The Biblical Basis of Counseling

By Dr. Edward Watke Jr.

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- Preface -

It is thrilling to see what God’s Word has to say about counseling as there is much more there than most people think.
His Word is very clear about the importance of counseling. We are to admonish one another, which is the very heart of what is involved in counseling.
When we obey God we will naturally be concerned about the change people need to make in their lives.
Parents will find this study helpful, as well as teachers, pastors and anyone who studies and/or teaches the Word of God.
It is our prayer that the Lord might use all of these series about counseling for His glory and honor. May it be so!

- Table of Contents -

Basic Premises in Biblical Counseling

The Goal of Biblical Counseling

Bringing Restoration Is the Ministry of Counseling

Answers, Observations and Goals In Counseling

Understanding the Biblical Approach in Counseling

Basic Premises in Biblical Counseling


What are the most basic foundational facts upon which all Biblical counseling rests? Why do Biblical counselors approach peoples’ problems as they do? It is because it must be based on God’s view of man-- “Man’s need and God’s remedies!”

1. All counseling is God- Oriented for all sin is against God. Salvation and
deliverance from sin is made available by God, and all we understand about the heart of man is given by God. Any other source is NOT trustworthy.

a. Matt. 22:37 ____________________________________________________

b. I Cor. 2:9-13 ___________________________________________________

c. II Thess. 1:11-12 ________________________________________________

d. Rom. 11:36 ____________________________________________________

2. All guilt and failure is to be taken seriously.

a. Psa. 32:1-5
• sin ______________________________________________ (Rom. 3:23)

• transgression ______________________________________ (I Jh. 3:4-5)

• iniquity ___________________________________________ (Isa. 53:6)

• guilt _____________________________________________ (Psa. 32:3-4)

b. James 4:17 ____________________________________________________

3. Personal responsibility of each person is recognized, and all counseling
content, method, etc., flows out of accountability.

a. Rom. 14:10, 12 _________________________________________________

b. Gal. 6: 5 _______________________________________________________

c. Gal. 6:7-9 ______________________________________________________

d. Eph. 1:12 ______________________________________________________

4. The goal of all counseling is change!

a. Change began the moment we were saved. (Eph. 2:10; Titus 3:5;
II Cor. 5:17)

b. Change continues to the extent the Word of God takes control in the life.

• James 1:21 __________________ • 1:22_________________________

• John 8:31 ___________________ • John 8:32 _____________________

• Psa. 1:3 _____________________ • Josh. 1:8 _____________________
c. Change is a process that takes place in the life over time.

• Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:8 -- “______- _____” the things we must put off.
• Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10-14 -- “ ______ - ____” the things we must put on.
• Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2 -- “by ___________ the mind” we change
things in life.
(Study subject as given in book -- “Treasures of Truth” )
• Thinking and behavior must change and if these are changed then attitudes and emotions will change.
• Often the past programming of habits and patterns of life must also be
recognized, faced, and dealt with.

5. Personal acceptance of the counselee as a person “created in the image of God” for “God’s glory and honor” is a basic tenant in counseling.


a. Psa. 24:1_______________________________________________________

b. Psa. 91:14-16 ___________________________________________________

c. Acts 17:26-29 __________________________________________________

d. Gen. 1:26,27 ___________________________________________________

e. Eph. 1:5-8 _____________________________________________________

6. Conformation to the image of Christ, is the chief goal, in order that:

a. Constant fellowship can be the experience of the counselee, (I Jh 1:3, 6 -2:2)
b. A consistent blameless walk can be experienced. (Blamelessness is not perfection, but if the person deals with sin quickly and regularly by forsaking and repenting, he can experience daily cleansing so the walk can be a b l a m e l e s s walk.

• Luke 1:6 ____________________________________________________

• Phil. 2:15 ___________________________________________________

• I Thess. 5:23 _________________________________________________

• II Pet. 3:14 __________________________________________________ (Note I Tim. 3:2; 5:7; Titus 3:10; Titus 1:6,7.)

c. The purpose is so a consistent life of service can be daily lived.

