The Reformation and Biblical Counseling (Part Four)
In the previous article solus Christus (i.e., Christ alone), one of the solas of the Reformation, was explained in light of the work of the biblical counselor. A biblical counselor, operates from solus Christus with the believing counselee, pointing them to the active and perfect finished work of Christ for the counselee. A biblical counselor also works from solus Christus with an unbelieving counselee, assisting them gently and being considerate of all of the problems they have, looking for an opportunity to give them the truth of the good news of Christ for them.
Now we turn our attention to a fourth sola of the Reformation and this is sola scriptura (Scripture alone). Sola scriptura is defined as the biblical teaching that the Bible is the absolute authority for life and worship, which is found by highlighting four aspects: God’s word is authoritative because the word comes from God Himself. God’s word is sufficient for knowing the will of God and what He desires from mankind. Scripture is clear to teach and instruct the saint, and the Scripture is self-explanatory meaning that unclear passages in God’s word are to be understood, not from theological opinion or ecclesiastical explanation, but in light of other clear passages in God’s word. Paul in his letter to Timothy underscores this truth:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…2 Tim. 3:16 NASB
Sola scriptura was seminal during the Reformation for making the case for justification of the believer by grace through faith in Christ alone for salvation. This sola was in contrast to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church that believed Scripture, church tradition, and the Magisterium were authoritative over the body of Christ. However, the teaching of Sola scriptura is also important in the process of the sanctification of the believer. Paul mentions this in the proceeding verse to Timothy below:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.2 Tim 3:16-17 NASB
This sola is important for biblical counselors because the Scriptures are the source by which the counselor assists the counselees in persevering in their progressive sanctification. In fact, this is the reason why the Scriptures are important for a believer because they are connected to the saint’s overall conduct and actions toward God and man.
One of the biblical counselor’s objectives in working with counselees, using God’s word, is guiding them to be equipped to do good works for their neighbor. For instance, for a biblical counselor working with a believing counselee in terms of active sins, they confront the counselee for the purpose of restoration. In effect, the one who is confronted would be admonished to perform good works, which would be to deny their ungodly behavior and act in a sensible and righteous manner (Tit. 2:11-13). If a biblical counselor is working with a believing counselee who has suffered a loss or an extreme tragedy, the biblical counselor works in comforting the counselee with Scripture, offering them hope so that they may have the strength to continue to do good works (c.f., 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Jas. 1:2-12). If a biblical counselor is dealing with a presenting problem that is outside of the biblical counselor’s scope (such as evaluating an intellectual disability), it is a good work for a biblical counselor to provide a proper referral to the believing counselee so that the counselee can perform a good work to those in their family that have the intellectual disability (c.f. Eph. 2:8-10). All of this work the biblical counselor does with God’s word to assist the counselee in their progressive sanctification.
What about the biblical counselor serving the unbelieving counselee? Even though the works of the unbeliever is unrighteous in the sight of God (Rom. 1:18; 3:23), this does not mean that a biblical counselor’s works are in vain. In fact, the mere willingness of the biblical counselor to serve the person who is an unbelieving counselee is, in fact, a good work for the counselee. The biblical counselor understands due to the sola Scriptura, they are to be gentle and peaceable to unbelieving counselees, as they would their believing counselees (Tit. 3:2).
In addition, the biblical counselor, as I mentioned in the previous article, shows consideration for the cares and concerns of the unbeliever’s troubles, just like the believer’s troubles (c.f. Tit. 3:2). The biblical counselor in conjunction with the Scriptures uses their words carefully, with wisdom, attempting to respond to the believing counselee with grace and truth (c.f. Col. 4:5-6). Furthermore, the biblical counselor, when working with an unbeliever, uses the universal truth of God’s word (e.g., the Proverbs of Solomon) to address their current problems also looking for the opportunity to share the gospel of Christ Jesus, because God desires the unbelieving counselee to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
Sola Scriptura also has behind it the idea that a person, fellowship, etc is not to read and explain the Scriptures from the perspective of a religious tradition or perspective. Since the word of God is important to be equipped for good works it is also important to make sure that a biblical counselor explains the Scriptures appropriately. This is why reading the Scriptures consistently in their plain sense, taking into consideration grammar, language, and context is necessary. Moreover, making proper distinctions in the Scriptures is significant to understanding, and explaining, the Scriptures accurately. To misinterpret the sacred Scriptures may lead not only to an improper teaching of the Scriptures but to a misapplication and an improper practice for the counselee.
Sola scriptura (scripture alone) is the doctrine that instructs saints that due to God revealing Himself by special revelation with His word, it is this particular revelation that He has provided for the Christian that is the ultimate authority for life and practice. However, sola Scriptura is also important for the believer’s progressive sanctification as the word of God alone equips the believer for every good work. This also includes a biblical counselors observation of the text. A biblical counselor should be careful not to read their traditions into the text, but interpret the Scriptures from a consistent literal-grammatical and historical approach, knowing that a proper explanation leads to a proper application of the text.
As a biblical counselor continue to trust in sola scriptura (i.e., God’s word alone) for your counselees. By doing this the biblical counselor will be guiding the counselee knowing God’s word equips the believing counselee for good works and leads the unbelieving counselee to the Source of all truth. By doing this you will be honoring and acknowledging God who has given mankind the Scriptures alone to know Him and serve one another.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!