Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

Our Working Definition of Counseling

The definition that we work to develop here at Counseling One Another is as follows: Biblical counseling is an intensely focused and personal aspect of the discipleship process, whereby believers come alongside one another for three main purposes: first, to help each other consistently apply Scriptural theology to life in order to experience victory over sin through obedience to Christ; second, by warning each other, in love, of the consequences of sinful actions; and third, by leading each other to make consistent progress in the ongoing process of biblical change in order that we may become spiritually reproductive followers of Jesus Christ. This definition describes the aim of biblical discipleship. Basically, biblical counseling is helping one another, within the body of Christ, to grow to maturity in Him.

Key Terms
The New Testament uses four different words to emphasize this more concentrated aspect of the disciple-making process: parakaleo, protrepo, noutheteo, and paraineo. The meanings and uses of these words help us to envision a well-rounded ministry that is geared toward helping people change.

  1. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the Greek word parakaleo means “to call to one’s side,” hence, “to call to one’s aid.” It is used for every kind of calling which is meant to produce a particular effect, hence its various meanings such as “comfort, exhort, desire, call for.” The Apostle Peter uses this word to urge Christians to abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11), and the author of Hebrews insists that believers are to encourage one another to be faithful to their local assembly (Heb. 10:25). God’s plan for personal character transformation has always included other persons in the community of the faith because normal spiritual growth does not take place in isolation, but rather alongside others.
  2. The Greek word protrepo means “to urge forward, to push on, to encourage.” For example, when Apollos desired to go to Achaia, the brethren “encouraged” others to welcome him with grace (Acts 18:27). Therefore, we will discover that, from time to time and in varying degrees, every person needs to be motivated to keep pressing forward in his or her pursuit of the application of biblical truth to life.
  3. A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament says that the Greek word noutheteo means to admonish or warn. It means to put before the mind so as to “correct through instruction and warning.” It differs slightly from teaching in that it is normally a response to some kind of error or it is a warning against spiritual danger, present or potential. When Paul counseled the Ephesian elders about the danger of the emerging false teachers who would seek to make disciples by their false doctrines, he reminded them of the three years in which he did not cease to admonish them (Acts 20:31). Romans 15:14 teaches that believers should be able to admonish one another biblically. This should always be toward the goal of spiritual maturity (Col. 1:28), and therefore believers should appreciate the shepherds who give them instruction toward that end (1 Thes. 5:12). The noun form, noutesia, means “training by word—either of encouragement, when this is sufficient, or of remonstrance, reproof, or blame, where required.” Therefore, we will also discover that God’s plan for making disciples requires believers to care enough to confront one another when brothers or sisters they love are in error, and to firmly warn or instruct them concerning their spiritual danger.
  4. Finally, the Greek word paraineo means “to admonish by way of exhorting or advising.” An example of this is when, in the midst of a storm at sea, Paul admonishes his fellow sailors and urges them to keep their courage (Acts 27:9, 22). Therefore, we will also discover that the process of spiritual growth requires believers to give courage to their fellow companions on the journey of discipleship, especially when they are in the midst of the storms of life.

In all these cases, these believers are “counselors,” with or without a title. And the counsel dispensed is always in the form of words spoken from the commitment of biblical love. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” As biblical counselors, we must take great care in the words we use with our disciples, for speech has the power to kill them with despair or to give them the hope of life. I appreciate David Powlison’s simple definition of counseling as “intentionally helpful conversations.” The power of biblical counsel lies in the degree to which our words are filled with the Word.

Read the book Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship.

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  1. I always thought that courage was something we just “had” in the circumstances of life, not that it was something other people could help us in. The idea of giving courage in the midst of life’s circumstances makes so much sense, courageous people have courage partly because they have people behind them and beside them who are encouraging them and pointing them to truth, people who are reminding them why they do not need to be afraid.

  2. We, the body of believers, need each other. I love the fact that we work together, disciple one another, teach each other. I am not an independent being, but i need others to point me to Christ, to encourage, and to learn from. Biblical counseling is all about people–that is one of my favorite parts about it. True discipleship can only be done through each other. And I am thankful God has provided us with so many avenues for discipleship.

  3. Many feel like counseling is something they are not capable of. It is a daunting task and frightening responsibility. However, based on Powlison’s definition of counseling: “intentionally helpful conversations.” we should realize that we are all capable of that. Simply speaking the Word, truth, into others lives is what we can do to encourage.

  4. Thanks for giving us a simple, working definition of Biblical Counseling. I have found that some people don’t know how to respond to the term Biblical Counseling, so having a simple definition is very helpful.
    I agree with Austen – counseling is something that many people feel that they are incapable of doing, but it is as simple (and as challenging!) as intentionally encouraging someone to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

  5. I appreciate the explanation of the meanings and uses of the words – it definitely shows a fuller picture of what counseling can and should look like as well as helps us understand our responsibility to one another.