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 classic study 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.
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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.
The first chapter (of four total) is where Arminian claims start to unravel. After all, listen to how someone prays for those who are not yet Christians
This would be a good introduction to the topic of God’s Sovereignty for anyone - however you might answer that same question. The reading can be plodding at times, but at least Packer is clear and precise.