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Quotes by Jay Adams


In my opinion, advocating, allowing and practicing psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas within the church is every bit as pagan and heretical (and therefore perilous) as propagating the teachings of some of the most bizarre cults. The only vital difference is that the cults are less dangerous because their errors are more identifiable.


Somebody must have the final say. Somebody must be responsible to God for the family’s decisions. Where everybody is responsible, there really isn’t anybody who is responsible. Any organization must have a point where the buck stops. In the home, which is an organization, it stops not with the wife, but with the husband. It is his job to oversee all, make sure that everything runs the way God says it should, and his wife must help him to do so.


The rod, carefully administered with love, meaning, and purpose (as well as the right amount of force), is the most merciful form of punishment… (When the child is grounded) and his parents are on the outs with him for days. Is that really merciful? That is torture… The rod is a punishment quickly and mercifully inflicted.


The negative calls attention to itself, so it is easier to focus on the negative… [Parents] must not forget the times when the kids did obey and did do the right things… It takes effort to commend the good – much more than it does to condemn the bad.


But the last thing that a parent must do is to cut off communication.  So, on the one hand he surely must discourage backtalk; but on the other he must never discourage genuine discussion, which includes giving reasons, explanations, and information that a child feels compelled to talk about… Parents, therefore, must learn to distinguish between the backtalk that needs to be silenced and the valid communication that needs to be encouraged.


Anger itself is not sinful; every emotion is from God and is good when biblically appropriate.  But, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Paul says (Eph. 4:26).


If she has been given the gift of living as a single person, she must be willing to do so, prepare to do so, and look for the work in Lord’s vineyard that doubtless He has for her. She must not dread the future, looking at it apprehensively, but must recognize that the Lord never calls His children without providing them the help that they need to accomplish His will and the ability to be happy in doing it.


The normal state is marriage, not celibacy. A man and wife – not single persons – were put into the garden. Celibacy is exceptional and it takes a particular gift. Indeed, God specifically declared that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). He insists, as the norm, that a man must leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). God ordained marriage for His purposes. Those purposes are outlined in Scripture.


The Lord gave only ten commandments for all of life. In the Garden of Eden there was just one rule. Obedience centered around it, and the penalty was clearly spelled out… Long before the sin, God said, “Don’t; but if you do, this will be the consequence.” And when it happened, He followed through… God clearly sets forth His will. He lays out the rules, and He says what the penalty will be before the infraction takes place. When the transgression happens, He follows through. That is the basis for all consistent discipline as it appears in the Word of God. In spite of our sinful failures, we must more and more train our children God’s way.


If you are a true child of God, you will receive the blessings of the heavenly Father’s discipline in this life. So the disciplinary methods that Christian parents use should be the same as God’s. They must use nurture and admonition (or discipline and instruction). That is the kind of discipline that God Himself uses. In Deuteronomy 11:1 (Berkeley), we are urged, “Be mindful of the Lord’s discipline.” Study it, understand it, use it.


It was God Himself who united a man and a woman in marriage (Gen. 2:22). Marriage, therefore, is a divine institution, not a human one (Matt. 19:6). Consequently, God, not man, has the right to define the terms of the institution.


In mercy, even though homosexuality is a sinful way of life, and not a genetic problem, Paul makes it clear that it is possible for a homosexual to be “washed” form his defilement through the saving grace of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-12).


To become “one flesh”…is to become “one person.” Male and female marriage partners not only make an exact “fit” sexually, but their maleness and femaleness “fill out” or “complete” one another in every respect. The two constitute a “whole.”


The man and his wife become one flesh (Gen 2:24). Together they form one complete unit. As they come together physically, intellectually, emotionally, there is a wholeness that did not exist before. They are fused into one.


God’s gifts are not given capriciously; neither are they given in such a way that the option for their use is left with us. As the gifts are discovered they are to be developed and used to the full in His service and to His glory. God distributes His gifts for His purposes and for the good of His people. His sovereign administration of these gifts must be acknowledged as right and proper by His people, even when they cannot see the good.


