J-I- Packer

Mark's #41 - Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

If you're a follower of Christ and you only read one book this year, it should be this book.  By far this book is the best book I've read in respect to the biblical mandate to evangelize.  This book is a thoughtful, clear, biblically sound look at how the doctrines of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility work together in respect to the advancement of the gospel. This relatively short book is divided into four main sections:

  1. Divine Sovereignty - Here Packer shows that regardless of what a Christian may say they believe about the doctrine of divine sovereignty, all true Christians believe in it. In prayer, we are acknowledging our helplessness and God's sovereignty.  We give thanks to God for our salvation, not to ourselves. We pray for the salvation of others. etc...
  2. Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom - Packer calls these these an antinomy - an apparent contradiction; two truths standing side-by-side that both have cogent reasons for believing them.  The Bible teaches both of these, and we should not put the two in opposition to one another, because the Bible doesn't.  We have to recognize that our minds and our reasoning is finite and that our ways are not God's ways. The only way to handle an antinomy is to accept it and learn to live with it.
  3. Evangelism - Here Packer explains what evangelism and the gospel are and are not. For one to evangelize, one must faithfully teach and apply the truth of the gospel message.  There is no one single mode of evangelism, but a variety of way in which this can and should be done (i.e., personal evangelism with friends, family, co-workers, regular church services, Bible studies, etc.).
  4. Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism - In conclusion, Packer shows once again, that these are not in contradiction, but rather it is the sovereignty of God that is our ground and hope in evangelism.  When we share the gospel with people and the offer of salvation, they have a real choice they will need to make and be accountable to.  Likewise, as Christians, we too will be held accountable for our faithfulness in obeying the command to evangelize.  Nevertheless, God is sovereign over the ends as well as the means of salvation.   Successful evangelism without God's sovereign grace is impossible.


A couple of months ago I read an article about one of my favorite pastors and teachers: John Piper.  In the article, Piper was asked what would he do differently after 40+ years of ministry.  His answer: He would pray more and he would do more personal evangelism.  I've tried to take that advice to heart.  This book is certainly and encouragement to that end.