Why counsel?

What is the objective of counselling? Counselling, as presented in the Scriptures, has one all-embracing objective: "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience and faith unfeigned" (1 Timothy 1:5).

The purpose of preaching, counselling and whatever else goes on in the fellowship and ministries of the church is to foster a genuine and proper love toward God, our Creator and Redeemer. Secondly and tied up to this supreme love, to cultivate love towards one's neighbour. Jesus summed up the observance of the whole Decalogue as love.

But this is precisely where man fails. He is, as Luther appropriately describes him, homo in se incurvatus: twisted towards himself. How can sinful man love? First and foremost then, Christian counselling should seek to win the allegiance of all to the claims and lordship of Jesus Christ. It seeks to win people to the Faith, to have them bow down before the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ, to find forgiveness and liberty in Him.

But even those who have confessed Christ, having the remnant of sin still in them, still experience difficulties in life due to their sinful behaviour. This leads them to have a guilty conscience, to act hypocritically, to experience doubts, and thus to have their life vitiated, and not experience the abundant life promised by the Good Shepherd.

Counselling come in where the Christian, who has gone off the rails, seeks help, or as is often the case, is confronted with his sin and encouraged to repent. God's authoritative instruction through the ministry of the Word, spoken publicly (from the pulpit) or privately (in counselling sessions), is the Holy Spirit's means of producing love in the believer. Whereas before love was lacking or weak, the aim of all counselling worthy of the name will be to command and cultivate this love, thus bringing in a godly change in the counsellee.

The overarching purpose of counselling is the declarative glory of God. But the underneath side of that splendid rainbow is love: bringing in love where there is no love. And a simple definition of love is the fulfilling of God's commandments, relating responsibly towards God and man. Love is a relationship conditioned upon responsibility.

When blessed by the Holy Spirit (the true Counsellor - Paraclete - promised by Jesus), it enables men through the Gospel and God's sanctifying Word to become pure in heart, enjoying a peaceful conscience and walking with God in the light.

The goal of nouthetic counselling is set forth as plainly as could be: to bring men to change in their beliefs, attitudes, habits, relationships and goals in life, so that they would be thoroughly pleasing to God, in conformity to His revealed will.