Review of Chapter 2: The Power of the Redeemer by Ernie Baker and Jonathan Holmes in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

The core of this chapter is a beautiful exposition of Isaiah 61:1-2 in which Christ is presented as an incredible person, with a definite pattern to His ministry, and a purpose for coming. Thus, if we are to be Christ-centered in our counseling, we must demonstrate and incarnate His person, purpose, and pattern.

The authors use Christ’s counseling of the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a pattern for our own.

  • Intentional: Christ’s conversations have a purpose. Every question probes for an answer.
  • Interactive: Jesus asks questions, engages, listens, and offers wise counsel.
  • Illustrative: Jesus uses everyday objects, such as water, to open the floodgates of Old Testament imagery.
  • Insightful: Jesus helps the woman see her heart needs are more important than her bodily needs.

Jesus’ unmistakeable goal was not primarily to advise her how to improve her living arrangements but to restore her to what she was truly designed for – to be a true worshiper of God.

Charity and Clarity

The “Three P’s” are memorable foundational principles and the “Four I’s” are unforgettable foundational practices for every counseling situation. This chapter brought me to love my powerful Redeemer more, and to pray for help to communicate more of His redeeming love in my counseling.

But I was left with an unanswered question at the end of the chapter: “Is Biblical Counseling an alternative to cognitive behavior therapy and medication, or can these all work together?”

The chapter opened by describing the failure of cognitive behavior therapy and medication in Kelli’s life, and goes on to narrate the contrasting success of biblical counseling in her situation.

Implied conclusion? We should use biblical counseling and not cognitive behavior therapy or medication.

That seems to be confirmed by the way that the authors ask at the end of the chapter: “What had been missing in her sessions of cognitive behavior therapy? Why was she left unsatisfied and empty?”

Or is that question suggesting that cognitive behavior therapy and medication are OK as long as Christ-centered Biblical Counseling is used as well, or primarily? It’s not clear.

Then Kelli is quoted as saying: “While the techniques practiced in therapy had great potential to be helpful, they lacked the substance that was able to make the program effective. Only Jesus through the power of His Word was able to break down my walls…”

There Kelli could be read as saying that her previous program was good but lacking, and only when Biblical Counseling was added to the mix did she experience healing.

This kind of vague ambiguity is common, unhelpful, and potentially damaging. If CBT and medication are always wrong in these situation, then let this be clearly stated. But, if they may be viewed as part of a holistic package of care, with Biblical Counseling as the organizing priority (which is my own view), then let’s say that clearly too.

I don’t know what’s so difficult about that.


The gospel is not just a message to believe; it is a person to follow.

We are sent on a mission to “make disciples,’ not just to proclaim a message.

Biblical counseling is broken people helping other broken people find healing through the power of the gospel and in the power of the Spirit as they apply the living principles of Scripture to life.

God not only wants to bring us to Himself, He desires to make us into the image of His Son.

[Therapy seeks] to help people become an improved version of themselves.

Previous Posts in this Series

Introduction to Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling
John Piper on Biblical Counseling 

  • Jonathan Holmes


    Thank you for taking the time to interact with the book, and to post your thoughts as well as considerations after each chapter. As an avid reader of your blog, I always take away something to mull on and consider. This post was no different.

    You write, “Or is that question suggesting that cognitive behavior therapy and medication are OK as long as Christ-centered Biblical Counseling is used as well, or primarily? It’s not clear.”

    I believe Ernie and myself could have been more clear here because we don’t believe it’s an either/or approach meaning that either a person participate in CBT and medication OR they receive Christ-centered counseling. I believe what we would say is that CBT apart from the empowering person and work of Jesus Christ doesn’t have the power to change hearts and redeem people.

    I believe CBT can be very helpful and there are aspects of the model which I find to be very in line with biblical principles. That being said, I think that biblical counseling as it continues to grow desires to see change not only in how one thinks (cognition), but also how he/she loves (affective/emotional), and relates to others (relational).

    Thanks for the opportunity to interact. Look forward to the remainder of the chapters!

    • David Murray

      Thanks Jonathan, I’ve appreciated much of your own writing too in various places.

      This is a very helpful clarification that puts us on the same page, I believe.

      I did thoroughly enjoy the chapter. It really opened up Isaiah 61 for me.

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