10 Distinctives of Biblical Counseling

People often ask me how biblical counseling differs from other approaches to soul care. Here’s a summary I’ve been teaching for almost two decades, which I hope will help you grow in understanding sanctification. This week, look up the Scriptures listed and meditate on God’s abundant provision through the Spirit and the Word. See how each piece fits together. This study will be a healthy meal for your soul.

Biblical counseling believes:

1. The Bible is the all-sufficient source of Truth.

  • Scripture is pure truth (Ps. 119:140, 160).
  • Scripture is sufficient to identify the deepest needs of our soul, and meet them (Ps. 19:7-11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • Scripture is the instrumental means the Spirit uses to transform us from the inside out, even sanctifying our motivations (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 4:12).
  • Scripture is the judge of all man-made philosophy and theory, as to whether or not it is accurate, corrupts the gospel, or diminishes Christ (1 Cor. 2:11-16; Col. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 10-4-6).

2. Man is totally depraved, accountable to God, and responsible for his thoughts and actions.

  • Man’s heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9).
  • Man’s heart is motivated by love for self, and is addicted to sin (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 6:13).
  • Man will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12; 1 Pet. 4:4-5).
  • Man is responsible for his own temptation and sin (James 1:13-16).
  • But man can be rescued and redeemed by Jesus Christ—becoming a new creature in Him (2 Cor. 5:17).

3. God’s goal for every believer is to be like Jesus Christ.

  • The Christian life begins with regeneration, being born-again by the Spirit through the Word of truth, the gospel (John 3:1-8; 1 Pet. 1:3).
  • God has predestined believers to become conformed to the image of His Son, thus this is God’s goal (Rom. 8:29).
  • God is renewing the believer’s self into the image of Christ, as we put off the old and put on the new (Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:17-32).

4. The Holy Spirit is the agent of heart change, which produces change of behavior.

  • The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ as we behold Him in the Word (2 Cor. 3:18).
  • The Holy Spirit progressively trains us in godliness and develops new attitudes and lifestyle as we walk in the Word (Gal. 5:22-25).

5. Every Christian is fully equipped in Christ for godliness, but submission to God’s training is required.

  • God’s power is sufficient to live a life that is pleasing to Him, having already been accepted in Christ (2 Pet. 1:2-7; Eph. 1:6).
  • God will finish the sanctifying work which He began at conversion, but not without the personal discipline of the believer (Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13).
  • Suffering is one of the chief means the heavenly Father employs to train us in godliness and discipline (Heb. 12:4-11).

6. Sanctification is a process requiring ongoing repentance and personal discipline toward godliness.

  • Discipline the thoughts of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • Discipline the desires of the heart (James 4:1-3).
  • Discipline the habits of life (Eph. 4:22-32).

7. Biblical love and compassion motivate believers to restore one another.

  • Love restores sinning brethren to the fellowship of obedience and the church (Gal. 6:1-5).
  • Compassion implores people to follow God’s ways (1 Thess. 2:10-12).

8. God’s wisdom is necessary to minister to a variety of people experiencing a variety of problems and needs.

  • Some are unruly and need to be rebuked (1 Thess. 5:14).
  • Some are fainthearted and need to be encouraged (1 Thess. 5:14).
  • Some are weak and need to be helped (1 Thess. 5:14).
  • We must learn humility and be patient with all (1 Thess. 5:14).

9. God created us both body and soul, which impact each other.

  • Distress, grief, weariness of body, loss of strength, and deterioration may result from physical suffering and painful circumstances (Job 3:26; Ps. 102:3-5; 31:9-10; 2 Cor. 1:8-11).
  • An unrepentant heart may cause physical and emotional struggles (Ps. 38:1-8; 32:3-4).
  • Anxiety may cause mental, emotional, and physical struggles (Prov. 12:25).

10. The local family of God is the ideal place for this one-another ministry of love.

  • Pastors and elders must minister the Word to the flock, shepherd the sheep, and equip believers to build up one another (Eph. 4:12).
  • Biblical ministry leads others toward maturity in Christ (Col. 1:28-29, 3:16).
  • All believers are expected to lovingly stimulate one another toward faithfulness to Christ by speaking the truth in love (Heb. 10:24-25; Rom. 15:14; Eph. 4:15).

As you can see, the above bulleted list is simply a summary. These concepts are more fully developed in Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-personal Discipleship.

[This updated article was originally published on this blog on July 1, 2001.]

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