Reading the Gospels Well to Counsel People Well: Hermeneutics, Biblical Counseling, and the Gospel of Matthew
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This project unites hermeneutics, biblical studies, and biblical counseling to propose an approach for faithfully reading passages in the Gospel of Matthew in an effort to counsel with wisdom and discernment. Chapter 1 overviews the abundance of literature at readers’ (including counselors’) disposal in the fields of hermeneutics and biblical studies, including treatments specifically devoted to Gospel studies and Matthew’s Gospel. A library of resources has continued to develop over the past fifty years to relaunch, clarify, and advance biblical counseling, as well as materials to train and grow counselors. Some authors strive to teach counselors about the process of moving from the biblical text to counseling concerns (and vice versa). However, a void remains in considering the impact of literary genre on the translation from God’s inerrant Word to a counselee’s experience. Chapter 2 surveys the doctrinal commitments undergirding biblical counselors’ conviction that Scripture drives counseling and summarizes the multiple ways the Bible directs and motivates counseling. As counselors read, understand, and apply the Scriptures, God’s Word actively leads counselors in establishing counseling’s theory and practice as well as guiding how they address their counselees and their concerns. Chapter 3 then approaches how Matthew’s Gospel informs counseling based on what the Gospel contains and how the evangelist communicates to his readers through episodes, Jesus’s teaching, and the book’s overarching narrative. In light of the Gospel’s contents and communicative methods, the chapter concludes with a method to read and understand a Matthean passage by close examination of the text, consideration of the passage’s context, and holistic evaluation of the passage’s historical and theological communication. Chapter 4 discusses the application of Matthew’s Gospel in counseling by first identifying characteristics of faithful biblical application. Drawing from John Frame’s triperspectivalism, the treatment then describes wise and discerning application as the recognition of how Scripture’s normative perspective provides readers with situational and existential guidance. Finally, using the USE acronym, the chapter offers a three-fold method to apply the Gospel of Matthew in counseling by first understanding the passage, then seeking how the passage connects with counseling’s theological framework, and finally exploring how the passage speaks to counselees and their concerns. Chapter 5 then applies the three-fold method to Matthew 14:22-33, observing how that passage helps detail the anatomy of fear and furnishes guidance for responding to fear. The chapter closes with two examples of that pericope’s application in my own pastoral counseling and ministry. Chapter 6 provides concluding and summary remarks.