Common Grace and Counseling

When Adam and Eve sinned, the resultant expectation was eternal punishment and separation from a wholly just God who cannot tolerate such behavior (Genesis 2:17). This same wrath of God is stated in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. In the second part of this verse we see an example of God’s saving grace – salvation through Jesus Christ. Common grace is different in that it is not limited to an elect group of people or believers only.

Grudem (1994) defines common grace as “the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation” (sect. 3695). While common grace is not directly generated from Christ’s atoning work, it can be considered as indirectly influenced by such in that God did not immediately judge the world when sin first entered – He planned for redemption of all sinners through His Son.

Common grace is also found in mankind’s abilities and discoveries.  God exists in all things and is before all things (Colossians 1:17) and every good work, discovery, and knowledge given to man is through this common grace. Common grace is also present in the restraint of sin in the life of both people and society. Evidence of God personally interceding and preventing sin from occurring happen throughout Scripture (see Genesis 20:6; 1 Samuel 25:14). When God hardens the hearts of individuals to fulfill His purposes, this too can be seen as common grace (Exodus 4:21; Isaiah 63:17; Romans 1:28). Yet, God still retrains individuals through their conscience. This conscience forms the basis of establishing laws and customs, much like the moral laws of Scripture and is at the heart of personal responsibility.

Secular psychologists have long sought to eliminate personal responsibility from an individual’s problems (Adams, 1970). This is in direct contrast with Scripture which teaches the precepts of personal responsibility. In Ezekiel 18:20 it is written, “The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them”. Blame shifting is a common secular psychoanalysis method and was attempted by more than one individual in the Bible. Adam tried to blame Eve (Genesis 3:12); Cain tried to avoid responsibility (Genesis 4:9); and even Pilate tried to absolve himself from his sin (Matthew 27:24).

Adams (1970) sees the work of the Holy Spirit having a direct effect on the character of the believer through the means of grace. Without the application of Scripture in counseling, it is impossible for the counselee to progress towards sanctification. While secular psychologists have been given gifts through the common grace of God, without application of Scripture these gifts fall woefully short of a lasting solution in the lives of the counselees.

Adams, J.E. (1970). Competent to counsel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids,    

     MI: Zondervan.