Does the Great Commission Require Biblical Counseling?
Biblical counseling is part of Christ’s marching orders for every local church.
Why should a church and its leaders be committed to biblical counseling? Because biblical counseling is part of Christ’s marching orders for every local church.
In light of His victorious death and resurrection and the authority given to Him by the Father, Jesus issued this missional mandate to His apostles:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:18–20).
Where does biblical counseling fit into our Lord’s Great Commission?
We begin by recognizing biblical counseling as a means to evangelize, what we might call problem-occasioned evangelism. We seek to win to Christ those men and women who struggle with life and experience a host of personal and relational problems. Whether it’s your unsaved co-worker, Dena, who experiences high levels of anxiety or your unsaved neighbor, Grayson, whose anger has alienated his wife, they both need Jesus.
Suppose each of them agrees to meet individually with you. As you enter their worlds, they open up their problems. You seek to understand both their felt needs and their true, defined-by-God needs. You bring them Christ-centered counsel about Dena’s anxiety and Grayson’s marriage, setting before them the immediate and the ultimate hope that Jesus alone brings.
Then, by God’s grace, something glorious happens. In your second session with Grayson and your fourth session with Dena, Christ shows up in a special way. They each repent, believe, and begin to follow Jesus. You and the angels in heaven dance!
Now what? Following our Lord’s Great Commission, your church baptizes these new disciples, and you begin the process of “teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.”
What does this teaching ministry entail? Three components seem required. First, we teach them what the Bible commands, the “everything I have commanded you” content. This includes not only Jesus’s words recorded in the Gospel accounts but also in the Hebrew Scriptures (interpreted Christocentrically) and in the writings of His inspired New Testament apostles.
This means helping Dena know God’s commands related to worry/anxiety/fear in passages like Matthew 6:19-34, Philippians 4:4-9, and 1 Peter 5:6-11. And it means helping Grayson know God’s command in Ephesians 5:25-27 to love his wife sacrificially and sensitively, and similar commands in Colossians 3:19 and 1 Peter 3:7. In each case, of course, we show them how these commands flow from God’s saving work in Christ.
But that’s not enough to fulfill the Great Commission.
Second, we teach Dena and Grayson that they must “obey” (or “observe,” in other English versions) those commands. Jesus doesn’t merely want Grayson and Dena to know what He commands but also to know that they must follow His commands. As one scholar notes, “the emphasis on obeying ‘everything I have commanded you’ shows that the discourse sections are not really didactic material to be learned but more importantly practical injunctions to be lived.” In each case, of course, we remind them that their newfound identity as God’s son or daughter, and the presence of His Spirit within them and His church around them, enable them to obey their Lord.
But that’s still not enough to fulfill the Great Commission. Mere expositions of Matthew 6 or Ephesians 5:25, even with passionate exhortations to obey those commands, surely fall short of what Jesus intended.
To fulfill the Great Commission, we need something more. We need biblical counseling. Why?
Because biblical counselors bring a third and often overlooked component implied in the Great Commission’s call to teach.
Biblical counselors bring tangibility to the texts.
We not only teach believers what Jesus commands and that they must obey His commands; we also teach them how to obey His commands. We help God’s people do God’s Word in detailed practical ways in their specific life situation.
This means teaching Grayson how to obey God’s command to love the specific wife God gave him in the specific context of their marital relationship. For example, we help him know how to confess his sins and seek her forgiveness, what to say when she criticizes him, and what to do when she pulls away from him.
This means teaching Dena how to draw near to God and apply His Word when she’s anxious. For example, we help her know how to view her pressures rightly, how to cast her anxiety on the Lord in prayer, and how to embrace her Father’s promises when her fears threaten to engulf her.
Moreover, we do all this in wise, compassionate, interpersonal ways, as our Lord did daily in His own Great Commission ministry.
I wonder. If you’re not doing biblical counseling, are you sure you are obeying the Great Commission of Jesus our Lord?
Questions for Reflection
In what aspects of the full-orbed Great Commission ministry described above do you find yourself weak? How might further biblical counseling training help you and your church more effectively evangelize and teach men and women amid their counseling problems?
Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Biblical Counseling Coalition.
 See my article, “Biblical Counseling: An Opportunity for Problem-Based Evangelism,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 38:1 (Spring 2017), 75–92, that shows how Christ-centered biblical counseling brings Christ into the counseling relationship without sidelining the person’s presenting problems.
 Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, vol. 1, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 1082.
 Thankfully, everything noted in this and the preceding paragraphs is part of the many solid biblical counseling degree and non-degree training programs available in our day.