Summary: The Book of Hebrews reveals three patterns from the tabernacle which can be used in counseling.
I. Relationship with God has changed because of Christ.
One indication in Hebrews that the tabernacle can be used as a model for developing a biblical psychology for counseling is seen in the author’s presentation of the changes in the old covenant. These changes resulted in a new covenant.
The new covenant changed how the individual comes into the presence of God. This change was the result of what Christ did on the cross. Under the old covenant one came to God through the law and cultic services. Under the new covenant one comes to God through the acceptance of what Christ did on the cross.
Under the old covenant, problems were viewed in light of the law. It was the purpose of the law to solve the problems. Under the new covenant problems are to be viewed in light of the cross. It is the purpose of the cross to solve the problems. In addressing these problems Biblical Counseling and Christian Psychology follow an educational process by identifying certain texts that address the problem. Then, they point the individual toward a pattern of godly behavior to be achieved. They encourage the counselee to change their behavior by conforming to the teaching of the text.
In “tabernacle counseling” there is a step beyond the educational process. That is not to say that Biblical Counseling and Christian Psychology are wrong in their approach to counseling. Their approach is the beginning, where all Christian counseling must start. First, they identify the problem.
The step beyond the educational process is somewhat of a mystery to the church. It is the Christian’s union with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Maddox and MacArthur, Jr. touch upon this subject in Introduction to Biblical Counseling. Maddox states, “Union with Christ is at once a difficult and woefully neglected subject.” Maddox quotes from Sinclair Ferguson, “Union with Christ is the foundation of all our spiritual experience and all spiritual blessings.” Maddox continues with a quote from Murray, “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation … .” In one other quote from Pink, Maddox establishes how neglected this teaching is in the church, “The present writer has not the least doubt in his mind that the subject of spiritual union is the most important, the most profound … and yet, sad to say, there is hardly any which is now more generally neglected. The very expression ‘spiritual union’ is unknown in most professing Christian circles, and even where it is employed it is given such a protracted meaning as to take in only a fragment of this precious truth. Probably its very profundity is the reason why it is so largely ignored in this superficial age.”
MacArthur writes on “The Work of the Spirit” in the same book. In conclusion he states, “The true believer, however, does have a Helper who dwells within. He is the Holy Spirit, who applies the objective truth of Scripture in the process of sanctification. Yet even He does not draw our attention inward, or to Himself, He directs our focus upward, to Christ. … Ultimately, it is unto Christ that the counselee’s focus must be directed.”
Most would agree with MacArthur’s statement. However, it appears that MacArthur moves the focus of Christ being present within the Christian to a position outside of the Christian. Does this removal, if in fact MacAuthur does, diminish the opportunity of the Christian experiencing the reality of a spiritual union with Christ?
From the writings of learned men in Biblical Counseling and Christian Psychology it is evident that they have not yet developed a biblical model for developing an understanding of the individual.
At the present time the Society of Christian Psychology is hoping to develop a consensus of understanding of what constitutes a Christian psychology and how to counsel others with it.
What seems to be missing in the writings of Biblical Counseling and Christian Psychology is the teaching of Jesus about the “oneness” of the divine and human. As others have stated, this teaching has been neglected. Yet, it is the heart of the message in Hebrews. This union of the Christian and Christ and the Holy Spirit lays the foundation for counseling. It is the result of the changes in the old covenant.
At least fifteen changes can be identified in Hebrews which show why the spiritual union of the Christian and the divine is possible. I will not cites the verses in Hebrews which support these changes. These fifteen changes are:
1. A change in the mediator of the covenant from Moses to now Jesus Christ (Heb 3:16; 8:5; 9:19-20 / 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).
2. A change from a literal physical tabernacle to a spiritual tabernacle that extended into heaven and now includes the Christian (Heb 9:2; / 9:11, 24).