Item description for Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer & Grover Gardener...
Overview If God is in control of everything, does that mean the Christian can sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism simply imply that God is not sovereign at all? J.I. Packer shows in this classic study how false both these attitudes are. 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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Studio: Hovel Audio
Running Time: 196.00 minutes
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.52" Width: 5.64" Height: 0.59" Weight: 0.22 lbs.
Binding MP3 CD
Release Date Sep 1, 2005
Publisher Hovel Audio
ISBN 1596440902 ISBN13 9781596440906
Availability 0 units.
More About J. I. Packer & Grover Gardener
J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) is a member of the board of governors and professor of theology at Regent College.
J. I. Packer has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God?
Read it and Share the Gospel! Nov 3, 2008
I had read J.I. Packer's classic Knowing God soon after I had become a Christian. Knowing God has been a foundational book in understanding the character and attributes of God. An attribute that is particularly clear throughout Scripture is God's absolute sovereignty. God is sovereign over all activity under heaven, and He is sovereign in the salvation of sinners. Equally clear throughout Scripture, believers are commanded to be evangelizing, i.e. sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. What is the relationship between both of these imperatives? If God is sovereign in salvation (and He is), how does that impact a Christian understanding of evangelism? If there are some that are chosen to salvation, does it matter whether or not we share the gospel since it is already foreordained?
Packer's objective in writing this book: "The aim of the discourse is to dispel the suspicion...that faith in the absolute sovereignty of God hinders a full recognition and acceptance of evangelistic responsibility, and to show that, on the contrary, only this faith can give Christians the strength that they need to fulfill their evangelistic task." (page 8)
How should we view evangelism in light of God's sovereignty? - Recognize that we are not responsible for the securing of converts. Only God can accomplish this. "Only by letting our knowledge of God's sovereignty control the way in which we plan and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty in the fault [of thinking we are the agents of the new birth]." (page 29) - View divine sovereignty and human sovereignty as working together. We may not understand, but our lack of understanding makes neither any less true. We should not "over-simplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries..." or "subject scripture to the supposed demands of human logic." (page 16) -- Christ both came to specifically save those whom the Father had given Him, but also offers Himself freely to all men as Savior, and guarantees to bring to glory everyone who trusts in Him as such (John 6:8) (page 102-103) - Do not define evangelism in terms of achieved results. Instead, it is the faithful preaching of the Gospel. The results are God's responsibility (page 41). We are steward's of the message (page 42) - Understand that evangelism is not just a matter of informing sinners, but also inviting them. It is an attempt to gain, win, or catch our fellow man for Christ (as fishermen's work) (page 50). - Present the Gospel as a summoning for faith and repentance. It is a Command by God to repent and believe the Gospel (Acts 17:30) (page 70). Our goal in presenting the Gospel is "to lead sinners to abandon all confidence in themselves and to trust wholly in Christ and the power of His redeeming blood to give them acceptance with God." (page 71) - In sharing the Gospel, we should "ask for grace to be truly ashamed of ourselves, and to pray that we may so overflow in love to God that we shall overflow in love to our fellow-men, and so find it an easy and natural and joyful thing to share with them the good news of Christ." (page 78) - Test new "methods" of evangelism by this: will it in fact serve the word? Does it clarify the meaning of the message? Or rather, does it overlay and obscure the realities of the message, or blunt the edge of the application? (more tests of methods on page 87-90)
This week, I was discussing the reality of God's sovereignty with a man who had left our church fellowship over this issue. Among other arguments, he expressed that a complete acceptance of God's sovereignty in salvation would diminish the need to evangelize. Oh, how I wish I could convince this man otherwise! As this book so persuasively argues, faithful, Biblical evangelism is nothing but buttressed by a complete acceptance of our God's sovereign hand.
Nice work on the Great Commission Sep 16, 2008
I recently determined to read some books on evangelism because it is both an area of conviction and personal weakness for me. I am ashamed to admit that most of my evangelism to date has been done electronically on my blog site or in the comments section of other people's blogs or discussions. But there is a growing burden on me to share the gospel with the people God has placed in my life, and it is a burden I am praying God increases until there is no escaping it within my conscience.
"Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God" is the first of a handful books I have purposed to read to strengthen my resolve. I liked this little book by J.I. Packer. It was not overly long or verbose, about 125 pages in length. It is broken up into four chapters:
Packer begins with the premise and presupposition that God is sovereign, which may or may not be a point of contention for some. I liked the way he dismantled any argument against God's sovereignty in the first few pages of the book, and I appreciated the little story about Charles Simeon's account with a conversation he had with John Wesley in December of 1784. I won't take the time to reprint it here. I enjoyed it all the more because I picked this book up and started reading it just a few days after a friend of mine from church related the story to me; I believe he had heard it on the Way of the Master radio program.
Packer focuses on the Apostle Paul and what we can learn from him concerning evangelism. Chapter 3 points out some of the different ways that Paul referred to his role of an evangelist: steward, herald, ambassador, preacher, and teacher. Packer gave some insight into the Greek words and meanings inferred, which I found pretty interesting.
