Is God Really Into Biblical Counseling?

April 29, 2014

2014 BC in Canada Series--Is God Really Into Biblical Counseling
Betty-Anne Van Rees

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Betty-Anne Van Rees

2014 BC in Canada Series--Is God Really Into Biblical Counseling

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the first in a BCC Grace & Truth blog series on Biblical Counseling in Canada. Each post will be by a biblical counselor in Canada, and either focus on the state and future of BC in Canada, or highlight an important theme that Canadian biblical counselors and all biblical counselors need to ponder.

In the Beginning

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from an idea and review the landscape that shapes it.  The tendency is to get caught up in the minute details, losing sight of the big picture. So what if, for a few moments we step back from debates on integration, methodology, para-church, etc. and simply think about words and how they shape us?

Genesis begins with God speaking and absolutely everything surrendering to His words. In a perfect world that’s the way it was. He spoke to humans specifically about His generous provision for them (1:29), mandating a lifestyle of fruitfulness, stewardship, obedience, and interdependency with Him and each other (1:28, 2:16-18) … and they enjoyed the wonderful fruit of surrendering to His will; unhindered fellowship with God and each other and fruitful, meaningful lives.

This was God giving ‘counsel’ and humanity listening. When God counseled in a sinless world, He did so clearly, authoritatively, and specifically, without micromanaging. There was prohibition and warning but it was remarkably minimal in contrast to the freedom He gave the first people to rule over (2:19-20) and enjoy His creation. In order for Adam and Eve to heed His counsel, they needed faith to believe His word was authoritative, true, and good. They needed humility to choose to surrender to His words.

A New Counselor

In Genesis 3, a new counselor is introduced. Adam and Eve’s relationship with their new “counselor” also required faith, humility, and surrender in order to heed his counsel. The serpent raised questions about God’s words, His honesty, His authority, as well as His loving care for Adam and Eve. They were put in a position in which they had to choose between their two counselors.

Not only do we meet a new counselor here, but because Adam and Eve chose to surrender to Satan’s counsel, there is a new component to their relationship with both counselors; they are now sinners. They have chosen to think and act independently of God. This is the true essence of their traitorous move.

Adam and Eve Counsel Each Other

God chose not to record the details of the conversation that may have occurred between Adam and Eve; perhaps there was none. Genesis 3 portrays a conversation between the devil and Eve, while Romans 5 indicates that sin entered through the first man, Adam. Eve heard the message from Satan, shared the forbidden fruit with Adam who was with her and he ate. Whether words were spoken or not, there was counsel happening here. At some level, they influenced each other in the direction they would take. Together they sinned against God and life as they knew it was changed forever.

God’s Counsel to Fallen Humans

At this point, God’s counsel changed dramatically, from instructive to corrective. He began by asking questions of the man and the woman; there had been no need for this before. Their perfect fellowship was broken and He pressed to help them see this new reality. He directly linked the consequences they were about to experience to the rebellious choices they had made. He did not leave room for Adam or Eve to use others or their circumstances as an excuse for their choices. The message is clear; each was responsible for their own personal choice and each would bear their own personal consequences.

At the same time, God’s counsel was infused with grace and hope. From His first words to Satan, evidence of God’s gospel provision in the sacrifice of His own Son was present. He spoke of new life in their offspring and the fact that Adam ‘heard’ the message is reflected in the name he chose for his wife: Eve, the mother of all the living. God offered comfort in the reality that they wouldn’t live within these broken consequences forever. Though He didn’t directly speak of eternal reconciliation, death is the pathway for the restoration of what was lost in that moment (3:19).

Finally, God provided a covering for their nakedness through the first sacrifice ever made on man’s behalf. All of these convey the intimacy with which God relates to His creatures and His intent to be the One they turn to for wise counsel.

How Does This Answer Our Question?

Counsel is inevitable. We are people of influence and under influence. We were designed by God to imitate. All of learning begins with imitation and many of us never move beyond it; we are influenced by media, by those we know and those we will never know personally, as well as by those who exercise authority over us. This influence comes to us as a form of ‘counsel.’ “You deserve a break today.” “Just do it.” “That’s not fair.” “Follow your heart.” Some of it is as innocuous as the traffic report and some as life altering as “Try this new drug I’ve discovered.”

Regardless of how independent we think we are, our lives have dramatic potential of being shaped by the thoughts, choices and words of those around us. The question is not, “Should we talk about counsel?” but rather, “Whose counsel will we accept as authoritative and instructive in our lives?”

God desires one resounding answer to that question; His written Word is His revelation of Himself and His ways to us. In and of itself, it is a call to listen to His counsel—biblical counsel.

He tells us why. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”(Isaiah 55:8-9). “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength … Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord”(Jeremiah 17:5, 7).

As our example, Jesus’ commitment to following God’s leading in His life was unshakable, even at a crisis point when Peter sought to counsel Him according to his own wisdom (Matthew 16:23) because as John conveys, Jesus understood His purpose was to seek the will of His Father above all (John 5:30; 6:38). He took His counsel from heaven and encouraged His followers in the same way. We do well when we choose likewise.

Join the Conversation

How does God’s original counsel in Genesis point to the importance of biblical counseling today?