Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), depicts a meeting held before the foundation of the world among the three persons of the Trinity. What Lloyd-Jones calls the plan of salvation was established during that meeting, which finally came to fruition during and through the life of Christ.
Jones also states that when believers falter when facing struggles and difficulties in this life, it is because they fail to see the full implications of God’s plan of salvation. I agree with that assessment. This blog article explores how to apply the plan of salvation to counseling concerns when working with believers as a professional counselor.
The Plan of Salvation
Martyn Lloyd-Jones envisions the meeting of the Godhead in eternity past this way: Before the foundation of the world the Father authored the plan of salvation. The Son was appointed to carry out the plan by taking on flesh, being born as a human, and eventually taking on the sins of the world. He would die unjustly via crucifixion and then be raised from death three days afterwords. Jesus would accomplish the work the Father sent him to do, and he would then ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Almighty. After his ascension, Christ would send the Spirit to indwell and strengthen each believer as a downpayment for what believers would ultimately receive in the presence of God.
The first words Jesus uttered in the High Priestly Prayer is the hour has come. The plan of salvation that the Triune God laid out in eternity past unfolds in history. The hour is not an arbitrary point in history. It does not occur as happenstance or in some peradventure manner. It is a specific point in time, predestined by the Godhead to come to past in the exact moment and manner in which it did. Jesus prays this prayer right before going into the Garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested, turned over to the authorities, both of the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and eventually tried unjustly and crucified. Christ said several things while dying on the cross. In one statement he cried out loud, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This very moment too was decreed in eternity past, when the sins of the world were to fall on Jesus Christ. Nighttime had indeed fallen.
The Plan of Salvation: The Blessings of God
For the believer in Christ, God’s plan of salvation bestows all the blessings and power that one could hope for, but not come close to imagining. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). God has lavished us with all the riches of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14). In his prayer to the Father, Christ states that of all the ones the Father gave him for purposes of their salvation, he lost not one of them. This truth applies to believers today as it did to the disciples at this time. The Apostle Paul claims for I am sure that neither death nor live, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).
What also applies to us is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends to heaven and sits down at the Father’s right hand. He had already told his disciples earlier that it was a blessing that he was returning to the Father because only then could he send the Spirit of Truth. As believers when we believed in Christ as our savior, we became indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we can be strengthen by him to live as God calls us to live. In addition to all of these blessings and many more not touched on here, God works his power toward us with the same might by which he raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes that many Christians live fearful and weaken lives because they do not understand and thereby do not access God’s plan of salvation and all its blessings and power that are available to them who believe in Christ.
The Plan of Salvation: In the Counseling Room
Although night fell at the crucifixion, sunrise came and the light of day shone brightly the third day after Christ was laid in the tomb. The resurrection placed God’s stamp of approval on the life of Christ, illuminating the fact that he had accomplished God’s work, borne the sins of the world, and ushered in the New Covenant of salvation in his name. One of the final sayings of Christ while on the cross was it is finished. The Son of God completed what the Father had sent him to do. All the blessings from God now accrue to those who believe in Christ for their salvation. These blessings belong to us believers to draw upon daily to navigate the ups-and-downs of life.
What does this mean in the counseling room as Christian clients and I work together? First, for prospective clients who are believers, it means that you bring into the counseling room with you all these blessings and power that are freely bestowed upon you when you believed in Christ as your savior. God’s power is available to you every hour of everyday. Many times, what we lack as Christians is a full understanding of what the plan of salvation means for us. We lack an understanding of salvation, its necessity and how it came about through Christ. And we fail to understand the abundance of blessings available to us through Christ. We have access to God through Christ that we can claim with boldness and confidence.
The Plan of Salvation: What It Doesn’t Mean
Just before Christ turned his eyes to heaven to speak forth the High Priestly Prayer, he told his disciples in the world you will have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he has overcome the world. What the plan of salvation doesn’t necessarily promise us is a rosy life without any difficulties or concerns. As one who experienced a stroke several months back, I can attest to that fact. Like all individuals, Christians lose their jobs, go through financial difficulties, contract cancer, and face all the difficulties that life throws at them on a daily basis. Hence, Christians clients bring many of those concerns to the counseling room. Counseling does not and cannot provide clients with a guarantee that their lives will be problem free. In fact, God’s Word promises us that we will face tribulation in this world (John 16). Indeed, God designs difficulties in life to test our faith.
Counseling from a Christian perspective is not about discounting clients’ concerns and replacing them with a theology discussion. Clients’ concerns are front and center when we work together. However, the one thing I do believe is that as Christians, clients and I possess a foundation on which we stand to navigate our way through the uncertainties of life. As believers, we can explore how to access the promises of God through his Word to embrace the power he has granted us in Christ to work through challenges that life throws at us. Although there are no human guarantees, God promises us he is with us through everything we face in this life.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/June 14th, 2021