The last chapter really made the book, though. He gave several scripture references along with his explanation of man's sinful and spiritually dead state, and drove home the point that even if we are saved and sharing the gospel like we have been commissioned, we are still incapable of producing results by our own efforts. That does not mean that we should not make an effort, but it underscores both the underlying and overriding need for God to perform the work of bringing the dead to life. He does a good job of demonstrating both our responsibility and God's sovereignty in the work of evangelism, and he also makes an excellent point that our evangelistic efforts need to be sustained and steeped in prayer. He writes:
"For about a century now, it has been characteristic of evangelical Christians (rightly or wrongly--we need not discuss that here) to think of evangelism as a specialized activity, best done in short sharp bursts (`missions' or `campaigns'), and needing for its successful practice a distinctive technique, both for preaching and for individual dealing. At an early stage in this period, Evangelicals fell into the way of assuming that evangelism was sure to succeed if it was regularly prayed for and correctly run."
He adds a bit later on how we should be empowered by a proper understanding of God's sovereignty, and that it should result in our being more bold, patient, and prayerful. He speaks to each one of those briefly but powerfully. In speaking of patience, I think he touched on something that is perhaps the most challenging work of true evangelism in our society today. Packer writes:
"We need to remember that we are all children of our age, and the spirit of our age is a spirit of tearing hurry. And it is a pragmatic spirit; it is a spirit that demands quick results. The modern ideal is to achieve more and more by doing less and less. This is the age of the labour-saving device, the efficiency chart, and automation. The attitude which all this breeds is one of impatience towards everything that takes time and demands sustained effort. Ours tends to be a slapdash age; we resent spending time doing things thoroughly. This spirit tends to infect our evangelism (not to speak to other departments of our Christianity), and with disastrous results. We are tempted to be in a hurry with those whom we would win to Christ, and then, when we see no immediate response in them, to become impatient and downcast, and then to lose interest in them, and feel that it is useless to spend more time on them; and so we abandon our efforts forthwith, and let them drop out of our ken. But this is utterly wrong. It is a failure both of love for man and of faith in God."
He goes on to say, "The idea that a single evangelistic sermon, or a single serious conversation ought to suffice for the conversion of anyone who is ever going to be converted is really silly." He discusses the need for persistence and patience with those whom you are evangelizing. But persistence and patience by themselves are still not sufficient; there must be prayer. As the last chapter draws to a close, Packer writes:
"We said earlier in this chapter that this doctrine does not in any way reduce or narrow the terms of our evangelistic commission. Now we see that, so far from contracting them, it actually expands them. For it faces us with the fact that there are two sides to the evangelistic commission. It is a commission, not only to preach, but also to pray; not only to talk to men about God, but also to talk to God about men. Preaching and prayer must go together; our evangelism will not be according to knowledge, nor will it be blessed, unless they do."
Good book. I have a few others in the same vein to read, but I will most likely come back to this and read it again because I'm sure I will benefit from a second time around.
Peace & Blessings, Simple Mann
Nothing Is Excluded From God's Sovereign Rule Sep 15, 2008
There are those who think that if a person believes in 'The Doctrines Of Grace' that this will either be a hindrance to,or completely erode ones evangelistic zeal. In truth it is a defective understanding of 'The Five Points...'(or the inability to comprehend how God can be Sovereign yet man is still completely responsible for all of his actions)that can have an adverse effect on our evangelistic mindset. The purpose of this book is to try and reconcile and bring Biblical light to bear upon these truths. Mr.Packer sees the problem as an antinomy("...a contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical")the problem being how God can be in control over everything and yet man is still accountable for all of his actions. I think the authors explanation and insight are right on the money when he writes on p.18"for the whole point of an antinomy -in theology ,at any rate-is that it is not a real contradiction,though it looks like one.It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths." There is much in 'Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God'that is hepful on evangelism in general:including an excellent definition of evangelism,the manner and proper attitiude with which evangelism should be conducted and the motives for evangelism-1.God commands it.2.Love for our neighbor necessitates it 3. the unspeakable privilege to serve and speak for the living God and gratitude for what the Lord has done for us should fuel our evangelistic fires. In the last two chapters there is some brief historical analysis as to how we have arrived where we are in the present generation with regard to our evangelistic practices. A great deal that is defective in modern evangelism is exposed. I think that a proper understanding of God's Sovereignty cannot help but have this effect. If the believing readers evangelistic zeal has waned this book can help rekindle the evangelistic flame. Any misconceptions concerning how to measure the sucess of ones evangelistic efforts should be cleared up as well. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God should not only clarify any concerns with reconcilling the Sovereignty of God and how it relates to mans responsibility but there is much help in the areas of evangelistic methodolgy and exortation with regard to evangelistic duty. First publihed in 1961,if it is not already considered a modern Christian classic by many,it should be.
Mission Active Aug 29, 2008
'All theological topics contain pitfalls for the unwary, for God's truth is never quite what man would have expected.' pg 18
Advice for parishioners and missionaries comes in biblical sound-bytes from a theologian - admissibly one of the church's best. With this sound warning Dr Packer then adroitly manoeuvres between the issues that others get bogged down in, with determination to resolve issues and not let them stand. And, yes, theologians have practical experience and are able to afford genuine insight into the grind of common mission life - this book is light enough to remind us that it serves that purpose.
'Wherever, and by whatever means the gospel is communicated with a view to conversion, there you have evangelism. Evangelism is to be defined, not institutionally, in terms of the kind of meeting held, but theologically, in terms of what is taught, and for what purpose.' pg 57
Oh yes! I might mention that controversy, paradox and duplicity are honestly discussed between these pages.
'An antimony exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable.' pg 18
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.