Counseling as Discipleship

Authentic biblical counseling is a matter of fulfilling our God-given command to make disciples, but what exactly is a disciple? The Great Command at the end of Matthew’s Gospel contains one main action: “make disciples” of Jesus Christ (28:18-20). A disciple (mathetes) is “one who follows one’s teaching…not only a pupil, but an adherent.” This is probably why F. Wilbur Gingrich chose the word “apprentice.” Therefore, a disciple of Jesus Christ is not merely one who confesses Christ, though that certainly is true (Rom. 10:9), but one who intentionally attaches himself to Him and adheres, or submits, to His commands as the new standard for living and consequently becomes like Him. There can be no doubt this is exactly what Jesus means in Luke 6:40: “A pupil [mathetes] is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Edward Hinson explained Jesus’ concept of a disciple this way:

In the ancient world a “disciple” was a person who became totally disciplined to the life of his master-teacher. He shared the master’s life-message as well as his didactic message. Jesus required His disciples to abide in His word (John 8:31), meaning they were not only to listen to His message, but to adopt it as their way of life. To the ancient Greek the disciple was bound to his master by the ideas of the teacher, whereas, to the Jewish disciple, he was bound to the rabbi by his knowledge of the law (Torah). In contrast to both, Jesus (cf. John 6:64) bound His disciples to Himself!…Since it is Christ who decides who will enter discipleship, it is also He who lays down the conditions for discipleship. They obey His words because of their commitment to Him personally and renounce all material comforts which may hinder their allegiance to Him (Matthew 10:37)….A “disciple” (mathetes) is synonymous with a ‘servant’ of Christ. Thus, a disciple has bonded himself willingly to the Master-Teacher for a lifetime relationship….The disciple does not attempt to make Christ his Lord through a lifelong struggle. Christ is already his Lord, and he must learn to obey Him as such.

A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is committed to a lifelong process of growing in obedience to his Master’s commands and, by doing so, becomes like Him. To the degree that we are helping each other along this process is the degree to which we are making disciples and, therefore, counseling one another.

-Excerpted from the book Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship

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