Today, we continue a brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ We have already thought about the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the Scriptures. Today, I want us to think about the doctrine of Christ (Christology). Actually, much more narrow than that, we need to think about how the lordship of Christ affects the life of the true believer and how Jesus' role as the ultimate Reconciler must impact the effort God expects us to put forth in order to be reconciled to others.
The Doctrine of Jesus Christ
Every matter of counseling is somehow related to a person’s relationship with God or people, other image bearers. In other words, biblical counseling is always relational—aiming at and working toward reconciliation, which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, makes possible. He died and rose again to reconcile rebellious sinners back to their holy Creator (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18; 2:24). He did this by dying a substitutionary death in place of guilty sinners (Isaiah 53:1-12, esp. vv.4-6). Through His death, Christ propitiated (satisfied, appeased) God’s wrath against sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10); and demonstrated the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16), the mercy of God (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 2:4), the grace of God (John 1:17; Romans 3:24); and the righteousness of God (Romans 3:25). Christ died and rose again to free us from the power and penalty of sin, to be Lord of the dead and of the living, so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us (Romans 14:7-9; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). It is reconciliation with God, through Christ, which makes reconciliation with other people not only possible, but part of what it means to be a true Christian, a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
In addition to thinking about Jesus' work of reconciling us to God, another aspect of Christology that we need to think about is His lordship. In biblical counseling the unbiblical Savior-Lord dichotomy is often confronted, and that rightly. It is unfortunate that the term “Lordship Salvation” was coined and then so negatively received by some. For me the key issue is: What is the nature of faith that truly saves? Is it alive or is it dead? Does it produce good works or is it merely intellectual assent to historical facts about Jesus? Does it result in a new creation or is it merely another add-on to a religious system? The Bible teaches that if a person is truly under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, his/her faith will be a repentant faith, which contains an element of submission. Granted, this submission will not be consciously directed toward every sin in his life all of the time (for we all have ‘hidden sins,’ still), but rather it will be a basic and foundational kind of submission that is characteristic of the new heart that God gives at the moment of salvation. Saving faith is empty-handed, but submissive; it receives the gift of God and rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ as full payment for one’s sin debt. It is faith in Him as one’s personal Sin-bearer that saves. Knowing Jesus means loving and obeying Jesus as Lord: "If you love me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Today, we continue our series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’ Yesterday, we thought very briefly about the doctrine of God. Today, we turn to the doctrine of the Scriptures.
Bibliology: The Doctrine of the Scriptures
Scripture alone provides the final authority for our counseling since it is the Word of God. There is nothing that man experiences that God does not directly or indirectly address in His Word, by precept or principle, i.e. the Bible is sufficient to deal with the problems we face because God created us and because Scripture is the revelation of God, our Creator (Psalm 19:7-11).
The Word confronts us when we get off the right path and shows us how to get back on and trains us to live godly lives so that we mature and become equipped to serve God: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Because the Word of God is a living book, it has the power to transform the inner man—the heart—and consequently to produce changes in behavior, i.e. produce righteous living (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture is the Spirit’s primary tool in the miraculous event of conversion and the process of sanctification (John 17:17). Every truth-claim made by any person can and must be tested against the Bible, which is “the mind of God in written form” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). This is not to say that no extra-biblical knowledge (as opposed to unbiblical teaching) that, when filtered through the Word of God, may not be helpful in our understanding of the human condition.
“Inspired” (2 Timothy 3:16) means “God-breathed.” It does not refer to breathing into someone an inspirational thought, but is the act of God whereby He breathed out His will—His thoughts through the chosen human agents. Scripture is the mind of God in written form. It is the divine will inscripturated (in writing) and inerrant in the original manuscripts (Matthew 4:4, 5:17-18). Therefore, Scripture does not merely contain truth—it is Truth with a capital “T.” Scripture is the final authoritative standard of Truth and the instrumental cause of faith and sanctification (Romans 10:17; John 17:17), empowered by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Everything contrary to it is error. Thiessen defines inspiration well when he writes, “The Holy Spirit so guided and superintended the writers of the sacred text, making use of their own unique personalities, that they wrote all that he wanted them to write, without excess or error.”
The authority of Scripture is a by-product of its infallibility. Some who call themselves Evangelicals claim to have an authoritative Bible while at the same time deny its infallibility. This is impossible. The authority of Scripture flows from its divine origin and, since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it too was flawless in its original form. This is not to say that what we now possess contains errors, for God has been faithful to preserve His Word through millennia. The Dead Sea Scrolls are an example of this. Without an infallible Bible we have no authority to counsel people in regard to what they must believe and do. However, because we do possess the infallible Word of God, we also possess divinely-delegated authority to counsel according to its precepts and principles. We can and must say to counselees, “Thus saith the Lord,” and “this is what God requires of you.” Jay Adams writes, “The ministry of the Word in counseling…is totally unlike counseling in any other system because of its authoritative base. This authoritative character stems, of course, from the doctrine of inerrancy. If the Bible were shot through with human error, and were no more dependable than any other composition—if it were not God-breathed revelation—this note of authority would give way to opinion. But, because the Bible is inerrant, there is authority.” I also appreciate what Wayne Grudem writes, “The essence of the authority of Scripture is its ability to compel us to believe and to obey it and to make such belief and obedience equivalent to believing and obeying God himself.”
Today, I begin a brief series covering the 10 basic categories of theology and relate them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal, one-another ministry that we call ‘counseling.’
Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God
One’s view of God shapes his thinking in every area of life. Of course, this is true for every subsection of Theology Proper. However, for the sake of brevity, a few specific areas that often come to the forefront in counseling include God’s sovereignty, love, goodness, and the “three omnis.”
Counselees who are suffering especially need the biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty over every affair of life including when bad things happen to God’s people (Psalm 139:16; Romans 8:28-30; Eg. Life of Joseph in Genesis 39-50). Whatever the secondary cause of suffering, we must teach counselees that God is truly in control and, therefore, is the principal cause and is trustworthy. Though He is not responsible for evil, God is sovereign over it—whether it comes through sin, Satan, or the natural consequences of the curse, which God placed upon the created world in the Garden of Eden after the fall.
Coupled with His sovereignty, the goodness of God must be communicated along with His love, mercy, and pity toward sinners, which was ultimately made manifest in Christ on the cross (Romans 5:8). The holiness of God compels us to trust Him (for He cannot lie, or do us wrong) and calls believers to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:15ff). Whatever sin-related struggle we battle, or suffering-related problem we face, God knows it (omniscience), is with us and will never forsake us (omnipresence), and has infinite power to intercede on our behalf according to His desires (omnipotence)
What does all of this mean? The bottom line is: God is worthy of our trust and obedience.
Here’s more God-centered encouragement from Paul Tripp’s book A Shelter in the Time of Storm.
[O]ur inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we'd never find on our own the One who is to be our rock; no, he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here: "He will lift me high upon a rock." It doesn't say, "I will find the rock and I will climb up on it."
Here is the hope for every weary traveler whose feet are tired of the slippery instability of mud of a fallen world. Your weariness is a signpost. It's meant to cause you to cry out for help. It's meant to cause you to quit looking for your stability horizontally and begin to cry out for it vertically. It's meant to put an end to your belief that situations, people, locations, possessions, positions, or answers will satisfy the longing of your heart. Your weariness is meant to drive you to God. He is the Rock for which you are longing. He is the one who alone is able to give you the sense that all is well. And as you abandon your hope in the mirage rocks of this fallen world and begin to hunger for the true Rock, he will reach out and place you on solid ground.
[Excerpt from A Shelter in the Time of Storm.]