There is a softening of attitudes. This accounts in large measure for soft teaching. Rather than glorying in the grandeur of God’s eternal plan of gracious redemption before Arminian friends, [Calvinists] hem and haw about it, trying above all else to “get along.” Assuming that their consciences are not yet seared, they harbor a sense of guilt, knowing that they should defend truth against weak, unscriptural teaching that exalts man by lowering God. Yet, for the sake of “peace” they never speak out.


Husbands, do you love your wives enough to die for them? Wives, do you love your husbands enough to live for them? That is what the latter part of Ephesians 5 is all about. The husband must learn to love his wife as Jesus Christ loves His church. A husband, if need be, should be willing to give up his life for his wife. On the other hand, a wife should so love her husband that she is willing to live for him. She must be willing to pour her life into being his helper. This involves living for him, just as the church is required to live for Jesus Christ.


Flaunting authority is always wrong.  Talking about this authority when there is no reason to be talking about it often leads to abuse.  The brandishing of authority for its own sake shows that the parent fails to recognize that the authority is given for the benefit of the child.  Such assertion of authority often leads to the establishment of foolish and overly rigid rules.  If “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3), why should ours be?


If love has grown cold in your family, husband, you must do something about it.  If you are going to emulate the love of Jesus Christ for His church, it is up to you to initiate love… Jesus loved us when we had no love for Him.  You are the head of your home.  If there is little or no love in that home, it is your fault.  God holds you responsible to introduce love.  You must do that by giving.


To be like Jesus Christ in relationship to your wife is an enormous order to fill.  You are to be the head of your home, including your wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.  When you fail, you not only fail your wife, you also fail to represent your Lord’s love for His church.  That is why your task is such a solemn one.  When you fail to reflect Him in your marriage, you damage His name.  You are called to show forth Jesus Christ by the leadership that you exercise in your home.


Husband’s Checklist:

1. Do I know what is going on in my home from day to day?

2. Am I in control of what is happening; indeed, am I leading the family in the direction in which it is moving?

3. Can I control my children and my wife?

4. Do I truly love my wife (by giving of myself to her), as I should? How am I demonstrating this?

5. Do I assume responsible leadership over my family?


A vital Christian, radiating that hidden beauty of the heart, is more attractive to the right sort of Christian man (the only kind you want) than the raving beauty who is hollow within. A woman who is developing her domestic abilities, who is reasonably attractive, and who is a vital Christian in her own right is an irresistible person.


How, then, may one know how to choose a mate? There are only two absolutely essential requirements: first, that the other person is also a Christian; second, that the two of you not only desire to but growingly give evidence of an ability to face, talk over, and solve problems together from God’s Word in God’s way. While socio-economic, ethnic, chronological, and other factors may rightly enter the picture as minor matters of preference, they are in no sense essentials. Indeed, they are icing on the cake.


Love is giving – giving of oneself to another. It is not getting, as the world says today. It is not feeling and desire; it is not something over which one has no control. It is something that we do for another. No one loves in the abstract. Love is an attitude that issues forth in something that actually, tangibly happens.


Love at first is not feeling. Love first can be expressed as giving. That is at the core of love. If one gives, the feeling of love will follow. To love we must give of ourselves, of our time, of our substance, of whatever it takes to show love; for giving is fundamental to the biblical idea of love.


Husbands and wives frequently complain that they are having trouble with sex, but the trouble usually is not with sex. Counselors do not find many difficulties that have to do with sex alone. The real difficulties in bed at night come from the fact that all kinds of problems have been carried into bed from the day, problems that should have been settled before going to bed.


Sex in Scripture is holy, normal, right, proper and good… There is nothing wrong with sex; and marriage, indeed, is the proper framework for the expression of it. Sex according to Scripture, is not unholy of itself, but only when it is misused. It ought never to be used outside of the covenant bond. It should be used freely within this structure. God has so ordained. God strongly encourages sexual relations.


