Counsel from the Cross by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson

October 21st, 20092 comments

Purchase at Westminster Books for $10.87

Fitzpatrick, Elyse M. and Dennis E. Johnson. Counsel from the Cross. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009. 236 pp. $15.99.  Purchase at Westminster Books.


Thanks to men like Jay Adams, nouthetic (more commonly referred to as biblical) counseling is making a huge impact on the pastoral understanding of counseling. Nouthetic counseling is a fancy word that basically means that counseling should be from the Bible. The major premise of nouthetic counseling is that only the Holy Spirit can change a man. Before the pastor or counselor can really have an impact on a person, there must first be a response to the gospel. Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, change cannot take place.


For those pastors who have embraced nouthetic counseling (I am one of them), Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson have collaborated on a wonderful resource that not only speaks to the counselee but also to the counselor. Throughout nine chapters, the reader is exhorted through careful exegesis of Scripture to keep the cross central when giving counsel. Also, there are numerous real-life examples of how gospel-centered counseling can and should impact the Christian.

The end of each chapter includes a section of how to apply the particular teaching to your life. This short section greatly enhances the value of this resource. Even more than that, every chapter concludes with “Pursuing Counsel from the Cross.” These are a few questions designed to help you plumb the depths of your need for the gospel in every area of life. Again, this section greatly enhances the value of this resource.

An unexpected result in my reading this book was the encouragement and counsel I received. It was a refreshing reminder to read of how the gospel applies to every facet of life. It was also a sweet balm for the broken heart to know that “you are not the only one still struggling with sin.” It is easy for us as Christians (and perhaps more so for ministers) to think, “I am the only one who struggles with _____.” Fitzpatrick and Johnson shows that you are not.

Hidden at the back of the book are two invaluable resources. The first is a concise apologetic for biblical counseling. In nine quick pages, Fitzpatrick lays a foundation for the necessity of biblical counseling and a way in which to implement it in your local church setting.

The second appendix offers some suggested passages for dealing with particular issues encountered during counseling. For example, in dealing with adultery, they look at Exodus 20:2, 14. They next offer the declaration being made by God (“because of this”) and then look to the obligation we have (“therefore…”).


If you are in the ministry at all, this book needs to be on your shelf. As a leader in the local church (lay or ordained), you are a counselor whether you like it or not. Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson will aid you in becoming more effective counselor to your people. Counseling is usually not thought of by most ministers or deacons when they are ordained, but is quickly becoming more and more of ministry focus in the local church thanks in large part to the post-modernization of just about everything. We need a foundation rooted in Scripture which points to Calvary in order to effectively help the men and women in your ministry.

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