• Joshua 24:14-27 ______________________________________________

• Rom. 6:13 ___________________________________________________

• Rom. 6:16-18_________________________________________________

• Eph. 1:12 ____________________________________________________

The most important area of service -- is the home; if we are not serving the
Lord there -- we are not serving Him anywhere!

The Goal of Biblical Counseling

What is the goal of Biblical Counseling? If the motive, or goal is wrong, then the very purpose that God has will not be fulfilled.

• If the goal is wrong, the end result will also be wrong.

• If the motive the counselee has in mind is to:
relieve guilt, feel better, or have personal peace, then the end result will be wrong and the counselor will be counseling with the wrong purpose in mind.

If it is to fulfill personal desires, or to build self-esteem, then counseling takes place for the wrong ends.

• What is the counselees’ goal compared to God’s goal in the following?

a. “My husband is almost impossible, help me get a divorce, I can’t live with him.” The answer is: “Be God’s kind of person.”

b. “You have to help me get this kid out of my hair, he is impossible.” The answer is: What is God’s goal for you as a parent? What is His will?”

c. “I am so full of fear, I can’t go on.” The answer is: What is God trying to teach you? Why are you afraid?”

d. “I’m fearful I will lose my husband, you must help me get him back.” The answer is: “What is God teaching you? He is sovereign, seek His will
and way, be His kind of person.”


A. He does not walk in ideas contrary to God’s Word.
(He becomes more concerned about his walk and self-discipline, than he in his condition or happiness.)

1. The world’s counsel is a dangerous presupposition: all truth is God’s truth.

a. Dangerous theologically, for it is a lie.
b. Dangerous philosophically.
(Read Appendix in Counseling Manual on Web site.)

2. The world’s sirens are varied and not to be trusted. Such as:

a. “You just need healing of your damaged emotions.”
b. “Don’t be so concerned, you need to love yourself more so you can love others.”
c. “You must minister to the lost child within you. Your parents did not minister to you, as a child, as they should have, you need to find that child within and meet that need.”
d. “You must build up your self-esteem, that is your greatest need.”
e. “Don’t worry, those people are legalist and don’t want you to have fun.”

B. He does not stand in the way of sinners -- listening and absorbing what they have to say. (While watching TV we are on their turf, and what we allow ourselves to see is no different than if we invited them into our home to do what they are doing.)

C. He does not set in the seat of the scornful, lest in so doing he rejects what
God has to say. But instead He embraces God’s Word as his total authority for life.

1. Little by little we will accept the world’s philosophies as we get accustomed to them by continuously walking, standing with, sitting among the lost.

2. That can be done by what we think, say, and feel. Especially we gradually
accept what they teach us... not discerning truth from error.


A. He delights in the Word of God.

1. Acquires a taste and a love for it.

2. Hears, searches, hides, etc., (See Prov. 2:1-4, 8 -- actions verbs there.)

B. He meditates on the Word day and night, that he might live it.

1. Reads, hears, studies, memorizes, and meditates that he might

a. know and do. (Josh. 1:8; Jere. 15:16; Matt. 4:4)
b. So it can become the “engrafted word.” (James 1:21)

2. Considers: WHAT does God say, what does God want, WHAT do
I need to change; what does this mean to me?

3. Desires to walk in the Word. (Psa. 119:1,11, Phil. 2:15; John 8:31)

4. Considers goal: (II Tim. 3:17; II Tim. 2:15)

a. A God-oriented life, and a disciplined life,
b. Directed by the Word of God.


He will be like a planted tree.

1. Does not mean perfection with no trials and testings.

2. Does not mean no temptations.

3. Does mean faithfulness because of God’s work and the ministry of the
Word of God in the life.

4. Goal -- II Pet. 1:3-11; Rom. 8:29

Bringing “Restoration” Is The Ministry of Counseling!

What does it mean to restore? Think upon and study Galatians 6:1.


A. Biblical ______________________ are needed to fulfill Gal. 6:1

1. People are _______ - ___________ in a ____________. (This has to do with a known need, not a hearsay.)

2. Problem is a known _______________ failure! (A sin problem)

3. The goal is ___________________ ! (Bringing back to usefulness as the mending of a broken net, the setting of a bone. )

4. The need _________, who is to meet that need?

B. Ye who are _________________! (Gal. 6:1)

1. Saved, S_______________, Indwelt, Empowered by the ________ _________.
(Jh 7:37-39; Jh 14; 15; 16)

2. __________ in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 5:18;

(Note Rom. 15:14 People who were “.... full of ______________, filled with all _________________, able also to _________________ one another.”

