December 1, 2018 @ 8:00 am - December 3, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
Six Essential Characteristics of Genuine Biblical Counseling
1. A high view of Scripture
Genuine Biblical Counseling must believe that Scripture is the authority in counseling. The Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word to man. The Bible is a universal standard, divinely given that is external to man. It is the standard of faith and practice. This foundational premise of counseling is firmly established in the Bible (e.g., Mark 13:31; Psalm 119:89, 97-100; 2 Sam. 22:31). Paul assures Timothy 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Beyond this, genuine biblical counseling must believe that Scripture is sufficient in counseling. The Bible is, in and of itself, a sufficiently adequate source-book for counseling. It represents and contains all truth necessary dealing with life’s difficulties and trials. In other words, the Bible is sufficient for both salvation and sanctification. The sufficiency of Scripture is clearly taught in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Psalm 19. Therefore a methodology for counseling and helping people change can be developed from the Bible, and should only be developed from the Bible.
2. Absolute sovereignty of God
Genuine Biblical Counseling must uphold the absolute sovereign power of God. God created all things, governs all things, and knows all things, and known unto God are all His works, from the beginning of the world (Acts 15:18, Lord’s Day 10). Genuine Biblical Counseling echoes the classic affirmation that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that he is eternal, incomprehensible invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good. (Belgic Confession #1). It is a fatal error to say that a perfect, omnipotent, sovereign, and totally self-conscious God can deliver us from hell, but is powerless to heal, restore or transform lives in the meantime. Either God is absolutely sovereign, or He is not God. If He is absolutely sovereign, then He is God, and His absolute capacity to change people cannot be denied.
Genuine biblical counseling must seek to restore the relationship between men and God, help people find newness of life in Christ by receiving Him as their Saviour. It must set people free from the bondage of sin and suffering, and to experience, worship and serve the living God (Isa. 61:1-6). Jay Adams, in his ground-breaking book Competent to Counsel, stated, What God has done for sinful man in Christ conditions what the counselor does. Counseling should follow and reflect God’s order in redemption: grace, then faith; gospel, then sanctification. Counseling must be redemptive…. Consequently, a proper concept of nouthetic counseling must have deeply embedded in it the premise that man cannot be helped in any fundamental sense apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. (pp.67-68). In practical terms, this means that if the counselee is not a Christian, the biblical counselor, in order to truly help them, must encourage them to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If the counselee is a Christian, the biblical counselor needs to help the person to truly know God and experience the freedom and abundant life promised by the Lord. Those in Christ need to be shown that through the Jesus Christ they have been given all they need to live godly.
4. Exaltation of Jesus Christ
Genuine Biblical Counseling must believe that the Lord Jesus is the way, and the truth and the life. (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus is the answer to all problems encountered by the counselees: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. (2 Pet. 1:3). Because of this, only Christ Jesus can heal, deliver, strengthen, and transform the counselee. (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16). This means that ultimately the fruit of our labours in counseling others is of the Lord.
The ultimate goal of genuine biblical counseling is to guide the counselee to have an abundant life in Christ through a complete trust in His work on the cross for us. More than that, genuine biblical counseling seeks to help the counselee to have a full concentration of the thoughts and affections on Christ; a complete surrender of the whole being to Him; a constant looking to Him for grace. Such is the new life in Christ, the abiding, fruitful life, the life that is Christ. Galatians 2:20 should be a reality for the counselee: I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.
5. Church accountability
Genuine biblical counseling must believe that counseling rightly belongs to the church of Jesus Christ. Counseling must be conducted under the authority of the church, and be accountable to the church. Ultimately it is the pastor and the elders who are responsible for the counsel that is given to the flock for counseling is a part of the basic discipling ministry of the local church. Genuine biblical counseling seeks to point every counselee to Jesus Christ. It requires that members of the congregation can and should be trained to counsel effectively. (Ephesians 4:11-16) This doesn’t mean that there are not times when an outside counselor can or should be used but these incidents are the exception rather than the norm. The Lord has given various gifts and graces to each individual body of Christ for growth in Christ. When outside counselors are used there needs to be a close working together with the pastor and/or elders of the church.
6. Bible-defined competence
Genuine Biblical Counseling must firm believe that it is not the counselor’s professional knowledge that gives understanding, and changes a person, but the power and work of God (Psalm 7:9; Luke 16:14-15; Jer. 31:33). Therefore, genuine biblical counseling believes that a competent counselor does not rely on professional degrees, professional certification, or governmental licensing. In fact, secular licensing often impairs the counselor’s effectiveness in following biblical principles in counseling. In his book, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, Ed Bulkley stated, There are only a few essential qualifications for a competent counselor: One must have an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures (Rom 15:14), a good measure of divine wisdom (experience and common sense under the illumination of the Holy Spirit) (Col. 3:16), goodness (consistent, righteous lifestyle with a humble attitude) (1 Pet. 5:5), an ability to relate to others (Col. 4:6), an ability to communicate (Tit. 2:8), and a genuine desire to help others (1 Thess. 5:14), (p. 79). Whether someone is competent to counsel or not must be defined by God’s standard, not man’s standards.