Sex may be enjoyed, but only according to the Biblical principle that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Indeed, the most enjoyable aspect of sexual intercourse is not the personal release experience in one’s own orgasm but rather in the pleasure of satisfying one’s marriage partner. Husbands and wives are required to satisfy their partners. He may not withhold his body in order to get even with his wife. She may not use sex as a bargaining factor. Sexual relations involve giving one’s self freely and fully in love to the other in order to fulfill the other’s need. Scripture is not prudish about sex, but some Christians have become prudish. As if they knew more than God!


A covenant in Scripture is a solemn arrangement involving a ruler and a subject. A covenant is imposed on the latter by the former, and entails blessings when kept and a curse when broken. When one enters into a covenant, he enters into the most solemn and binding arrangement of all.


There are usually at least two problems involved in any human conflict. There is the issue over which the parties differ, and there is also the problem of their attitudes toward one another.


Anger may be handled wrongly in either one of two ways: blowing up and clamming up.


Salvation is complete; it involves justification, sanctification, and glorification. By grace, through faith, God justifies believers in an instantaneous act. That is to say, Christ died for His people in order that the penalty for their sins might be paid and His righteousness might be counted to them. They are declared just before God when they believe. Once justified, Christ saves them from the power of their sins through the lifelong process of sanctification.  In sanctification, Christians are made more and more like Jesus Christ. But a lifelong process never ends, and the final goal is never reached until death. At death, Christians are glorified; they are then made completely perfect for the first time.


1. First, make a full list of all the things that you have been doing wrong in your marriage.

2. Second, confess your sins in repentance to God.

3. Third, determine to change according to Biblical precepts and examples, and write out specific proposals next to each item on the list.

4. Fourth, go humbly to your husband or wife…and admit your sins against them, telling them that you have sought and found God’s forgiveness and now desire theirs.

5. Fifth, having received forgiveness, seek to rectify any wrongs immediately whenever that is possible.


Freedom in God’s world never comes apart from structure. When one is free to live as God intended, he is truly free indeed. 


Jesus won’t allow the unreconciled condition to continue among believers. In Matthew 5, if another considers you to have wronged him, Jesus says that you must go.  In Matthew 18, He says that if the other person has done something wrong to you, you must go. There is never a time when you can sit and wait for your brother to come to you. Jesus doesn’t allow for that. He gives no opportunity for that.  It is always your obligation to go.


If you have been putting off going to another person to try to achieve reconciliation with him, you have wronged him.


The best way to be a good father to your children is to be a good husband to their mother.


What a wonderful Savior we have. It wasn’t lovely people for whose sake He died; it was for ungodly people, for His enemies. It was for law breakers that He suffered. He loved us, says (the Apostle) Paul, in spite of how unlovely we were. Just as He loved us, Paul insists we are to love one another.


It is not the nagging, but the behavior, that shows Christ in a life. The quiet winsomeness of a wife speaks eloquently of Jesus Christ.


Freedom in God’s world never comes apart from structure. When one is free to live as God intended, he is truly free indeed. We hear much about women’s liberation today. I want you to be liberated. Here is the path of genuine liberation for a woman: submission. Submission allows her to run on the track; it allows her to make beautiful music in her home. When you do what God intended a woman to do, when you are what God intended a woman to be, that is when you will be most free.


[Paul] says that [wives] must obey. You must obey, not primarily for the benefits that you and your husband will receive, but in order to exhibit the relationship of Jesus Christ to His church. At all costs you must not misrepresent this relationship. You cannot exemplify the love that the church must have for Jesus Christ if that kind of love is not seen in your heart for your husband.  And it must be seen in your submissive life as a result.


Discipline with dignity, then, involves not only structure that is set up to see to it that goals are reached. That is necessary, but it also considers the personal conviction of the child to do what God says to be even more vital. He was made in the image of God, and he must be reached in his heart with God’s Word. It is this message that speaks of a loving Lord who came and gave Himself for His people which first must touch our children’s hearts, bringing them to repentance and faith. Parents must lead them to repentance, lead them to conviction of sin, and bring them to the Savior. And then they must continue to show them what He wants and continue to motivate them, not just with the rod, but also by the cross.


