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Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God(IVP Classic) [Paperback]

By Packer J I (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   135
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 6.8" Width: 4.2" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2009
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830834125  
EAN  9780830834129  

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Item Description...
If God is in control of everything, can Christians sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all?

J. I. Packer shows in this new edition to the popular IVP Classics how both of these attitudes are false. In a careful review of the biblical evidence, he shows how a right understanding of God's sovereignty is not so much a barrier to evangelism as an incentive and powerful support for it.

Publishers Description
If God is in control of everything, can Christians sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all?J. I. Packer shows in this new edition to the popular IVP Classics how both of these attitudes are false. In a careful review of the biblical evidence, he shows how a right understanding of God's sovereignty is not so much a barrier to evangelism as an incentive and powerful support for it.With over 100,000 copies in print, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God is truly a classic that should be read by every Christian.

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More About Packer J I

J. I. Packer

J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.

Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks ( Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.

Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks ( Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the chancellor & CEO and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.

C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the ninth president of Southern Seminary and as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology. Considered a leader among American evangelicals by Time and Christianity Today magazines, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily radio program for the Salem Radio Network and also writes a popular daily commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Both can be accessed at

J. I. Packer currently resides in Vancouver, BC.

J. I. Packer has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Christian Basics Bible Studies
  2. Knowing the Bible
  3. Lifeguide Bible Studies
  4. Master Reference Collection
  5. Moody Classics
  6. Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer
  7. Theology of Lordship
  8. Through the Year Devotionals
  9. Treasures of John Owen for Today's Readers

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A must read for the evangelist  Aug 4, 2008
J. I. Packer's proposition is found in the introduction: most people may believe effective evangelism means pretending that God is not sovereign, but that is simply not true, and Packer aims to show why. Packer writes that God's sovereignty is the very doctrine that undergirds the entire enterprise of evangelism (p. 10). In developing this proposition, Packer deals briefly with the sovereignty of God, extensively with the nature and composition of evangelism, and finally with how those two interact. It is a persuasive book, and one that could be considered a definitive doctrinal statement on evangelism.

In the opening chapter, Packer briefly explains what he means by the term "divine sovereignty." The answer is succinct; he means the traditional, reformed, Calvinistic view of God's relation to creation. Noting that no Christian would glory in himself over his own salvation, and that all Christians pray for the salvation of others, Packer concludes that all Christians secretly believe in divine sovereignty. "On our feet we may all have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed" (17).

The books stated purpose is to explain how this secret belief shared by all Christians is actually the basis of evangelism. The most substantial (and helpful) portion of the book is Packer's thorough treatment of the nature of evangelism. He defines its basis: the glory of God, the greatness of salvation, and the commands of God. He defines its content: the nature of sin, the truth of Christ, belief and repentance. He gives the motivation: the glory of God and the love of the lost. He describes the method: proclaiming God's truth to our friends and acquaintances. The most helpful part was his description of the goal of evangelism: primarily it is to glorify God by proclaiming his truth; not to make converts. Beyond that, he also notes that true evangelism is not a call to merely believe in Jesus. Beyond the need for a decision, true evangelism is primarily a call to become a disciple of Christ and a servant of God.

The key to his description of evangelism is his statement that its goal is to glorify God. Weather Packer is willing to say so or not, his book is written polemically against the cartoon-illustrated, seeker-oriented, user-friendly evangelism prevalent in the occidental and American church. Most who drink at that shallow well justify their methods by claiming that the motive and goal of evangelism is to produce converts. Packer's point, and thus his antidote to the illness their view of evangelism causes, is that the goal of evangelism is to glorify God. The number of converts is left to God, and our job is to be used by God in proclaiming his truth.

Packer is both thorough and precise in his treatment of evangelism. Even though it is short, it is a substantial defense of the true nature of evangelism. He uses the Westminster Catechism with authority, giving the impression that his view of evangelism is nothing new. He quotes famous evangelists from history, showing that his view is shared by them. It adds an air of credibility demanded by those skeptical of the use of `evangelism' and `sovereignty' in the same sentence.

I read this book shortly after I became a Christian, and it largely shaped the way I view both evangelism and the sovereignty of God. It was good to reexamine it, as I found that the system of beliefs and theology that I have formed since then are in accord with its words and admonitions.
Great treament of touchy subject  Mar 12, 2008
Recommend: Yes

Genre: Evangelism


There is no doubt that in my mind -- from both personal experience and observation of those around me -- that there seems to be a tension with the thought of God being completely sovereign in the affairs of man, namely salvation in this context, and the thought of God requiring us to share the truth that we have with those who don't know it. "If God is truly sovereign over who gets saved and how they get saved," so the argument goes, "then there is really no point in me going out of my way in witnessing the gospel of Christ to unbelievers. God is in charge . . . and if they're going get saved with or without me then there is really no point in investing my time in evangelism."