3. The Importance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring restoration.

a. The Holy Spirit alone ____________ for service.

b. The Holy Spirit is the __________ of _________, so He can teach us.

c. The Holy Spirit knows the need, the _________ of man, and gives us wisdom to
know what to say, etc.

d. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce right ________________.

e. The Holy Spirit is the ______________, Greek - “along side to help.”

II. The People He Will Use to Bring Restoration!

A. Those who d________ to r________.

1. Must have compassion, broken heart, desire, burden (Matt. 9:36-38)

2. Those who are aware of h______ n_______, who sees people with His heart.

3. Those who have a concern for God’s __________ in the life.

B. Those who are h___________, aware of their own needs. (Gal. 6:1-2)

1. Understanding, standing in awe of their own ____________ heart.

2. Careful when we counsel those of opposite sex. (I Cor. 10:12)

3. Realizing the power of the “old nature”, we are ___________ of any sin.

C. Those who bear own ___________. (Gal. 6:5)

D. Those who take sin ______________. Gal. 6:3)

E. Those who work to bring _____________.

F. Those who are confident in the power of the Word of God.
(It is His S________,
it will bring forth f________.)


Observations, and Goals in Counseling



A. Are all problems spiritual?
To what degree are people impacted physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally by the problems they face?

B. Some people, when they receive Christ as Lord and Savior, unrealistically hope to receive a cure for every problem they have at that time whether it be physical, psychological, or spiritual.

C. In heaven we are promised freedom from pain and unhappiness
(Rev. 21:4). But we are not promised freedom from all difficulty here on earth. In this life we will have problems and difficulties (Job 14:1-2; 5:6-7;
Jh. 16:33; II Tim. 3:12).

1. Paul and Jesus both faced problems and difficulties.

a. Paul was sorrowful yet learned to rejoice and to accept circumstances.
(Phil 4:11-13; II Cor. 6:10; 9:10-12)
b. There were times when Jesus did not have perfect peace of mind and was
distressed (John 11:33, 38; Matt. 26:37, 39).

2. The truth is, we will not be problem free, but God will enable us and assist us in going through the difficult times. (II Cor. 4:9-13; 12:9; Heb. 4:16).

D. What about the problems of inner conflict and stress?

1. Consider that we face deeply rooted, serious problems that impact the whole person. (Psychology:The science of mental processes and behavior. The emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, group, or activity.”

a. Psychological conflicts, with their associated nervous symptoms, are not necessarily sinful.
b. Failure to make a valid, effective attempt to resolve conflict and end the suffering is sinful. WHY?

• Conflict reduces our efficiency as instruments of God (II Cor. 4:7), because our usefulness is hindered by anything that disturbs our physical or psychological or spiritual health.
• We are obligated to keep the vessels of God as healthy and clean and pure as we can (II Cor. 7:1; I Jh 3:3), so that He may use us in service more effectively (Rom. 6:13,19; 12:1).
• It is neither wise nor spiritual for the believer to suffer nervous symptoms due to psychological conflict, refusing counseling. (As we go a dentist in time of need, so we could go to a Biblical counselor in time of need.)

2. Consider some interesting observations and analyses of conflict as illustrated in examples from the life of Jesus. Note:

a. Christ Himself experienced severe conflict over the Cross experience and suffered several emotional symptoms until He resolved the conflict.
Yet, He never sinned (John 8:46; II Cor. 5:21; Heb 4:15; I Pet 2:22;
I Jh 3:5).
b. Christ, being without sin, regarded the idea of death which involved his bearing the sins of everyone (I Pet. 3:18) and the associated temporary state of alienation from God the Father (Matt 27:46) as horrible. He shrank from it as a normal reaction, but He also wanted to please and obey God the Father, who had sent Him for this very purpose
(Matt 20:28; John 18:11).
c. Christ shared His inner emotional conflict and upset, as expressed in the words of His prayer in the Garden. (See John 12:27; Matt. 26:39) Christ wanted to obey the Father and yet also to avoid the Cross if that were possible.
d. The gospel writers use vivid words in describing His emotional state during the conflict: (A study of the Greek would bear this out.) These were psychological problems or experiences!

