A popular cop show in the eighties began each episode with the officers assembled in the briefing room where the Sargent would give out assignments for the day. At the end of each briefing the officer in charge would exhort his officers with the admonition, “Let’s be careful out there!”
Biblical counselors would do well to embrace that exhortation as well. Today’s biblical counselor is blessed with training opportunities and resources we could not have imagined 30 years ago. The first NANC conference I attended was held in a church Sunday School room. At the first February conference I attended in Lafayette I was one of 35 students. The books available to me that dealt with biblical counseling fit on less than two feet of bookshelf.
Today, thousands attend these conferences every year, the books I own on biblical counseling fill an entire wall, most people can find training in biblical counseling within one or two hours of driving time, dozens of theological seminaries now have courses in biblical counseling, and our Institute has hundreds of students studying under Dr. Adams on every continent around the world. We have much for which to be thankful as God’s people have come to embrace the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
With all these successes and opportunities for learning, however, we will quickly find ourselves disqualified and our ministries impotent if we do not embrace the words of Sargent Esterhaus to “be careful out there.” The august responsibility of the ministry of the Word to hurting people should fill us with a sober desire to minister the Word carefully, accurately, and skillfully. God’s Word is not magic. We do not simply tell counselees to “read God’s Word and He will bless you.” Before the counselor can minister the Word to his counselee he must first be a student and exegete of the Scriptures and become skilled at using them as God intended them to be used.
I was reminded of this again as I read a blog recently at a biblical counseling website. The author’s purpose was worthy—he was seeking to show how counselees can be encouraged in their suffering by understanding that our Lord Himself endured suffering. Sadly, his use of the Scriptures to make his point served only to confuse and, even worse, taught some very bad theology which, if understood rightly, would discourage a counselee about the ability of Christ to meet the need of the hour.
The author began by asserting, in spite of the clear teaching of Philippians 4:6, that anxiety is “not necessarily” sinful. He made his case by quoting a bizarre translation of Mark 14:33 (the Amplified Bible) and concluded that Jesus had a “panic attack” in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The author then moved to Hebrews 2:10 which he claimed teaches that Jesus’ sufferings were “part of His maturing and perfecting for our sake.” He later added that “as Jesus was perfected through various sufferings, including anxiety, so are we.”
The biblical counselor should be careful to understand that the word translated “perfect” here is used in the sense of “complete” as it is in Hebrew 10:14. Christ’s sufferings completed His task as the “Author of their salvation.” They did not serve to mature Him in a sanctifying process as they do for us. The idea of a Christ who is just like us and in need of “maturing” is, well, sub-orthodox.
The task of exegesis is of primary importance. Do not neglect it. Handle God’s Word with care and sobriety. From behind my podium in our briefing room here in our little corner of the internet I plead with my fellow counselors—let’s be careful out there!