Though sad to admit, this has become the pervasive thought of many Christians today. One of the many charges leveled against Calvinism and its emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation is that which I just brought up. "It doesn't make sense," they say.

Despite the arguments and the critiques, Scripture clearly presents both of these truths -- the sovereignty of God in saving sinners and the duty of Christians to evangelize (to share the gospel message of Christ and His saving work accomplished on the cross, received on the basis of faith). It is natural for the human mind to want to smooth out all the rough edges, as it were, to make it more comprehensible. Wanting to do this many err on either side. On the one hand you have those who emphasize the duty and responsibility of man to evangelize and they tend to leave God out of the equation in the process of salvation, as if salvation if all about man picking himself up by the bootstraps and gathering all the willpower to be saved. That of course has some real problems when you stop and ponder the biblical picture of man -- man without God -- and how utterly unable and unwilling they are to choose Christ in and of himself (e.g., Eph. 2:1-3; Tit. 3:3; Jer. 17:9, etc.).

But then we have those who overemphasize the sovereignty of God; so much so that we end up with a fatalistic system where man is seen simply as a robot, with no self-desire -- a mere puppet in the hands of a puppeteer. This, again, has some serious Bible to deal with. Passages are replete which emphasize the call to repent of sins, to turn to Christ, to come and choose life (e.g., Acts 17:30-31; Matt. 11:28-30, etc.). But within the context of evangelism, no passage is more clearer than Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB), which has been commonly referred to as the "Great Commission":

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

With such a controversial subject, J.I. Packer seeks to deal with it head-on, using the Bible as his guide and source. Though a short treatment of the subject, it doesn't lack in content. Packer has a way with words unlike many men whom I have read, which makes his ability to communicate effective and winsome.

Book Structure:

The book follows a simple outline. Packer first deals with the issue of divine sovereignty and how both Arminians and Calvinists find common ground on this issue. "On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed" (p. 17).

In chapter two the core issue is dealt with, divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He admits the apparent contradiction -- which Packer defines as an antinomy (def. "an antinomy . . . is an observed relation between two statements of fact. It is not deliberately manufactured; it is forced upon us by the facts themselves . . . We do not invent it, and we cannot explain it. Not is there any way to get rid of it, save by falsifying the very facts that led us to it" [p. 21]) -- and concludes that there is a certain mystery to this subject, but the Bible nonetheless teaches these two truths. Far it be from us to cast aside any of these truths which the Bible makes so clear.

Packer then addresses evangelism in chapter three with four questions which he answers throughout the chapter: 1. What is evangelism?; 2. What is the evangelistic message?; What is the motive for evangelizing?; 4. By what means and methods should evangelism be practised? This is a meaty chapter which is very enlightening.

And finally in chapter four, Packer goes back once more and talks about divine sovereignty and evangelism. Suffice it to say that Packer does a superb job in dealing with such a intricate and mysterious subject, such as this one, simply and effectively. In his final lines, Packer sums up the effects of the sovereignty of God in our evangelistic efforts:

"Not only does it undergird evangelism, and uphold the evangelist, by creating a hope of success that could not otherwise be entertained; it also teaches us to bind together preaching and prayer; and as it makes us bold and confident before men, so it makes us humble and importunate before God" (p. 125).

Notable Quotes:

* "While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves in not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument" (p. 27).
* "Evangelism is man's work, but the giving of faith is God's" (p. 40).
* "...It was the news about Jesus of Nazareth. It was the news of the incarnation, the atonement, and the kingdom-the cradle, the cross, and the crown-of the Son of God. It was the news of how God `glorified his servant Jesus' by making Him Christ, the world's long-awaited `Prince and . . . Savior'. It was the news of how God made His Son Man; and how, as Man, God made Him Priest, and Prophet, and King; and how, as Priest, God also made Him a sacrifice for sins; and how, as Prophet, God also made Him a Lawgiver to His people; and how, as King, God has also made Him Judge of all the world, and given Him prerogatives which in the Old Testament are exclusively Jehovah's own-namely, to reign till every knee bows before Him, and to save all who call on His name. In short, the good news was just this: that God has executed His eternal intention of glorifying Hos Son by exalting Him as a great Saviour for great sinners" (p. 47).
* "Regarded as a human enterprise, evangelism is a hopeless task. It cannot in principle produce the desired effect. We can preach, and preach clearly and fluently and attractively; we can talk to individuals in the most pointed and challenging way; we can organize special services, and distribute tracts, and put up posters, and flood the country with publicity-and there is not the slightest prospect that all this outlay of effort will bring a single soul home to God. Unless there is some other factor in the situation, over and above our own endeavours, all evangelistic actions foredoomed to failure. This is the fact, the brute, rock-bottom fact, that we have to face" (p. 109).
* "We may not trust in our methods of personal dealing or running evangelistic services, however excellent we may think them. There is no magic in methods, not even in theologically impeccable methods. When we evangelize, our trust must be in God who raises the dead. He is the almighty Lord who turns men's hearts, and He will give conversions in His own time. Meanwhile, our part is to be faithful in making the gospel known, sure that such labour will never be in vain. This is how the truth of the sovereignty of God's grace bears upon evangelism" (p. 117-8).


