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The Biblical Counselor as a Biblical Scholar

To be able to counsel well, we must understand who our God is and what He is saying.

Mar 4, 2021

She sat across the table too melancholy to even weep. I sat quietly and poured her another cup of hot tea. Finally, she lifted her dark eyes to meet mine and said, “My little girl is deathly ill and it’s all my fault.”

A bunch of thoughts ran through my mind as I kept my face composed. Had she accidently given her daughter a food she was allergic to? Did she poison her? Was this abuse? What on earth was going on? I prayed desperately for guidance and asked gently, “In what way?”

“I don’t have enough faith.” She slumped in the plush chair. “I don’t have enough faith to heal her.”

I couldn’t hide my confusion; she saw it and went on impatiently, “You know, ‘…by His stripes we are healed.’ That’s what it says in 1 Peter. And I must not believe it strongly enough, because she isn’t healed.”

Now things made sense and I asked her to open her Bible with me to look at the letter of 1 Peter.

She pointed to 1 Peter 2:24 and read the second half, “See? It’s there! This is my fault!”

“Please,” I said, “let’s back up a bit.”

I use this as an example of why it’s so important for a biblical counselor to be a biblical scholar. It’s why we take the theology exam as well as the counseling exam to become ACBC certified. To be able to counsel well, we must understand who our God is and what He is saying.

The Necessity for Theological Training

A lot of our counselees will come to us suffering from misunderstanding, from poor teaching, poor theology, and in some cases, abuse that stems from someone twisting Scripture to gain control. Not only do we need to be ready to help them understand, but we need to take the opportunity to teach them good tools to read His Word for themselves.

Understanding systematic theology, timeline, genre, author, audience, and original intention is crucial before we jump to a modern-day application for our counselee. Our counsel should reflect the purpose of the passage’s intention. We may not always walk them through these steps initially, but in time, teach them to recognize this for themselves.

How Can I Help Her Better Understand Scripture and Bring Hope?

How could I counsel this heartbroken woman? By beginning with praying out loud and asking the Holy Spirit to please illuminate His Word, we start to understand “sickness” from His Word. Sometimes, it is true that we can be sick from sin (Psalm 38), but illness does not always arise from sin (think the book of Job or 1 Timothy 5:23).

What, then, does this verse in 1 Peter mean?

Who is writing the letter and to whom? This is important to understand the purpose of the letter. After this brief overview, homework would be to read the entire letter. (What letter do you read just one line out of?)

Theological Instruction for Healing Application

The discussion the following week would begin with the theme of 1 Peter and God’s purpose in our suffering. Looking at the verse that had brought so much pain, we learn that it has nothing to do with health and everything to do with reflecting the suffering of Jesus in His role of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:5). It is especially directed at slaves suffering under the hands of an unjust master. Peter is telling them to suffer well and reflect Christ so that the master might one day have a saving faith.

I explained to her that I don’t know if He will heal her daughter, but we can most certainly ask for that. But the promise in 1 Peter is that God works through our suffering to sanctify us and make us holy, and, just like those suffering in 1 Peter, to make us a witness in suffering.

It is only through careful exegesis that a biblical counselor can offer wise counsel to a suffering brother or sister. It is a joy to behold our God through meticulous and prayerful study of His Word, and a true blessing to watch Him work as we point them to who He says He is and how that bears upon their situation.