Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God is a book that was first penned by J.I. Packer in 1961.  The edition I read is an IVP Classics with a foreword by Mark Dever.  This short book is very readable for the topic that is covered.  When you start talking about the Sovereignty of God one might think that this is brain food for theologians and scholars of the highest degree.  Packer doesn’t travel this road and makes his subject at hand very readable.  The IVP Classics version comes in at 135 pages long.

I received this book as an attendee of the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference and as soon as I got it I wanted to read it to see what Packer had to say.  If anyone has been around evangelical circles for any amount of time one will usually hear this argument against the doctrines of grace, “If God is sovereign in man’s salvation, then this negates the need for evangelism.  If God already knows who is saved then why do I need to evangelize?”  Packer seeks to dispel this faulty argument with this book by arguing that the sovereignty of God doesn’t negate evangelism, on the contrary, the sovereignty of God in salvation is the backbone of evangelism.

Packer gives the purpose of his book as thus, “It is a piece of biblical and theological reasoning, designed to clarify the relationship between three realities: God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility and the Christian’s evangelistic duty.  The last of these is its proper subject: divine sovereignty and human responsibility are discussed only so far as they bear on evangelism.  The aim of the discourse is to dispel the suspicion…that faith in the absolute sovereignty of God inders 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.”

The book is split into four chapters: Chapter 1 – Divine Sovereignty; Chapter 2 – Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility; Chapter 3 – Evangelism; Chapter 4 – Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism.

Packer spends little time on the contents of Chapter 1.  He states that we are all believers in the sovereignty of God because of the way we pray.  He also states that we are all believers in the sovereignty of God in salvation because of the way we give thanks to God for our conversion, and because we pray for the conversion of others.  If there could be one negative to the whole book it might be this; this is all the argument that Packer gives for Divine Sovereignty.  But this isn’t unexpected as can be seen in his purpose statement.  If you want a more thorough treatment of divine sovereignty I would recommend A. W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God.

In terms of volume Chapter 3 is the meat and potatoes of the book.  Packer gives a great argument for the necessity and oughtness of evangelism by giving a thorough examination of four questions: What is evangelism? What is the evangelistic message? What is the motive for evangelizing? By what means and methods should evangelism be practiced?

For me Chapter 4 was what I was looking for Packer to answer.  At the beginning of the chapter he sums up what he has written so far and then gets to two propositions.  Packer says the biblical answer to how Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism work together may be stated in two propositions:  1.) The sovereignty of God in grace does not affect anything that we have said about the nature and duty of evangelism.  2.) The sovereignty of God in grace gives us our only hope of success in evangelism.  It is here Packer takes all that he has uncovered and shown from scripture and weaves them together.  I found this chapter to be the most helpful of all.

I recommend adding this book to your family library.  You can follow the link above to find a good price on the book.  Buy the book, you won’t be disappointed.

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