Core Biblical Counseling Principles


Biblical counseling is the practice based on the understanding that Scripture is sufficient for all we need to know to connect people with Jesus Christ whereby in submission to Him they might be changed by His grace. As you know, we’ve been challenged on Wednesday nights at Grace Bible Church over the past few months examining the key components of biblical counseling by looking at select “hard cases” that individuals sadly experience.  Although each case we studied was unique, there were several universal principles that are applicable for all situations.

1. First and foremost, counselors must examine their own lives and discern if they are right with the Lord before they ever seek to honorably and effectively assist others. Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:5).

2. In order for biblical counseling to be successful, individuals must come to Christ receiving Him as Lord and Savior. Apart from salvation being a reality, counselees will not accept the truth of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:14), not have any power from the Holy Spirit to change (Eph. 3:16, 20) and not seek change for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

3. If Jesus Christ is one’s Savior, Christians must understand and live by the objective truth of the Gospel (Gal. 2:20). Believers are a new creation and fully justified before the living God as a result of Christ’s work at Calvary (Rom. 5:1). The penalty of sin and its incurring guilt has been removed. God has accepted the individual not based on his or her performance, but rather the completed performance of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Going forward, all believers thus have freedom to overcome sin and live victoriously (Rom. 6:1-11).

4. Reaffirm the attributes of God. Show the counselee from Scripture that God is loving (1 Jn. 4:8), forgiving (Eph. 4:32), kind (Psm. 106:7), faithful (Lam. 2:23), compassionate (Ex. 34:6), good (Psm. 119:68) and wise (Rom. 16:27).

5. All of life needs to be seen through God’s eyes and thus interpreted through the lens of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:14-17). Since most problems are a result of personal sin, we need to be careful to not accept the world’s definitions (such as alcoholism being a disease). We must stay within the framework and language of Scripture.

6. Our sin often reveals the idols in our heart. Sin is a result of us seeking our satisfaction in something other than God. By God’s grace, people must identify their sin, accept full responsibility for it (Pr. 28:13), confess it to God and others they’ve offended (Psm. 32:3; 1 Jn. 1:8-9; Jas. 5:16) and seek complete repentance (Rom. 2:4).

7. Counselors must patiently and diligently seek to determine the underling heart attitudes that are fundamental to the problem (Pr. 18:13; 20:5). With compassion and biblical precision it is essential they pursue Gospel-driven change in the heart (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12) as compared to simple behavior modification which is superficial, man-centered and temporary.

8. As we “put off” sins we need to renew our minds and be sure to “put on” righteous behavior in its place (Eph. 4:22-32).

9. God has given us all that we need to be happy and content in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:3-4). All principles to solve life’s problems can therefore be found in Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

10. Understand the promises God has made which He revealed in the Bible to His people. Encourage the counselee to have confidence in those promises as he or she walks by faith and not by appearance, circumstances, experience, feelings or popular opinion (2 Cor. 5:7). This will always permit the counselor to provide hope regardless of the situation (Rom. 15:13).

11. Teach how God uses suffering for a good purpose (Rom. 5:3-5). When we abide in Christ and endure our trials (Jas. 1:2-4), God is refining us to make us more like His Son (Rom. 8:29).

12. Have the counselee get a full medical examination to rule out the possibilities of a chemical imbalance or vitamin deficiency. Remember the body and the mind/heart function together.

13. Realize that psychiatric medication is not the answer, but it may prove useful for a limited time and limited purpose. Medication may at best stabilize a person for a season, but it cannot bring change to the person’s heart and life which is the work of the Holy Spirit. Medication may also dull a person’s senses whereby they cannot determine the depth of their problems. Decisions regarding medication should be made with a physician, and with his approval, seek to wean the counselee off the medication if possible.

14. Pray frequently and fervently (1 Thes. 5:17).

15. The following principles are often found necessary. Have the counselee:
a. Promise to be honest!
b. Journal his or her thoughts to discern patterns of behavior.
c. Memorize key verses applicable to the situation.
d. Stay faithful with the “Christian disciplines” (Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, fellowship, serving and evangelism).
e. Serve others to get the focus off oneself.
f. Read and comment on short assigned writings related to the matter.
g. Develop an accountability system.
h. Get plenty of sleep, adequate exercise and maintain a healthy diet.
i. Enlist support from others in the church to carry burdens (meals, help around the house, wisdom for proper time management and relationships, etc.).

16. Employ specific biblical principles with the counselee. These helpful verses identified below tend to be applicable in many of the cases biblical counselors face:
a. Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”
b. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
c. Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”
d. Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
e. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
f. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
g. Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
h. Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
i. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
j. Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
k. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
l. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
m. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
n. Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
o. Ephesians 6:17, “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
p. Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
q. Philippians 2:12-13, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
r. Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
s. Philippians 2:12-13, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
t. Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
u. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
v. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
w. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
x. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the [holiness] without which no one will see the Lord.”
y. 1 Peter 5:7, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
z. 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

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