You'” (Psa 41:4); and, “He heals the brokenhearted [emotional healing] and binds up their wounds” (Psa 147:3). Theodore Jansma provides a workable definition of Christian psychotherapy. He states, “Christian psychotherapy is a treatment of emotional and behavioural problems [e.g. clinical depression] of Christian people by a therapist who shares their value system and tries to help them with resources from both scientific and non-scientific areas, from knowledge of human motivation and interpersonal relations as well as the resources of strength and guidance of their own Christian commitment” (Toward a Christian Psychotherapy, Cherry Hill: Mack Publishing Co., 1973, 2). Jim Owen’s critical remarks represent the sentiments of many Christians who are intolerant of any kind of psychotherapy or psychology. He writes that “it is a mistake to speak of ‘Christian psychology’ as if it were substantively different than humanistic psychology”Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word, Santa Sylvia: EastGate Publishers, 1993, 13.

[30] The use of the phrase ‘change covenantally’ implies at least two presuppositions. First, all of life, including human thinking and behaviour, must be interpreted in reference to God. All human beings stand in a necessary Creator-creature relationship with God and owe Him total allegiance, obedience, and commitment. “In Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28a). David Powlison states, “Every facet of being human is related to God. Motivation, cognition, emotions, interpersonal relationships, vocational life, counseling and physiology each have an intrinsic and essential God-ward referent.” “Which Presuppositions? Secular Psychology and the Categories of Biblical Thought,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 12 (Winter 1984), No. 4, 270. Second, Christians alone sustain a special redemptive and covenantal relationship with God (in addition to the Creator-creature relationship), and thus should evidence a certain kind of behaviour and should strive for prescribed behavioural ideals, defined in terms of conformity to the image of Christ.

[31] The counseling approach that I use is (what I have coined) Metacardia counseling (i.e., guiding the counselee through covenantal change of the heart, with a view to conformity to the image of Jesus Christ). Clearly, one’s psycho-anthropology directly informs and shapes one’s counseling methodology.

[32] Carey Hardy correctly states that “it should be apparent that biblical counseling is actually a part of discipleship. It is not the distinct entity the world and many Christians make it. In fact, much of what one would say about discipleship could be said equally about counseling”Introduction to Biblical Counseling, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, 369. Similarly, Martin and Deidre Bogan write that Biblical Counseling is “the most intensive form of discipleship.” How to Counsel from Scripture, Chicago: Moody Press, 1985, 198. Gary Collins would concur with these sentiments, “The Christian counselor seeks to bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has the ultimate goal of helping others to become first disciples of Christ and then disciplers of others” Christian Counseling, 14.

[33] William W. Goode writes, “However, biblical counseling is not an option-a point on which Scripture never equivocates. Our Lord commanded believers to love one another, and to consider counseling an optional ministry is to withhold biblical love at the time it is needed most in the believer’s life-when he or she is in trouble…. counseling is an essential part of the local church’s ministry as it disciples and helps believers mature in Christ’s image” “Biblical Counseling and the Local Church,” Introduction to Biblical Counseling, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne Mack, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, 301f.

[34] Merrill Tenney poignantly states, “The first step is the denial of self, which is quite different from self-denial. It consists not simply in the abandonment of something that one cherishes, but rather in the repudiation of his right to cherish it…. To deny self mean renunciation of the claims of one’s ambitions, appetites, and aims, not because they are necessarily evil, but because life is no longer centred on self but on Christ…. To deny self…means to surrender sovereignty over one’s own life, and to accept the Lordship of Christ.” Roads a Christian Must Travel, Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1979, 58f.

[35] Acts 6:7 suggests that, from one perspective, discipleship is synonymous with obedience: “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Bonhoeffer writes, “The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus.”Discipleship, 61.

[36] James D. G. Dunn pithily remarks, ” Here particularly striking is the tense used-not aorist (my crucifixion was an event which was over and done some time in the past), but perfect (I have been nailed to the cross with Christ, and am still hanging there with him.” The Epistle to the Galatians, London: A & C Black, 1993, 144.

[37] Robert L Johnson would basically concur. The Letter of Paul to The Galatians, Austin: R. B. Sweet Co., Inc., 1969, 71. R. A. Cole rejects this view. The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1965, 82. Timothy George disclaims that Paul herein sanctions perfectionism or mysticism. The New America Commentary, Vol. 30, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994, 200.

[38] Donald Guthrie, Galatians. New Century Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1981, 90.

[39] John Brown practically writes, “I view myself as so connected with Christ, as that when he was crucified I was, as it were, crucified; and I am as much interested in the effects of that crucifixion as if I had undergone it myself.” An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 1981, 96.

[40] Ronald Fung ambiguously states that Paul herein refers to his ‘natural self’. The Epistle to the Galatians, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988, 122.

