When I think about the end goal of biblical counseling, I’m struck by 1 Timothy 1:5. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
What strikes me is the realization that I have long misunderstood it. Since I’ve not yet preached through this New Testament book, I have not had occasion to analyze it in-depth. Therefore, I had assumed all along that the “goal” that Paul refers to is that his own ministry, and that of his coworkers, consistently flow from a heart filled with love.
Something like: “Our goal is to always counsel in love,” along the lines of what he says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. However, as true as it is, “if I counsel without love it profits me nothing [not to mention anyone else],” that is not the apostle’s point here at the beginning of his first letter to his young disciple Timothy.
What Is the Goal of Biblical Counseling?
The goal of their teaching, as stated in 1 Timothy 1:5, is the telos, or end, or fulfillment of their instruction. It is what the apostle and his fellow servants had hoped for their instruction to accomplish in the lives of their disciples, which is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Paul is not concerned (in this text) about the motives of his own heart. Rather he is concerned that his instruction induces in the hearts of those he counsels a marked growth in biblical love flowing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith—all of which flow from a Christological focus.
My question to each of us as counselors is this: “Is this our goal?” Are we counseling toward heart-change? Toward love-expansion? Are we aiming at our counselees’ fulfillment of “the two loves,” the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love others?
Or, are we content to settle for the temporal goal of helping people alter their outward behavior apart from the wholehearted obedience of faith? Are we happy for people to simply conform to our standard? What is our telos, our goal, the end of our counseling? What should it be?
Our Biblical Counseling telos
Telos is the word Paul uses in Colossians 1:28, where he describes the very specific goal of his Word-driven, Christ-centered ministry: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete [teleios] in Christ.” Clearly the goal, the end, is spiritual maturity, otherwise called Christlikeness.
Paul’s goal of presenting believers as complete, or mature, reaches its end “in Christ.” The embodiment of completeness is nothing other than Christlikeness. In other words, we are spiritually mature when we are fully like Jesus. Therefore, since no believer has yet to fully arrive at his or her telos, we as shepherds need to equip God’s sheep toward “a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) (see Counsel Your Flock, p. 45).
We need to adopt this apostolic goal for our own biblical counseling ministries. We must aim at the transformation of hearts and lives into the likeness of Jesus. The maturity of this transformation will be marked by a walk that lines itself up with the written Word of God and is, therefore, a walk that is worthy of the name of Christ (Ephesians 4:1). It is an obedient walk that manifests the “two loves.”
By God’s grace, as we faithfully deliver biblical truth in a loving, godly manner and our disciples diligently apply themselves to its application, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. If we do this, then we move others—as we move ourselves—further down the road of becoming like Christ. This is the end of biblical counseling!
Join the Conversation
Practically speaking, how do we counsel toward loving God and loving others?