There are counselors who misuse God’s Word. That isn’t to say that they intend to do so—though some, with but a mere twinge of conscience, may use a passage to say what he knows it doesn’t say. But, either way, we find Scripture being forced into contexts in which it does not belong, being used to “support” beliefs and practices that it doesn’t support.

Perhaps the most serious recent, widespread, example of this is the misuse of Jesus’ words about the two great commandments. In order to support unbiblical views about self-love, what He called “two” commandments, they morph into three, adding a “command” to love one’s self. I will not go into this issue since I have fully dealt with it in my book on Self-Love. What I do want to do, however, is to examine why it is that so often those who may mean well distort God’s Word.

In speaking about Paul’s writings, Peter explains: “untaught and unstable persons twist [them], as they do the other Scriptures” (II Peter 3:16). Notice, in passing, that Peter calls Paul’s writings “Scripture.”

Now, there are two elements that Peter mentions in accounting for this practice of twisting Scripture to fit one’s own ideas. He says that those who do so are “untaught” and “unstable.” Actually, the first is the reason for the second so, in effect, there is but one basic reason—lack of solid biblical teaching.

If one is to use the Bible in what he does, he must learn how to use it well. Otherwise, he will twist, warp, or otherwise distort the meaning of the passages that he uses to back up his views and behavior. Lack of teaching is fundamental.

But, of course, that teaching must be correct. There is also much poor teaching that produces the same sad result. Clearly, Peter has in mind teaching that accords with truth. There are people who attempt to counsel from the Bible who have never had a course in Bible interpretation such as the one taught in our INS program. There are people who haven’t the slightest idea about how to do exegesis (who probably don’t even know what the word means) who set out to show others how to live according to teaching that they may think is Scriptural, but is, actually, far from it. This is a genuine problem in the church today.

“But I had training—I majored in psychology on college,” someone protests. That may make things even worse. If psychological theories and practices are read back into the Bible, it will be twisted to fit them. Such training must be laundered out of one’s thinking before he is fit to counsel biblically. No, the training of which Peter speaks is solid, biblical training. Anything else will not do.

But there is a second reason why people twist Scripture—they are unstable. That lack of stability, doubtless, may be attributed in large measure to their lack of training in the Scriptures. There also may be elements in their own lives that make them misread the Bible. People, harboring sins of various sorts, for instance, will tend to avoid certain biblical teachings, or tend to twist them so as to justify their sin. Unstable persons are unstable because they do not understand and do not live according to the Scriptures. Either of these problems (or both coupled together) account for much Bible twisting.

A person who is himself unstable ought not to attempt to counsel others until he deals with the problem of instability in his own life. Otherwise, not only will he set a bad example for counselees, but he will wrongly use the Bible when counseling. Unstable counselors will produce unstable counselees.

So, what is the answer to this problem? Proper training in Bible interpretation leads to proper understanding and application of its truth to daily living. Nothing less is a prerequisite for Nouthetic Counseling.


Check out our online course, The Use of Scripture in Counseling, taught by Jay Adams!

  1. The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs
  2. What to do on Thursday 
  3. How to Help People Change 

The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs, translated by Jay Adams

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