• “afflicted with grief, distressed” -- Matt. 26:37
• “distressed, terrifyingly amazed” -- Mk. 14:33
• “exceedingly sorrowful” -- Matt. 26:38; Mk. 14:34
• “My soul encompassed with grief, so much so that I am close to dying”
-- Matt. 26:38
• Having entered a state of an agonizing struggle, He kept on praying more fervently. And His sweat became like clots of blood, repeatedly falling down upon the ground. -- Lk. 22:44

e. Christ did not remain in conflict and suffering. He resolved the conflict by giving up hope for one of His wishes -- escaping the cross (Matt 26:42). When His conflict was resolved, the psychological distress was ended.

I am aware that some do not believe in any psychological suffering and feel that everything is spiritual. But they would be hard pressed to prove that. While on one hand I am a Biblical counselor, people are very complex and problems, while answered with the Word of God, still demand insight into man’s needs as God made man.

Note: Christians are not only subject to the same kind of conflicts experienced by non-Christians, but also the additional conflicts of the new nature and the old nature. The goals of the Spirit often clash with the desires of the human sinful nature (Gal. 5:16-17).


What is God seeking to do?

1. To achieve purification in our Christian life. (II Cor. 7:9,11).

2. To produce patience (literally endurance) -- (Rom. 5:3; James 1:3)

3. To produce humility and obedience (II Cor. 12:7-10).

4. To produce dependency and trust (II Cor. 1:8-9).

5. To produce sanctification, holiness. (Jh 17:17; I Pet. 1:14-16)


A. Truth we must face:

1. It is very true that we cannot always choose our circumstances for there are many factors which bring about the reality of life.

2. However, we can choose our attitudes toward the situations of life.

3. This is the basic purpose that counseling focuses upon -- helping people sort through their attitudes toward their circumstances, events, and people who are a part of it all. And behind attitudes are the thoughts or “seed bed” of our attitudes.

B. Attitudes that often develop:

1. A person may decide that life is cruel and hard and thus develop anger toward God for either causing or allowing something to happen.

2. He may close himself off from life about him and allow the current problems to so embitter him toward others that he develops a protective cocoon. The person believes that such “protection” keeps away the problems of life, but it also keeps away the joys of life as well.

3. The anger which comes about as a part of one’s reaction can be turned inward and thus an individual will possibly blame himself and even punish himself, or become very bitter. He will become depressed.

4. The person may decide that life does not have any purpose and that there is no God.

5. Another reaction is looking at what has happened and saying, “It is not what I had planned and not what I asked for, but it is here. What can I learn from this and how can I grow through it? How can God be glorified through this experience?”
We essentially move ahead and experience the resources that God has for us. We can experience through this event the comfort, healing, and encouragement which God has for us. But it is a matter of faith and trust.


To understand some of the counselee’s current situations.

• To understand how he has tried to handle his sin problem.

• To understand his view of the problem

• To understand his reasons and motivation for seeking counseling.

• To understand his emotional reactions.

• To estimate tentatively the counselee’s strengths and weaknesses.

• To evaluate the total problem, its parts and roots.

• To help him clarify his life situation and problem.

• To bring about Christian growth as paramount, and/or bringing the person to Christ and salvation.

• To understand the thoughts involved that helped to bring him into the
bondage of sin, or the problems he is facing.


1. Observe the kind of person the counselee seems to be. How did he respond to you? How did he begin the interview? What were his beginning words in the interview? What seems to be his feelings at this point?

2. Did this person have some inner motivation for coming for counseling or was it suggested by someone else? Will he have enough motivation to actually make use of counseling? How did he respond to prayer and the Scriptures?

3. What precipitated the counselee’s seeking an appointment here at this time? Usually some event has brought the person to seek help.

4. Has the counselee made previous efforts to obtain help for his problems? If so, what were the circumstances and what was the outcome?

