“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” – John 14:26
As we continue to outline what Biblical Counseling is and how it can be applied in the local church, we come to a part of counseling that can often be overlooked by the Christian in the church today. We have seen that the church needs to be active in counseling, and also that the counsel the church gives is to be based on the Word of God alone. We have also seen that Biblical Counseling must hold high the sufficiency of God’s Word and oppose the insertion of worldly ideas and ideologies. Today we will see that the Holy Spirit plays a central part in all Biblical Counseling. He is the greatest counselor!
To put it plainly, “Biblical Counseling is the work of the Holy Spirit. Effective counseling cannot be done apart from Him.” 1 Christ spoke extensively of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John. In John 4:16-17 he says. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” As our Lord describes the Holy Spirit in these verses, He calls Him, “…another Helper…” The word for helper, is parakletos, and can be translated, “Counselor”. Therefore, we can know with certainty that the Holy Spirit is the greatest counselor. We will take a look at the work of this magnificent person of the Godhead by answering the question:
What does the Holy Spirit accomplish in Counseling?
(I) The Holy Spirit Brings about True Change: The first reason that the Holy Spirit is the greatest Counselor is because He alone can effect true change in the life of a person. Apart from Him, we are all dead in our sins, unable to please God, unable to live holy lives, unable to change. It is only through the work of the Spirit that we have come to have life and now can walk in newness of life! In the same way that He transforms the dead sinner to life (Eph. 2:1-10), He also works in this now alive saint, to, “…lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the Spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” The Holy Spirit must be present in Biblical Counseling. Where there is no Spirit, there are no saints, and there is definitely no godly fruit.
When we look the heart of Biblical Counseling and see that it carries with it a desire to see people changed in to the image of Christ, there can be no doubt in our minds that this change will only take place through the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way that true and lasting change can take place. It is the Holy Spirit who will produce in the counselee the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). When we attempt to transform people apart from the Word of God, or apart from the Spirit, true change will never be the result. It can only lead to failure if counseling by-passes the work of the Holy Spirit.
(II) The Holy Spirit is Sovereign: Closely akin to knowing that the Holy Spirit is the worker of change, the Biblical Counselor must come an understanding that the Holy Spirit is also sovereign in all counseling. Above all we must recognize that the Holy Spirit is God, therefore He has the same attributes and characteristics of God. He is not a mystical force that one can call on when in trouble. He is always present in Biblical Counseling and He is always sovereign in the results of Biblical Counseling. His work and will are revealed in the Scriptures, yet He still works when and how He pleases. In counseling, the counselor must rely on the work of the Spirit in his own life and the life of the counselee to bring about change. The Spirit is Sovereign and He will cause those who are His own to walk in His ways and in His truth. The results of counseling therefore are left up to Him, He will soften the heart He desires to soften and harden the heart He desires to harden.
To be sure, this does not mean that the counselor himself neglects his attention to teaching and ministering the Word of God; by no means!! Instead, the counselor himself should rely on the gifts that the Spirit has given to him and to immerse himself in the Word of God so that He is equipped to teach others. Then, he must be willing to do his work faithfully, and leave the results up to God.
(III) The Holy Spirit Works through His Word: A third way in which the Holy Spirit works, is through the teaching and preaching the Word of God. A wise preacher once said (and I paraphrase), “If you want to hear God speak, read His Word. If you want to hear Him audibly, read it out-loud!” The Holy Spirit does not speak by means of dreams, or visions, or new revelation. God has already spoken and what He has said is revealed in His Word. Galatians 5:18 says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law.” When Paul says, “…led by the Spirit…” what does He mean? Well, he certainly does not mean led through extra-biblical revelation. He means that we are to be led by the Spirit as it speaks though the Word. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul speaks to the work of the Holy Spirit by saying in verses 10-13,
“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
What Paul is saying here is that it is the Holy Spirit who enlightens mankind to read and understand the Bible. There is absolutely no way that mankind can understand the Word of God apart from illumination of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit truly is our Great Counselor. He works so many things out for His glory by sovereignly effecting change in the life of believers speaking to them through His Word. The role of the Holy Spirit cannot be missed in counseling. I close by quoting Adams on this subject. He writes:
“The fact of the Holy Spirit in counseling, therefore, implies the presence of the Holy Scriptures as well. This fundamental relationship in itself should be decisive for any Christian who carefully thinks through the counseling situation. Counseling without the Scriptures can only be expected to be counseling without the Holy Spirit.” 2
Jay Adams: Competent to Counsel; Pg. 20 – 2. Jay Adams: Competent to Counsel; Pg. 24