Qualified to Counsel

Who is "qualified" to counsel biblically? I get this question often near the end of a counseling case. The counselee has made great changes in heart and life and they desire to minister to their friends and family the way they have been ministered to. They ask me "Can I be a biblical counselor?" They think that they are disqualified from serving others because they are counselee's or former counselee's and nothing is further from the truth!

I have seen people elect to do nothing because they don’t know what to do, or they buy the lie that they don’t know how to approach them, or they believe that we are not qualified to do so, leaving it to the pastors who cannot possibly do it all. They are not supposed to do it all! We are to be helping them in an ongoing ministry of peacemaking and reconciliation. We all are to counsel. We are called to a role of being reconcilers, each one of us.

I know you are a sinner, I am too! We are very aware of the common problem of sinful behavior that plagues mankind and even plagues biblical counselors! Never think that your Pastor, or biblical counselor has somehow got it all together and has achieved sinless perfection. We struggle (sometimes more!) with the same stuff other people do, and I think we grieve over it deeply because we know so much, because we have the answers and yet we still struggle and we sin.

As long as we are in these bodies we will continue to struggle with sin. In Gal. 6:1 Paul uses the term “brothers” which indicates that he was talking to fellow Christians. So this passage is intended for us "normal people"- not for an elite few- but for us to minister to one another. We are told to minister to a brother or sister who is caught in a sin.

My answer to this question of who is qualified to counsel comes from God's Word because it is the only unchanging authority we have in this life. We find an excellent outline for the qualifications of a biblical counselor in Gal. 6:1. Many of you are familiar with this passage that tells us to help one another.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Just as in Matt. 18, we have to be sure that what we are dealing with is a real sin, not a preference or a tradition, but something that is verifiable as sin according to the Word. The idea is that our brother or sister has stumbled or been surprised – taken unaware and fallen into sin. This is the idea that is conveyed in this Gal. 6:1 verse, that we are overtaken by any sin if our passions and temptations get the better of us. Many other things can fit into this category but it is clear that it must be sin.

Sin comes through our behavior, our thoughts, emotions, desires, words, and actions. It is important to understand that Paul is not talking about a person who is setting out to deliberately sin, he is speaking of one who trips into a pit.

Our flesh is strong, but the old nature which plotted to sin was killed off at the cross. What remains are the strong desires of the flesh along with those desires which come from the heart. What we deal with in the counseling process are the actions and behaviors which are truly an outflow of the heart and these are what must be dealt with for true change to take place in a person's life.

The goal of all counseling is restoration. We want to bring the sinner back to the fold. It is important also to understand that the Christian who sins enjoys the same position in Christ that they previously enjoyed. They still have access, fellowship, relationship, justification, and all the rest that comes from being united with Christ even though their sin may have caused problems within the fellowship or other with believers.

Unfortunately, not everyone is looking for restoration. Too often the response from fellow Christians is one of judgment and condemnation and this should not be!

Galatians 6:1 says, “you who are spiritual, restore such a one”. Paul is saying that only spiritual people are qualified to counsel spiritual people. The spiritual person is described in many places in the New Testament. First, it means that they must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the agent of change in the life of the Christian and it is impossible for the unbeliever to have the mind of Christ and know how to spiritually direct a believer.

So the presence of the Holy Spirit in the counselor is a requirement if we are going to be spiritual and fulfill Gal. 1, and be able to counsel biblically. An unbeliever is not qualified to advise or counsel a believer. An unbeliever is coming from a totally different perspective than a believer, and will have different morals and values.The believer has as his or her authority the unchangeable Word of God.