Conclusion is that Packer has given a great gift to the church is dealing with this issue and presenting a biblical (and logical, though mysterious) answer a question which often plagues the believer.

A great blessing is in store of the man that picks up this book. Need I add more?
Great explanation of why and how we should evangelize--God's got our back!  Oct 13, 2007
When we as Christians try to reach out to others to share the good news of the Gospel, it's so easy to fall into a trap of relying on our abilities and techniques (our own or those we learn from others). In this book, J.I. Packer lays out a clear case for why all such efforts are doomed to fail, unless we recognized that it's fruitless without God also moving in the life of a new believer.

So what does that mean? That we need not bother? Far from it! Further, if only the elect are saved, does God really need us? He does, and we need to understand why. It's all in the Bible, but just as good commentaries help us to understand the context of a passage, and relate it to systematic themes throughout the Bible, so too does Packer's book do the same to explain Evangelism and our role in it.

The book is divided neatly into 4 parts: Divine Sovereignty, Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility, Evangelism, and Divine Sovereignty & Evangelism. Though I was listening to an unabridged audiobook version, the presenter spoke the clear breakdown of the book's sections into numbered sections and subsections (often a few levels deep). This is a very clear, well-organized, and cogent work. Call it, "The Case for Evangelism". :-)

Of course, along the way, we're washed with lots of other essential truths that bear repeating. It's a classic, timeless, valuable book, and with the audio format I look forward to listening to it again and again, just as I have with Mere Christianity and other foundational books. Just like good sermons that press key points over and over in our lives, we can never hear enough of such expository truth. I recommend it for all.
Another great book by Packer  Oct 9, 2007
Packer has written an excellent text on evangelism alone in this book. That he deals with the intersection of the practice of evangelism with the concept of a completely sovereign God is a bonus.

Though he's not a C.S. Lewis, Packer does write very well and is very readable, though sometimes his notations and quotations seem more along the style of a half-century ago. But the issues and mindsets which he is addressing are active and attractive to many in this day, and thusly this work is very relevant.

I recommend this to all Christians, but especially pastors and those who have any questions about evangelism. This isn't a 'how to' book, and it doesn't really have a practical application section - but what Packer is dealing with here is more theological than anything else.

And it is a great encouragement and challenge to spread the Gospel. It's not too long and the reading isn't too heavy, so it is accessible and understandable by most anyone.
The Lord of the Harvest and His Workers!   Aug 10, 2007
What does a Christian believe about evangelism if one adheres to Reformed doctrine of God's sovereignty? Dr. Packer answers this question fully and concisely in this work, and his points are well made and are scripturally based. The book brings up many fine points regarding how we need to and are ordered to evangelize but on the firm foundation that God is Supreme. Dr. Packer begins by speaking of the antinomy of God's complete sovereignty over all creation and our responsibility to obey Him. Dr. Packer is well aware that his readers will be non Calvinists and from the onset of the book, seeks to bridge the gap between those with opposing viewpoints. He cites the historical dialogue between to preachers, Charles Simeon and Charles Wesley to portray the areas of common ground that we share rather than the differences the two groups face. From the Reformed theological base, he addresses a number of topics, such as how the Christian should boldly and accurately present Christ as Lord and Savior bearing in mind the importance of not mis-representing the Gospel. Another responsibility that is presented is the responsibility of the hearer of the Gospel, who must also turn from sin, receive forgiveness, and surrender to Christ.

Packer criticizes those who hold confidence in evangelistic techniques and methods rather in the Lord of the Harvest. He promotes that long term relationships where the Christian shares the Word of God and seeks to genuinely love others as a more costly, but also a more effective form of ministering to others. Furthermore, the truism that God calls us to pray for this world and those who are lost is written as the most essential element in succeeding in evangelism. Thereby, whether one is reformed in their doctrine or Arminian, Dr. Packer proclaims that without us trusting in the sovereignty of God that our best efforts will fall short since apart from Him we can do nothing.

This is a good book that can be a great source of encouragement for those who seek to share Christ with others.

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