Counseling One Another | A Book Review

In Counseling One Another, Paul Tautges calls the church to embrace intense interpersonal discipleship. In contrast with secular theories of psychology that reject the exaltation of Christ as the ultimate goal of human experiences and the epistemological essentiality of Scripture, Tautges provides the biblical basis of counseling: a targeted form of discipleship (18). He does so by reinforcing the theological foundations in which biblical counseling ministry happens. For him, it is paramount that the church be taught and trained with biblical wisdom to live under the influence of the Spirit and prayerful dependence on God, being driven by the gospel and motivated and moved by love for God and others.

Following the introduction, Tautges goes on in Chapter 2 to argue for biblical counseling as the fulfillment of Jesus’ great command to the church to make obedient disciples. For such a task, the church has received delegated authority from Jesus Himself and is empowered by God the Holy Spirit. According to Tautges, authentic biblical counseling is nothing more and nothing less than the fulfillment of the Great Commission—which explains his interchangeable use of counseling and discipleship (23).

The chapters that follow highlight several theological aspects essential to understanding God’s vision of discipleship and interpersonal ministry. Tautges dedicates chapters to the discussion of human depravity and the divine work of supernatural deliverance (Chapter 3), the indispensable requirement of disciplines of mind, heart, and habits for the pursuit of godliness (Chapter 4), and the essentiality of love and compassion in ministries of mutuality (Chapter 5). Chapters 6 and 7 have a more accented apologetical flavor, for they deal with the biblical counseling conviction regarding the sufficiency of Scripture for life and godliness, and the superiority of divine wisdom in comparison to the futility of human wisdom. Lastly, Chapter 8 highlights the locus of the ministry of discipleship, namely, the local church.

Two significant emphases throughout Tautges’ work are worth noting. The first is an important accent on the work of the Holy Spirit. Biblical counseling as interpersonal discipleship happens in the context of the redemptive operation of the Spirit of Christ. Without neglecting human responsibility and the importance of spiritual disciplines, Tautges points out that it is the Spirit of God who empowers both the proclamation of the gospel and the necessary human change towards Christlikeness. Second, Tautges highlights the continuous aspect of discipleship; change takes time and does not happen instantaneously. The intensity of discipleship (or counseling) may vary in critical moments, but in this life, it is non-stop—it parallels progressive sanctification.

In general, Counseling One Another provides a helpful biblical theology for the work of discipleship as the essential ministry of mutuality of the church. For counselors, particularly, Tautges offers an effective contextualization of their ministry: counseling is discipleship, and as such, counseling is obedience to the commission the church received from Jesus. Tautges writes in an accessible way, and anyone interested in the theological foundations of discipleship, especially as it relates to counseling, can benefit from his work.

Helpful Quotes

  1. Believers in Jesus Christ must be taught and trained to be richly indwelt with the Word of God, to live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to be driven by the gospel, to express dependence on God through prayer, to be motivated by love for God and neighbor, and to be moved with compassion to help one another make progress in the ongoing work of sanctification. This is authentic biblical counseling. (18)
  2. The power of biblical counsel lies in the degree to which our words are filled with the Word. (20)
  3. Biblical counseling is an intensely focused and personal aspect of the discipleship process, whereby believers come alongside one another for three main purposes: first, to help the other person to consistently apply Scriptural theology to his or her life in order to experience victory over sin through obedience to Christ; second, by warning their spiritual friend, in love, of the consequences of sinful actions; and third, by leading that brother or sister to make consistent progress in the ongoing process of biblical change in order that he or she, too, may become a spiritually reproductive disciple-maker. (20)
  4. Biblical discipleship is impossible apart from the constant working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of both counselors and counselees. The Spirit knows the mind of God, and He alone has the wisdom to know the human heart and what He needs to change in it as the disciple’s will submits to the authority of Jesus presented in His Word—the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:10–16). (37)
  5. When God saves a sinner, He does it completely. He does it by His grace and for His glory alone. The grace of God, delivered to the sinner by means of the gospel of God, is the power of God to transform abusers, homosexuals, drunkards, and every other kind of sinner. (63)
  6. The task of biblical counselors is to help disciples look beneath their conflict to identify the self-serving motives that seek preeminence within them. There will be no lasting growth in godliness if we fail to expose the sinful longings of the heart (what truly motivates us) and thus identify what it is we crave so badly that we are willing to displease God in order to get. (81)
  7. If walking in love is what we are training disciples for, then we must model this same love throughout the process of making disciples. (109)
  8. God’s vision of discipleship requires a conviction that biblical truth is supremely authoritative and completely adequate for its task. (113)
  9. Because it is the voice of Jesus Christ the Living Word, the Bible never rests. (121)
  10. Authentic biblical counseling grips the wisdom of God embodied and revealed in Jesus Christ and refuses to surrender the higher ground of the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Truth in the gospel to the inferior wisdom of man. (133)
Lucas Sabatier M. Leite
Lucas is an ACBC certified counselor and a Ph.D. candidate in biblical counseling and systematic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He works with Dr. Robert Jones as a mentor for male students in biblical counseling practicum courses at SBTS, where he also serves as a teaching assistant in various classes.
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