The Lord of the church is at work. Jesus Christ is building His church. However, He is not only building His church, He is also making her holy—a work that He will not stop performing until she is blameless: “… Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27).
Making disciples of Christ is not merely about leading people to saving faith in Him by means of evangelism, but it also requires a more personal ministry—a coming alongside those who believe, to help them live out the reality of their new position in Christ by learning to walk in obedient faith. This is authentic biblical counseling, and this enabling process is the work of the church.
The Holy Spirit empowers the proclamation of the gospel to regenerate spiritually dead sinners to the call of repentance and to believe in Jesus Christ. Once converted, followers of Christ need the care of committed, nurturing ministers who live the Christian life alongside them, helping them experience spiritual growth. This is God-centered church growth, its success measured by how believers are built up in the faith and conformed to the image of the complete man, Jesus Christ. This kind of growth takes place as the under-shepherds of Christ faithfully equip the members of their flocks to counsel one another from the Scriptures.
Biblical ministry is all about helping people live out the truth of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. Don Carson articulates this conviction: “When we live up to our calling, we remember that in God’s church people do not set the agenda, they are the agenda. Our allegiance to God and his gospel will be demonstrated in our service to his people, to those who will become his people, to those made in his image.” Commitment to help one another grow in godliness is indispensable to the work of discipleship.
Since practical sanctification is not an instantaneous event, but rather a progressive remolding of one’s life, it requires every believer to continually apply personal discipline to his or her thoughts, desires, and habits. This process of becoming holy—living out our righteous position in Christ—has its share of hurdles to overcome. Some believers will stumble; they will need the rescuing ministry of those who love them enough to confront them, so that they may be restored to the intimate fellowship with God that grows from obedience.
To accomplish this work, the Holy Spirit has not left us without adequate equipment. Instead, He inspired Scripture, which is the mind of God in written form, thus leaving us with God’s infallible, all-sufficient wisdom for life and godliness. When submitted to, it changes the heart of man and leads to spiritual maturity and fruitfulness. Jesus is so committed to the sanctification of His people that He designed and ordained the ideal context in which this spiritual growth may take place. According to His blueprint, local churches function as living communities of the faith in which those who trust the person and work of Christ for their redemption may worship and serve Him together in sincerity and truth.
In spite of these great provisions, however, today’s church has largely turned its ear away from the Word of God and embraced the subtle flattery of a Christianized psychology that exalts self and diminishes the uniqueness, power, and simplicity of the gospel. Authentic biblical counselors find themselves actively engaged in the battle for Truth and must, therefore, combat the philosophies of men using “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
The Lord of the church will return for His bride. When He does so, the work of counseling will be complete, for all who know Christ “will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Until then, believers must be trained to walk in the Spirit through submission to His Word. We must serve one another in the body of Christ by speaking the truth in love. We must counsel one another.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20–21).
[This post is from the conclusion of the book, Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship.]