Seminary Viewpoints

Sufficient Word — Even for Counsel

Bruce Meyer | September 10, 2021

Image by David Ball, used under terms of Creative Commons 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Excerpts used by permission from  FrontLine magazine, with additional content included by the author. To subscribe to  FrontLine, go to https://fbfi.org/frontline/.

We typically accept the Scriptures as sufficient for many of our everyday problems, but some believers equivocate when problems become more complex, especially if the label “mental illness” is in view.  Not to mention behavioral issues such as sexual purity that can extend to addictions to pornography and improper sexual practices.

For those problems, many react as though there should be an asterisk that includes an exception clause. After all, people reason that “my Strong’s Concordance does not have the words anorexia, depression, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Therefore, the Bible is silent concerning those problems.  How could ancient authors know anything about these modern-day afflictions?”

Common Questions      

This issue depends upon two primary questions: 1) Whose authority speaks to these problems? 2) Whose authority is reliable for these problems?[1] The foundation to all biblical counseling is the Bible. There cannot be biblical counseling without expositional use of the Scriptures.[2] In fact, as orthodox Christians we rightly hold to the belief that the Bible is our sole rule of faith and practice. Therefore, what is the biblical basis for such a belief, even when we are dealing with complex problems that seem to be psychological in nature? It is because of our belief in the sufficiency of the Scriptures (and the God who wrote them) that we believe they are sufficient in all realms of life, even in complex problem solving.

Because God has spoken: Sufficiency is based on the inspiration of the Scriptures 

One of the leading passages on the doctrine of inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:15-17. This passage teaches us three key truths about the Bible: clarity (“and that from a child . . .” v. 15), authority (“God-breathed” or “inspired” v. 16), and sufficiency (“thoroughly furnished” v. 17).  The three terms are tied together not only textually, but also functionally. Authority is lost to us if we do not understand the Bible (clarity). Authority diminishes if the Scriptures fail to address our daily living (sufficiency). Neither clarity nor sufficiency matters if the Bible lacks the authority to speak to our problems. 

The verbal and plenary inspiration of the Scriptures means that we have the words of God that he desired to share with us in revealing truth for accomplishing his will in our lives (cf. Deut. 29:29).  Because God breathed out the words of Scripture, these words carry his authority. Because these words carry the all-knowing character of God behind them, they are inerrant and sufficient for our daily needs, including complex problems.  Grudem correctly notes, “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly….[3]

If God knows anthropology, then he is most qualified to speak concerning matters of the heart. If God is all-powerful, then he can find a way to inerrantly communicate with us concerning the solutions. If he is all-loving, then God would address those issues in his word centuries before humans “discovered” those truths via scientific inquiry. 

 A second passage on the sufficiency of the Scriptures is 2 Peter 1:3-4. Here Peter writes, 

3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [emphasis added].

This passage directly relates to the sanctification of the believer since Peter describes our daily growth process (vv. 3-7) and the results of our growth (vv. 8-11). The passage culminates in Peter’s reminder that the prophetic word is certain because these words came from God who used holy men to record them accurately (2 Peter 1:19-21). This truth answers the second question of which authority is reliable.  Because God is our creator and redeemer, he knows and understands our struggles and speaks truth to those struggles.  Verses 3-4 remind us that God has supplied everything we need for obeying God in Christian growth (“life and godliness” and “partakers of the divine nature”) and in escaping the pollution of sin. 

As I recently discussed on the Steve Noble Show, sexual purity, too is not merely a sin issue but a theological issue for which the solution is clear exposition of Scripture. The nations are raging, throwing off restraints, because their thinking has been distorted through sin. They are aligning with Satan to reject God, His authority, and His commands.  As a colleague of mine has said, Satan knows he can’t destroy God’s creation, but he can vandalize it.

The Good News (literally), is that God and Scripture are bigger than Satan’s vandalism and our sin. And the Scriptures are far from silent on sex.  They provide specific direction both negative but also highly positive, that can be applied in counseling those challenged by sexual purity.

Some of those Scriptures and their specific principles and applications include:

ScripturePrinciple
Matthew 5:27-30
Other forms of sexual impurity, including looking on a woman with lust (as in pornography) are the same as adultery in God’s eyes.
Proverbs 5-7
Key passages detail the snare of, and social, financial and health consequences of, sexual impurity and the superiority of sex within marriage.
Song of Solomon
The book offers the Bible’s most complete presentation of the beauty and joy of a healthy marriage relationship, including physical union.
1 Corinthians 6
Sexual impurity is a sin against our own bodies and an affront to the Christ who paid the ultimate price for our redemption; we are to treat our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 7
Proper sexual relations within marriage (including not withholding sex) offer a solution to sexual impurity.
1 Thessalonians 4 
Sexual self-control is a critical element of sanctification that sets us apart from unbelievers; impurity is exploiting another for one’s own use.
Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:1-16
Believers walking with the Lord are “new men” who should put off the sexual license of unbelievers, even in our manner of speaking and thinking.

I have seen God’s word and Spirit change people with problems such as anorexia nervosa, self-injury, depression, panic attacks, and even abuse recovery, and of course, sexual addictions. God perfects that person by changing him through salvation and sanctification. Through his word, God addresses the heart issues underlying those problems and solves them theologically. 

The power of the Word penetrates deeply to the problems we face, offering real biblical change through biblical renewal in Christ. It is because of our belief in the sufficiency of the Scriptures (and the God who wrote them), that we believe they are sufficient in all realms of life, even in complex problem-solving. It is the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction of the Word that is sufficient to thoroughly furnish us unto all good works.   


[1] There are other issues that are too lengthy for this article, such as what is “mental illness,” what is the nature of therapy, how do we define a biblical anthropology, and others. 

[2] I use this term because biblical counseling is more than just offering advice that is biblical. It is the vigorous use of exposition to teach and train the individual concerning God’s will. We should not equate simple proof-texting with biblical counseling, for biblical counseling is all about training the counselee to practice the truths of the Scriptures as James taught us (1:22-27).  

[3] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 127 [emphasis added].