The Origin of Counseling Ministry (Part Two)
In our previous post, we considered a bigger picture of biblical counseling, originating in the Garden, with God offering counsel to mankind and calling mankind to share it with others in order to display His glory and serve the best interest of His people. We continue in this post, seeing throughout scripture how God’s counsel to mankind indeed serves His own glory and the good of His people and the opposition it’s faced since the beginning.
To Serve the Glory of God and the Good of Mankind
In each instance where God gave counsel to people in the Bible, God was serving His own glory and the good of His people. When God instructed Adam regarding the tree of knowledge, God was displaying something about His own holiness as well as serving Adam’s best interest (by giving truth to preserve Adam’s life). God’s counsel to Cain was to instruct Cain in the proper worship of a holy God and prevent Cain’s collapse under the mastery of sin. God’s counsel to Moses before Moses and Aaron counseled Pharaoh was in preparation for the display of God’s sovereign power over creation and the hearts of mankind, and to deliver His people from bondage (Exodus 7:1-7).
The counsel of the Lord through Samuel to Saul (I Samuel 15:1-23) gave a picture of God’s glory and what truly delights Him while also serving Saul’s true good: joyfully obeying the word of the Lord. The first chapter of Isaiah is full of God’s counsel for a proper heart before Him and one another. He is admonishing His people to cease from their futile sacrifices, assemblies, and prayers (Isaiah 1:11-15) in order to focus on true repentance and righteous living before God and others (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Opposed by Those Who Oppose God
From the beginning, the counsel of God has been opposed. The demonic realm opposes the counsel of God on earth. The sinful flesh of people resists the counsel of God in many forms and ways. The three examples below offer broad and common arguments in opposition to the counsel of God.
Oppositional Statement 1 – God’s Word is either insufficient or irrelevant (or some combination of the two) when dealing with the motivations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of human beings.
The crafty serpent questioned Eve, “Indeed, has God said…” (Genesis 3:1b) Opposition to biblical counseling typically begins with some challenge to the Word of God, whether how broadly it covers human life, its authority over human life, or its relevance to human life.
The objection of Satan represents a whole class of objections against the truthfulness, power, and meaning of God’s Word. The particular topic in the Garden involved a tree and its fruit. Today the topic could involve just about anything. Today we may find objections to God’s Word on divorce, sexual purity, polygamy, and abortion.
The questioning could be broad, “Has God really spoken to all the essential matters of life?” Or the challenge could be to its authority over specific topics like anxiety, anger, and despair. Does God really address anxiety deeply in His Word? Does He really say living in anxiety is contrary to His Spirit? Can we honestly assert that His Word connects rage, lust, and depression to the workings of the human heart?
While the specific content of the challenge may change from age to age and conversation to conversation, the general form of the argument does not. The general form of argumentation is always, “Indeed, has God said!” That is, does His Word really have authority over the whole of human existence, including every aspect of marriage, divorce, human sexuality, human emotion, and human thinking? Does His Word really give wisdom for everything, whether speaking directly to the topic or not, and help us see God, Man, sin, and everything else in the proper light and from God’s point of view?
The entire dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees about marriage illustrates this point (Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12). The Pharisees tried to lower the standard and narrow the reach of God’s Word as it pertains to marriage and divorce. As another example, the Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7 records Him calling people back to the rich, wide, deep, and thorough meaning and relevance of God’s Word in human life.
Oppositional Statement 2 – The consequences of human sin are not so grave, the effects of human depravity are not so comprehensive, and the severity of human sin against the holy God is not so significant
Once Eve responded to the first challenge, the serpent offered another, “You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4b) Here is a typical next step in opposition to God’s counsel: some challenge to the certain consequences and severity of human sin against a holy God. Like the serpent, those who oppose God’s counsel oppose the idea that human sin leads to and now results from a very fundamental, comprehensive death.
It is tempting to believe this way because the kind of death God promised Adam is not an quick physical death, but a spiritual one, affecting his soul (heart) and working through every fiber of his physical body. Affections of the heart, thoughts and emotions of the mind, and behaviors of the will and body are all deeply and completely corrupted by human sin against the God of this universe.
Spiritual deadness and sinfulness are not simply things we do, but who we are apart from our Creator. Human rebellion against God completely dissolves fellowship with God (among many other things). It disorients and confuses a human being. Apart from God we are spiritually dead and unable to find the way to life. We are blind, deaf, and self-deceived. We are desperately at the mercy of God for breath and sanity. We need a divine Savior if anything good is to come of us.
Opposition to the counsel of God tends to lessen the seriousness of these realities. Opposition to the counsel of God tends to assert that the human condition just isn’t that bad. Every day we are tempted to oppose biblical counsel by telling ourselves, “We surely will not die!”
Oppositional Statement 3 – Knowledge and capacity for abundant life, improving our condition, and becoming like God can be achieved without God’s grace and power
A third challenge offered by the serpent represents a common third challenge to those who truly counsel biblically. It builds upon the previous opposition. Namely, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) These words suggest that human independence from God and self-achieved knowledge is far better than human dependence upon God and God-given knowledge. The argument tends to go this way: God is not truly interested in the true good of His creation. He is holding back power and knowledge to hurt His creation.
The challenge offers praise to the mistaken beauties of human freedom from God’s rule without disclosing the certain horrors of slavery to sin, separation from God, and eternal wrath. The challenge claims: You will know great things without God! You will be better without God! You will be great without God! Go your own way!
Whether we notice or not, we are at war, “not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) These forces tempt us to defect, revolt, and distrust the One who created, loves, and governs us.
We Are All Called to Counsel
We are called, redeemed, and equipped by the Spirit of God to resist (Ephesians 6:10-20). We are reconciled to God through Christ so that we can live submitted to Him. We are sent out as ambassadors for Christ to help others be reconciled and submitted to Him as well (II Corinthians 5:17-21).
The Origin of Counseling Ministry is part of the Association of Biblical Counselor’s Equipped to Counsel Certification program. Our biblical counseling certification helps develop a biblical philosophy of counseling that emphasizes the call of all believers to take part in the work of counseling and discipleship.
Posted on August 19, 2016