5. How has the counselee hoped or expected counseling would benefit him?

6. What does he see as his problems? How does he describe them? Are these problems of recent origin? When did he recognize that he had the problems?

7. If the counselee is currently under medical treatment, has the doctor referred him, or does the doctor know about his coming for counseling? If not, is the
counselee willing for the counselor to refer him to a physician, if necessary? Note any significant health, economic, social, or cultural factors.

8. If the counselee is married, did he discuss his desire to obtain marriage counseling with his spouse? Does the spouse wish to see a counselor also? If the counselee wishes the counselor to see the spouse, what is his expectation or hope? Are the parents or families of either of the marriage partners (or premarital couple) involved in the problem? What are their attitudes toward the present marriage union or the proposed marriage?

9. At the close of the first interview, carefully evaluate your impression of the person (s) and the situation. In particular you should note:

a. Whether the person (s) has been able to delineate his problem so that he has defined that for which he wishes to have help.

b. What factors seem to have contributed to the emergence of the problem in this particular relationship?

c. Is the person more concerned with the relationship or with his own personal problems?

d. How did the counselee react and how is he now reacting to his situation? Do these reactions appear to be appropriate to the real situation?

e. What is your evaluation of the person’s strengths? Is he going to be able to make good use of counseling? Will he work at applying Scripture to his life?

Understanding the Biblical Approach in Counseling


In counseling a person, what approach should a counselor take to achieve God-honoring goals. Not only must the question of technique be considered, but as we look at the counselee’s life, we must also discern the areas of stress!
• Do you deal just with his thoughts?
• Do you deal just with his behavior?
• Do you deal just with his feelings?
• Or is there an area that should be ignored, left out, or even played down?

Here are three of the more common Christian approaches used in counseling by various counselors across our nation which are primarily eclectic.

1. Reality Therapy
This group put almost all of their emphasis on behavior.

2. Rational Emotive Therapy or Cognitive Therapy
This group deals specifically and almost totally with thought processes.

3. Non-directive or Client-Centered Therapy
This group deals basically with the feelings of the person and makes little attempt to analyze one’s thoughts or behaviors.

Note: The Scripture itself speaks of all three -- feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

1. We see many examples within Scripture, including Jesus Himself, of the effect and extent of emotional responses to life.

2. In the life and ministry of Jesus we see occasions in which He was sensitive to the feelings of others.

3. At other times He emphasized rational thinking.

4. On still other occasions He focused on behavior.

5. It appears that the Scriptures specifically teach us more about behavior and thinking than feelings.


A. The Biblical emphasis on our thoughts!

1. The words, “think,” “thought,” and “mind” are used over 300 times in the Word of God.

2. There is a strong inter-relationship between thoughts and our feelings and behavior. Many of our emotions or feeling responses come from our thought life, what we dwell upon, or our focus. What we think upon can stimulate feelings.

3. Behind any sin are thoughts as the “seed-bed” from which actions spring. There is probably no sin known to man but what thoughts are at the base of his actions.

Sow a thought -- reap an action, sow an action -- reap a habit, sow habits -- reap character, sow character -- and reap destiny!

B. The Biblical emphasis concerning our actions or behavior

1. Often the person’s behavior can create both feelings and thoughts.

2. Then once a person has certain feelings, those feelings can intensify or reinforce a particular thinking pattern and can also influence ongoing future behavior.

3. The New Testament puts great emphasis upon specific behaviors as well as emotional responses and attitudes. This emphasis is usually described as the “putting off” of certain negative, sinful behavior, attitudes, and emotional responses, and the “putting on” of the opposite (Col. 3:8-14).

Question: Is there a Biblical Method of Counseling?

II. A Biblical Approach


As we look at Scripture, what can we learn about the way we are to respond or relate to the people who come to us with difficulties and problems?

• The principles or absolutes are given in Scripture, but the process of applying
these absolutes is not detailed.
• There is not one Scriptural method of counseling; there are only Biblical absolutes that must be recognized and honored whatever method is used. Biblical methods come out of Biblical truth and that only!

(Please stay with me in this so you understand what I am saying.)

A. A Look at Christ’s life and Paul’s method of counseling
It appears that each adapted his method of personal contact to the individual needs.

