Preaching and Biblical counseling

As we approach another section in Titus that highlights the central importance of preaching and teaching in the life of the church – the minister must be qualified to preach and teach – I want to connect this chief public and corporate means of grace to the concept of biblical counseling.  Unfortunately, oftentimes counseling is disconnected from the means of grace administered on the Lord’s Day (the preaching of the Word, the sacraments and prayer) in a way that is foreign to the biblical witness.  What is more, counseling can all too easily degenerate into a kind of moralism that has more in common with pop psychology and self-help books found in the mall than the liberating power of the gospel.

Nevertheless, the best of the Reformed tradition has offered a more gospel-centered and church-centric alternative.  The following is an excerpt from an essay on this topic, the rest of which you can read here:

Counseling is not the primary means by which the sheep of Christ are enabled to grow in grace and the knowledge of him. Counseling is not the primary means of sanctification. The preaching of Christ is. Counseling must take a subordinate role to that preaching of Christ, and indeed to the other means of grace as well, that is to the sacraments and prayer.

Counseling must not contradict the preaching or take a different approach. Counseling must not say something different from the sacraments and prayer.

And what do they say? The cry of prayer is “I have nothing but Christ! And apart from him I can do nothing.” The sacrament of baptism says only washing by Christ can make you clean. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper says earthly food avails nothing, for it feeds only your own strength that is passing away. But here is heavenly food. Here is Christ. Feed on him and you shall never perish.

Our preaching must say these things as well. And if our preaching must, so must our counseling. Whatever we say about preaching, we must say about counseling. Whatever we require of preaching, we require of counseling. Whatever we prohibit to preaching, we prohibit to counseling. Counseling is not a different approach to sanctification; it is not an approach that we take when the preaching of Christ and him crucified fails.

If the preaching of Christ and him crucified fails, we have no backup plan, no fail-safe, no other hope. If the preaching of Christ and him crucified fails, we have no other sign save this stumbling block, no other wisdom save this foolishness. If the preaching of Christ and him crucified fails, it is not as though the word of God has failed and left us to other devices. We will preach him all the more, and he shall have the victory.

Counseling is nothing other than the private preaching of the word to those whose need is so great or whose thirst so unquenchable that they need more of the same. More of Christ. We shall not be embarrassed to give them more, for we shall never run out. He is inexhaustible, a continuous rain of manna from heaven, feeding five thousands upon five thousands.

The following are links to some of the main Reformed and Presbyterian confessions, which include Scripture references (please note that I do not necessarily endorse everything on the websites that host the confessions/catechisms listed):

Heidelberg Catechism (HC)

Belgic Confession (BC)

Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF)

Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC)

Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC)

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