Counseling the Words of Christ: Where Else Can We Go

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Can the Bible truly address life’s most complex issues?

I am convinced it can and I believe biblical counseling is the vehicle God uses to minister to broken people. Counseling from the Bible is simply a specific avenue of discipleship and the great commission.

There are some who are skeptical of biblical counseling because it seems too simplistic. Maybe you resonate with the following concern: biblical counseling seems to repackage all their solutions into a simplistic two step formula – repent and believe.

Perhaps this is how you think about biblical counseling:

  • “Are you struggling with anorexia? Repent and believe.
  • Are you struggling with depression? Repent and believe.
  • Fear? Repeat.
  • Anxiety? Again.
  • Anger? One more time.
  • Repent and believe.”

I actually think this caricature of biblical counseling is too simplistic. It does not offer a full picture of faithful counseling. I would be concerned if this was all of the biblical counseling I received!

Biblical counseling is more than telling people to pray, read their Bible, and trust in Jesus. But it is nothing less than this. Biblical counseling is both simple and complex. In a very real way, discipleship is taking the two categories of “believe” and “repent” and seeking to apply them in all the right and varied ways.  Does this bother you? It doesn’t have to.

Simplicity vs. Sloppiness 

I think one of the reasons simplicity is a turn off is because it gets confused with sloppiness. Simple and sloppy are not the same thing.

If we aren’t careful and caring, lazy counseling has the potential to feel like offering a bandaid to someone who has fractured their femur. Biblical counselors must be “sophisticated” in their ability to listen, diagnose, and administer the Bible.

Our society may call this “sophistication”, but the book of Proverbs calls it wisdom. No matter what you label it, biblical counseling requires seasoned skill, scriptural knowledge, and Spirit-infused intuition.

An infinite God can be studied for one thousand lifetimes and yet never be fully known. And yet, a young child can truly have a relationship with the God of the universe. The Bible is simple in it’s message and yet complex in it’s application. (Matthew 3:2; Romans 12:2)

Is Simplicity Shameful? 

I want to emphasize that simplicity is not inherently negative in counseling. In reality, simplicity indicates clarity. This is a wonderful blessing from the Bible.

The biblical counselor shouldn’t be ashamed of the truth that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) In our quest to be sophisticated we should not seek to be accepted by the world and sound like a psychology textbook. Jesus’ mission was not to impress the elite and educated. The solutions to problems of “life and godliness” can (and should) be boiled down to issues of faith and repentance. (2 Peter 2:1-3) There are nuances to be said and complex problems to be examined, but at the end of the day we must counsel faith and repentance. This wasn’t too narrow-minded for Paul who determined to know nothing other than Jesus Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Simple Means Solutions

As biblical counselors, we can take heart in the simple message of the kingdom. We don’t have to go anywhere else except the Scriptures for wisdom in counseling. In reality, we can’t go anywhere else.

Our counselees don’t have to despair trying to find some secret knowledge that a psychiatrist possesses. They don’t have to wander around for years needing weekly therapy. They can be assured that change is possible and a real solution is within their grasp.

When we counsel from the Bible, we can actually be guaranteed to accomplish the will of God. We can be sure that his word will accomplish everything God intends for it to do. The mission cannot fail because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the Risen Counselor. (Matthew 28:18-19)

Let us spend our lives learning how to call people to repent and believe the gospel in a wise and timely manner. We should agree with the disciples of Christ: where else can we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

For more information on the medical components of counseling, there are several videos on the counseling and medication from ACBC. 

Popes and Psychology


Who is allowed to counsel?

I love the biblical counseling movement because it shows no partiality. It is Reformational to the core. The battle cry of the protestant reformation was to the sources! Ad Fontes. Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is all that is needed and not any doctrine or creed from the Catholic church.

In Britain, William Tyndale was zealous for the Bible to spread among the average citizen and not be bound to the church hierarchy. “One scholar was so exasperated with Tyndale that he blurted out, ‘We were better be without God’s law than the Pope’s.'” To which Tyndale replied, “I defy the pope, and all his laws…and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more Scripture than thou dost.” (See chapter five in The Unquenchable Flame by Reeves)

The Reformation took away the authority of Scripture from the Pope and declared that the Bible alone held the authority of God. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli believed the right of interpretation should not be held captive by Catholic priests. Rather, the Reformers pried biblical interpretation from the golden rings of the church and placed it in the dirty hands of the common man. For the first time in years, people were able to study the word of God without having to rely upon anyone. They were able to see, enjoy, and interpret the Scriptures for themselves. The Reformers believed any Christian indwelt by the Spirit of God could interpret the Bible. The biblical counselors believe the same thing.

There is a common assumption that only professional psychiatrists can truly counsel. Most Americans and even most pastors seem to automatically believe that people with difficult problems can only be helped by the professionals. Pastors frequently send church members to clinical psychologists who have been trained at secular institutions.

What qualifies someone to tell someone else how they should or should not live? What gives someone the resources to comfort a devastated heart or offer hope to a despairing soul?

Biblical counselors believe that anyone with the Spirit of God and a well worn Bible can adequately counsel those in all things that pertain to life and godliness. As Jay Adams would say, the Scriptures make someone competent to counsel.

This warms my heart and relieves my soul. I do not need to find some secret knowledge found in a psychiatric textbook in order to help those I love. I am thrilled that I do not need to be licensed by the state in order to care for those in my church. Instead, I am free to mine the Scriptures and connect them with daily living. Biblical counselors are called to love the Bible, love others and look intently into their lives to offer help.

Let me be clear; I am 100% pro training. A counselor should attend counseling classes, do theological research, and correctly interpret the Scriptures. A skillful knowledge of the Bible is essential to counsel well. Every counselor should seek to acquire a more seasoned understanding about people that comes from careful observation. I am incredibly thankful for organizations such as ACBC that aid in this process. May every biblical counselor go deeper into the Word and be equipped to connect the Scriptures with hard situations. Purposed thinking is not optional. Thoughtful, practical and intense contemplation is a part of good counseling.

But we should nail this theses on the door: there is no special class of professionals when it comes to counseling. Biblical counseling is available to the common man and not just the psychiatrists. Do you have a Bible? Do you love others? Do you have the Spirit of God and a desire for wisdom? Then counseling is for you.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him…” (Galatians 6:1) No popes, no professionals, no priests. The power of God resides in jars of clay who are committed to knowing the Bible. Let us be trained in the Scriptures and let us boldly approach God for wisdom (James 1:5)

This post is a follow up to Why I Joined the Biblical Counseling Movement