The idea that women should not hold jobs is false. [In Proverbs 31 we see] a prominent city elder’s wife who does. The key to whether a job is fitting or not lies solely in whether the job helps or hinders her family.


God does not countenance the marriage of a believer to an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul says that Christians must marry only “in the Lord.” That phrase means within the common faith that Christians hold toward Jesus Christ, that faith which identifies them as a part of the body of Christ. Thus they can be said to be “in Christ,” or “in the Lord” together. Nothing in Scripture in any way relaxes the clear-cut commandment that believers must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Christians may marry only in the Lord; that is, only within the faith.


Over the years the emphasis in discipline should move from structured discipline to self-discipline. Parents must “coach” their children, but learn to back off as their children learn to assume responsibilities.


Today, one of the greatest threats to evangelical preaching comes from the invasion of the church by Adler-Maslow, etc., self-image, self-worth dogmas.  Passage after passage in the Bible has been distorted in order to conform to these teachings, with the result that you end up preaching man and his supposed worth rather than Christ.  Sometimes that “worth” has been seen as intrinsic, sometimes it has been considered to be the result of salvation.


New Testament evangelists make it easy to get into the church “that very hour,” but they also make it mean something to stay in. We, in contrast, make it hard to get in, but once in the body a member usually is secure for life regardless of his beliefs or lifestyle. It is easier to remain a member of the average church today than it is to continue one’s membership in a lodge! If we exercised biblical care and discipline, we would have little or no difficulty in adopting and following the biblical pattern.


It is common for a sinner to try to cover his wrongdoing by saying someone else made me act as I did. But regardless of how one person mistreats another, he cannot cause sinful anger, ulcers, worry in the one who is mistreated. Jesus didn’t get an ulcer on the cross. Instead, He handled wrongdoing righteously. That is to say, when He prayed for those who were killing Him, He assumed His responsibility in the relationship. And, in every relationship, that is exactly what He calls on us to do.


Probably in our own, modern substitutes for (immediate baptism upon profession) – raising hands, coming forward, etc. – are the result of a felt need to do something for those who believe. It seems certain that those who believed were distinguished from those who did not. There is no evidence that the New Testament evangelistic preachers asked them to come forward, but there is every indication that they did invite those who believed to be baptized (Ac. 2:38). And it seems that this was the way in which new converts professed their faith in Christ and came under the care and discipline of the church.


The purpose of reading, explaining and applying a portion of Scripture is to obey the command to “preach the Word.” In no other way may we expect to experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our preaching. He did not spend thousands of years producing the Old and New Testaments…only to ignore it! What He “moved” men to write He now motivates us to preach. He has not promised to bless our word; that promise extends only to His own (Isa. 55:10, 11).


The purpose of preaching, then, is to effect changes among the members of God’s church that build them up individually and that build up the body as a whole. Individually, good pastoral preaching helps each person in the congregation to grow in his faith, conforming his life more and more to biblical standards. Corporately, such preaching builds up the church as a body in the relationship of the parts to the whole, and the whole to God and to the world.


Counseling Principles:

1. When seeking to bring about change, never attempt to do so in the abstract; people change only in concrete ways.

2. Always give hope. People will not persevere during the often-difficult process of change without hope.

3. Never minimize the severity of problems; instead always maximize Christ and His power to solve problems.

4. If a person has a life-dominating problem, aim at total restructuring.

5. Always approach the seemingly hopeless situations with emphatic disagreement. Empathy alone removes all possibility of help. Disagree when the counselee says, “It’s hopeless.” Say, “It is difficult, but not too difficult for God.”

6. Don’t become orientated toward people’s problems, but toward God’s solutions.

7. Gauge how much change is now feasible; too little is boring, too much is discouraging.

8. Don’t let people settle for less than the scriptural solution.

9. Use biblical, or biblically derived, language when analyzing and labeling problems, and when planning solutions to them.