1. Jesus talked personally with people.

2. Jesus touched some; He cried with some;

3. Jesus rebuked some; confronted some and was direct with others.

4. Paul shared his life with many; and admonished some;

5. Paul taught some and wrote letters to many.

Probably Paul detailed his methodology in I Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

Consider also II Tim. 2:24-26, 3:16-17.)

B. The use of the word “Counsel” in the Old Testament Scriptures:

The Hebrew words translated “counsel” are defined below in an attempt to further understand what the Scripture means by “counsel.” Biblical counseling (according to Dr. Jay Adams) is giving the “admonition of the Word of God” to bring a change in lives. With this I agree!

= to deliberate, resolve, advise, guide, devise, determine, purpose as in Exod. 18:19.

yaw-sad’ = to sit down together, settle, consult, found, establish, instruct

ay-tsaw’ = advice, plan, prudence, advisement, counsel, purpose

1. Word (dabar)
Num. 31:16: The counsel of Baalam was the agency for the trespass of Israel against the Lord. Counsel was a word of advice.

2. To counsel (yaats)
II Chron. 26:16: Amaziah, at the rebuke of God’s prophet, asked him if he had been appointed a royal counselor. Counsel is giving advice or direction.

3. Counsel (melak)
Daniel 4:27: Daniel counseled Nebuchadnezzar to break away from sin by doing righteousness and from iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Counsel is giving direction which exposes sin problems and gives specific procedures for their elimination.

4. A sitting, session, assembly (sod)
Psalm 55:14: In his prayer to God regarding a treacherous friend, David indicated that the friend was one with whom he had sweet counsel. Counsel is sharing among equals that which is sweet but may be betrayed.
Psalm 83:3: In prayer Asaph indicated that God’s enemies made counsel against His people. Counsel is planning together to achieve a specific purpose.

5. Counsel, advice (eta)
Daniel 2:14: Daniel answered with counsel. Counsel is discretion.

6. Counsel, advice (etash)
Deut. 32:28: In the song of Moses, Israel is seen as a nation lacking in counsel and understanding. Counsel is necessary for understanding and discernment of the future.

7. To give counsel (yaats)
Exodus 18:19: Jethro urged Moses to listen to him and he would give counsel. Counsel is wise advice for action! The leader, Moses, had to receive counsel in this situation.

8. To be counseled (yaats)
I Kings 12:9: Rehoboam asked the young men for counsel.
II Chron. 10:6: Rehoboam asked the elders for counsel.

C. The Use of “Counsel” in the New Testament Scriptures:

1. Two Greek words are commonly translated “counsel” and are defined below.
These terms speak of advice and planning together to gain some direction or solve a problem.

a. bouleuo = to advise, deliberate, counsel (to be a member of the Sanhedrin)

b. sumbouleuo = to consult, advise, counsel together, to give or take advice jointly.

2. There are 5 variations of Biblical verbs on counseling as found in I Thess. 5:14. These Greeks words give us an overview of what is involved in counseling.

a. Parakaleo = Paul used this counseling verb himself as he began his statement on the different types of counseling. It means to beseech or exhort, encourage or comfort. (Rom. 12:1,2; II Cor. 1:4; Rom. 15:30)

b. Noutheteo = This verb can be used in a broad context in counseling. It means to put in mind, to warn, and to confront. One admonishes the unruly, the undisciplined, or the impulsive.
(Rom. 15:14; I Cor. 4:14; Col. 3:16)

c. parmutheomia = It means to cheer up, to encourage. One encourages the fainthearted or discouraged. It is found in I Thess. 2:11 and
I Thess. 5:14.

d. antechomai = It means to cling to, to hold fast, to take an interest in, to hold up spiritually or emotionally. It is a passive verb. (I Thess. 5:14)

e. makrothumeo == It means to be patient or to have patience. It is found in Matt. 18:26; James 5:7; and Heb. 6:15 as well as I Thess. 5:14.

Christian counseling is unique in its ability to provide the balance to meet the need of all no matter the problem or burden.

(Consider How Christ Counseled!)



Copyright 2000. Revival in the Home Ministries, Inc.