[41] Charles Hodge rightly affirms, “What in the preceding verses is represented as the consequence of our union with Christ as a matter of doctrine, is here presented as a matter of experience…. What is thus done, as it were, out of ourselves, is attended by an analogous spiritual experience…. Our inward experience agrees with this doctrinal statement.” A Commentary on Romans, Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972, 196f.

[42] Henry Alford comments on the difficulty of this verse (v. 7) and concludes that dikaiÒw implies two facts: “so that Sin (personified) has no more claims on him, either as a creditor or as a master: cannot detain him for debt, nor sue him for service.” Alford’s Greek Testament. An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Vol. II, Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1976, 368.

[43] Hodge, Romans, 198.

[44] Thomas à Kempis postulates, “Behold everything dependeth upon the Cross, and everything lieth in dying; and there is none other way unto life and to true inward peace, except the way of the Holy Cross and of daily mortification. Go where thou wilt, seek whatsoever thou wilt, and thou shalt find no higher way above nor safer way below, than the way of the Holy Cross.” Of the Imitation of Christ, Burlington: Inspirational Promotions, n.d., 58.

[45] Howard Vos comments that “Christianity is not a matter of some legalistic form”. It is a life. Moreover, it is not human effort trying to bring off a superior kind of morality but divine life surging through the individual.” Galatians, Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, 48.

[46] Practically speaking, Brown comments, “Christ’s views are my views; Christ’s feelings are my feelings. He is the soul of my soul, the life of my life.” Galatians, 97.

[47] Guthrie interprets Paul as understanding faith as the sphere in which he lives. Galatians, 90. See also Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1946, 108; also Alford, Critical Commentary, 23. I do not follow A. T. Robertson who takes toà uƒoà as an objective genitive. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931, 290. Rather, I interpret the phrase as a subjective genitive, indicating that Christ is the possessor and source of faith. Most commentators basically follow Robertson, but Charles Ellicott contrariwise notes that the phrase should be translated, “namely that of the Son of God.” He states that the prepositional construction is “distinctive, and with solemn emphasis-the insertion of the article serving both to specify and enhance,…while the august title, by intimating the true fountain of life (John v. 26) tends to add confirmation and assurance.” A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Minneapolis: The James Family Christian Publishers, 1978, 63.

[48] Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, Vol. II, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954, 123.

[49] V. Raymond Edman remarks, “The dynamic for discipleship is indeed the gift of God, even the Holy Spirit; yet it is costly to our human nature, even death to self. ‘It costs much,’ said Dr. Gordon in one of these convention addresses, ‘to obtain this power. It costs self-surrender and humiliation and the yielding up of our most precious things to God’.” They Found the Secret, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, 77.

[50] Of course, the name Sylvia and the other names in this case study are pseudonyms. Some of the personal detail has been altered in order to protect the parties; however, the facts outlined are true. Sylvia has granted permission to refer to her journal entries. I have deliberately chosen a case study which involves more than just “a spiritual problem.” Biblical Counseling sufficiently addresses the whole person. I have not included a detailed account of the counseling given, but have just presented the broadest of overviews. My aim is simply to evoke an appreciation for the above mentioned principles.

[51] Gary Collins offers a helpful word when he states that ” counseling is concerned about the whole person…. A human being, instead, is a unity who has no such thing as a strictly spiritual need, a solely psychological abnormality, a social conflict, or a purely physical illness…. We must not deal with the spiritual and forget the person’s psychological needs.” “Discipleship Counseling,” Helping People Grow, ed. Gary Collins, Ventura: Vision House, 1980, 204.

[52] In this case, the behaviour addressed is either insubordination or idleness. Cf. David Williams, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. New International Biblical Commentary, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992, 96.

[53] See Williams, Thessalonians, 97.

[54] This term ‘weak’ or helpless may refer to financial or material privation, or to some mental deficiency or disturbance, as well as to a moral and spiritual weakness. Cf. 1 Cor. 8:7ff. Cf. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary. Exposition of I and II Thessalonians, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 135.

[55] Teaching is the primary responsibility among these injunctions. See Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984, 279.

[56] For example, Chrysostom advised, “It is the duty of the teacher to build up and restore the souls of his disciples, not only by counseling and instructing them, but also by alarming them, and delivering them up to God.” “Homily 12: Ephesians 4:17,” Early Church Fathers, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 13, The Complete Christian Collection, CD ROM, L.L.C., Packard Technologies, 1999. Jonathan Edwards writes, “It is also beyond doubt, that the Scriptures abound with rules, which may be very serviceable to ministers, in counseling and conducting souls committed to their care, in things pertaining to their spiritual and eternal state.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, 263.

[57] Collins, “Discipleship Counseling,” 189.