The Sufficiency of Scripture and Counseling

Posted On July 28, 2019

In my experience, I’ve found that many people in local churches would agree with a statement of faith that reads like this: “We believe that Scripture is breathed out by God and is authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient.” Albeit, this is a very short, vague, and (I would argue) incomplete statement of belief regarding the Scripture, it is nonetheless confessed in some way by any orthodox church. However, these are just words on a page. You can read them, make them a part of your church’s statement of faith, and nod your head in agreement until your neck is tired. But doing those things doesn’t matter. If this statement on the doctrine of Scripture does not obviously animate your local church, then your church does not believe this confession. I know that may sound harsh, but it is true and you need to hear it.

In this short article, I want to address the importance of putting feet to our confession regarding Scripture. This I intend to do by discussing the issue of counseling and—specifically—the sufficiency of Scripture.

Defining Sufficiency

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture means that there is no need for any more special revelation. God has spoken and revealed everything needed to know Him and glorify Him forever, and His words have been documented in 66 books, kept pure (preserved) throughout the ages. All knowledge outside of the Scripture must be viewed as inferior to Scripture and, if found in conflict, be discarded. Theologian, John Frame, says it in this way:

Since God created and governs all things, he is the original interpreter of creation, the one who understands the world and all its depths- not only its material nature, but also its ultimate meaning and purpose.  God, therefore, has the ultimate viewpoint on the world- the broadest, deepest understanding of it.  His word about himself or about the world, therefore, is more credible than any other word or any other means of knowing.  It obligates belief, trust, and obedience.[i]

So, if God’s Word is authoritative, inerrant, and infallible that means it is sufficient. Sufficiency is the legs to our doctrine, our confession. Sufficiency means that the Scripture is useful. In fact, that’s what Paul is reminding young Pastor Timothy of in 2nd Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Now, by the time 2nd Timothy is written, the Apostle Paul is in prison in Rome (2nd Timothy 1:16-17; 2:9) and he knows that his fate is probably death (2nd Timothy 4:6-8). We are getting Paul’s final words, which is why we should be paying attention. Furthermore, this letter is an ecclesiastical letter. It’s a letter about the Church and for the Church. Therefore, we should seek to apply the things the Apostle Paul is commending to Timothy inside of our local church assembly. 

Paul’s concern here is for Timothy to faithfully minister to the church in Ephesus (1st Timothy 1:3; 7; 6:3), even in the midst of false teachers within the church. This subscription to false teaching had influenced the moral behavior of those within the church of Ephesus (1st Timothy 1:8-11; 2:9-15; 3:2-5; 8-13; 4:1-5; 5:15; 6:3-5; 2nd Timothy 2:16-17, 19; 22; 3:2-9; 4:3-4).

Now, the reason this is important for us to know is because wrong beliefs lead to wrong behavior, and wrong behavior demands the ministry of counseling. Like the church of Ephesus, our churches today are filled with people who have been influenced by false teachers and teachings.

Churches are filled with people who believe their lustful passions, and our broader culture helps to solidify that people can “live however they want”. The broader culture’s mantra is, ‘Be who you are. Follow your heart.’ Therefore, as you know, we are prone to be people (and know people) whose behavior is only an outworking of their false beliefs. Now, interestingly Paul’s remedy for combatting false doctrine and immorality is for Timothy to preach[ii] the Word (2nd Timothy 4:2) publicly and privately and to have confidence in it, because it is sufficient. Scripture is sufficient because it is the very Word of God.

What Paul is pressing into Timothy is the need to apply this doctrine of authority of Scripture in the local church context. He is saying, “Because Scripture is breathed out by God, it is profitable and sufficient. Therefore, apply it.”

The Sufficiency of Scripture and Counseling

Counseling should be taking place in the context of the local church primarily. Why is this? Because the Scriptures are sufficient. Now we need to ask the question, “What can the Scriptures do in the counseling context?” According to the Apostle Paul they can teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness so that the man or woman of God may be equipped for every good work (2nd Timothy 3:16-17). In other words, we utilize our sufficient Scripture to present mature men and women in Jesus.

This type of counseling even extends to things such as depression and anxiety (Psalm 42-43:77 and 1st Peter 5:6-7). Now, I am not saying there is no place for medication. We are created body and soul. There is a use for medication for biological issues. However, I am asserting that everyone needs counseling and the Scriptures are completely sufficient for that.

Now, the question is if the Scriptures are sufficient for counseling (or as some say, the private ministry of the Word), and the Apostle Paul commends counseling ministry to take place in the local church, we need to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we send people away from the local church when life gets “messy”?” As believers, if someone’s life gets messy, isn’t it a good thing for it to be messy in the context of the local church? Yes, it absolutely is. Here is my encouragement to you dear reader. If you are a Christian and you have a Bible, grow in your capacity to administer the gospel to struggling believers. Connect with organizations such as CCEF or ACBC, and become competent to counsel.

If you are a pastor and you’re reading this, you don’t not have time to counsel your members. There is no such thing as a man called to the office of ‘preacher’. Men are called to the office of ‘pastor/elder’, and that entails the ministry of counseling. So, repent of your neglect and start counseling.

I am excited about what the Lord is doing in this particular ministry. There is a growing resurgence of men and women committed to counseling, and organizations like Servants of Grace are doing a great job at publishing content to help equip us. So, keep plodding, dear believer; your labor is not in vain.

References:

[i] John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002), 81.

[ii] The word kérussó could be better translated “proclaim” or “herald” and thus extends beyond the pulpit and beyond the pastorate.

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