10. Be command-oriented rather than feeling-oriented.


You must not exhort your congregation to do whatever the Bible requires of them as though they could fulfill those requirements on their own, but only as a consequence of the saving power of the cross and the indwelling, sanctifying power and presence of Christ in the Person of the Holy Spirit


Every counselor knows that the way to put people together is not by taking them apart. Separation heats up desire that it shouldn’t, but cools concern that it ought not. The cooling that often occurs is due to a sense of relief from the previous problems, a false sense of peace that is interpreted (wrongly) as a solution to the problem. Nothing actually has been solved. But because of this temporary relief, it is very difficult to effect reconciliation. Often one (or both) of the parties says “I never had it so good” and is loathe to rock the boat. That peace will leave in time, but for some time can be so great a deterrent to reconciliation that it can destroy the prospects altogether. Separation is another means of running from problems instead of solving them God’s way.  The first thing a Christian counselor must do, when dealing with separated persons, is to bring them back together again (at this point their great reluctance to return will be seen) so that he can help them to work on their problems in a context (marriage) where solution can be reached. Two people, under separate roofs, will find it nearly impossible to solve problems that occur when they are under the same roof. Separation, therefore, only widens gaps and deepens difficulties.  Of course, very brief separations (a couple of hours, an overnight at a friend’s house) – where one doesn’t pack his/her bags and has no intention of leaving – may at times (when one is violent, confused, etc.) be desirable. But in such a case the brief separation is to avoid situations that destroy problem-solving and make communication impossible. The design (in contrast to extended separation, no matter what is said or thought to the contrary) is to make it possible to face and solve problems God’s way – not to avoid them.


The modern view of separation is an anti-biblical substitution for the biblical requirement of reconciliation or (in some cases) divorce. These two options alone are given by God. Modern separation settles nothing; it amounts to a refusal to face issues and set them to rest. The world may have no way of solving problems – and so opts for an uneasy cease-fire – but the church does, if she will only avail herself of the biblical means.


Few things are sapping the strength of the church of Jesus Christ more than the unreconciled state of so many believers. So many have matters deeply imbedded in their craws, like iron wedges forced between themselves and other Christians. They can’t walk together because they do not agree. When they should be marching side by side through this world taking men captive for Jesus Christ, they are acting instead like an army that has been routed and scattered and whose troops in their confusion have begun fighting among themselves. Nothing is sapping the church of Christ of her strength so much as these unresolved problems, these loose ends among believing Christians that have never been tied up. There is no excuse for this sad condition, for the Bible does not allow for loose ends. God wants no loose ends.


Legalists assume that one can obey God’s commandments without salvation and/or in his own strength. Both ideas are false. Prayerful action…in the power of the Spirit is required for change to be biblical; all change that pleases God is the fruit of the Spirit.


Even though all divorces are the result of sin, not all divorces are sinful.


It is altogether true that God hates divorce. But He neither hates all divorces in the same way nor hates every aspect of divorce. He hates what occasions every divorce – even the one that He gave to sinful Israel. He hates the results that often flow to children and to injured parties of a divorce (yet even that did not stop Him from willing divorce in Ezra 10:44, 11). And He hates divorces wrongly obtained on grounds that He has not sanctioned. But that leaves some things about divorce that He does not hate. He certainly does not condemn or hate divorce proceedings per se – i.e., as a process. Nor does He hate divorce when it is obtained according to the principles and regulations laid down in the Scriptures and which He followed in His dealings with unfaithful Israel.


If marriage were of human origin, then human beings would have a right to set it aside. But since God instituted marriage, only He has the right to do so. He has told us that marriage will not be dispensed with until the life to come. Nor can marriage be regulated according to human whims. Marriage as an institution (which includes individual marriages, of course) is subject to the rules and regulations set down by God. If He had said nothing more about marriage after establishing it, we might have proceeded to draw up such rules on our own. But He did not leave us in the dark; God has revealed His will about marriage in the pages of the Bible. Individuals may marry, be divorced and be remarried only if, when and how He says they may without sinning.


The word discipline has disappeared from our minds, our mouths, our pulpits, and our culture. We hardly know what discipline means in modern American society. And yet, there is no other way to attain godliness; discipline is the path to godliness.

Recommended Books

Theology of Christian Counseling

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How to Help People Change: The Four-Step Biblical Process

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Competent to Counsel

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