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Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  5,076 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
The mystery and seeming paradox between evangelism and God's sovereignty has been causing disagreements and confusion among Christians since the beginning of the 20th century. In Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer reveals that a faulty understanding of the Bible leads to the assessment that these doctrines are foes rather than friends. By debunking the er ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published December 12th 1961 by InterVarsity Press (first published 1961)
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I think that every professing Christian should read this book, or (at the very least) those who go on mission trips/evangelistic outings. J.I. Packer delivers a comprehensive, but still brief, explanation of the seemingly incompatible relationship between human responsibility in evangelism and God’s sovereignty in salvation. There are many Christians who say that believers who emphasize the sovereignty of grace and unconditional election do so to the neglect of human responsibility and divine ac ...more
John Gardner
Jun 19, 2011 John Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently re-read this "classic" (if that word can apply to books while the authors are still living) since this year marks the 50th anniversary of its publishing. This is one of the greatest treatments on the subject of how Christians are to reconcile God's sovereignty with man's responsibility, and something I consider an absolute "must-read" for every Christian.

Debate has raged for centuries about this topic, yet I know of no more helpful book to address it. Most Christians tend to overempha
Ryan Tankersley
Feb 18, 2016 Ryan Tankersley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
Depending on the background of the reader, this book could be either eye-opening, infuriating, or a great way to refocus on the fundamentals of evangelism.

Eye-opening for those who have never considered the sovereignty of God in evangelism, infuriating for those who strongly disagree with it, and refocusing for those who know it already.

I was in the latter camp, so that is the perspective the review will be written from.

The author takes the first half of the book to explain three truths can exis
Evan Gartman
Apr 01, 2016 Evan Gartman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though some believe that a high view of God's sovereignty discourages evangelism and promotes fatalism, Packer argues in his book "... The sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility-- indeed, the certainty-- that evangelism will be fruitful." I found this book to be very encouraging and refreshing to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel. God's sovereignty motivates me to go forth in boldness, declaring The Gospel, ...more
Eric Fults
Jan 20, 2016 Eric Fults rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome and refreshing read. Packer does an awesome job at holding the two concepts of man's responsibility and divine sovereignty together in truth. He affirms that we are called to evangelize and that God's sovereignty in salvation does not remove our need to do so, but he also comforts and encourages that a belief in God's sovereignty in evangelism is our only hope of success, since God is the one who wields the power to change hearts. Packer provided awesome logical arguments for God's sover ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J.I. Packer has an amazing gift for explaining theology with great clarity and brevity. He begins by brushing aside objections to belief in God's sovereignty by claiming that every Christian who prays at all, who thanks God for their own salvation, and who prays for the salvation of others undeniably demonstrates belief that God is sovereign. In chapter 2 he outlines the classic antinomy of God's sovereignty vs human responsibility -- two concepts which are clearly biblical truths, but cannot be ...more
C.H. Cobb
May 12, 2012 C.H. Cobb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To have published a single literary work that becomes a classic is a notable accomplishment. Publishing two gives the writer a corner on contemporary Christians’ reading lists. James Inverness Packer has accomplished just that. Packer is well-known for his landmark book, Knowing God , which first was published in 1973. This is not a review of that book, but if you have not read it you should. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (first published, 1961) is the other classic Packer has written ...more
May 21, 2009 Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book that answered a lot of big questions for me, especially as an evangelism coordinator for InterVarsity. J.I. Packer clearly explains the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility as an antimony; that is, both are true and from the bible and seem to contradict each other, yet they don't. Alas, Packer does a much better job unpacking (pun not intended!) this than I can. Packer then also connects this relationship to evangelism; what it is, what is its purpose/goa ...more
Matt Tyler
Mar 04, 2015 Matt Tyler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Simply excellent!

There are only a few books that I would recommend for all Christians to read. This is most definitely one of them.

If someone asks me for a book on evangelism, I recommend this one.

If someone asks me for a book on the sovereignty of God, I recommend this one.

Truly a must read. You will enjoy it and be blessed.
Easily the best book I've ever read on evangelism. Packer is clear, concise, profoundly theological and yet practical at the same time. Only 122 pages yet brilliantly outlines how God's sovereignty fits perfectly with the commands to evangelize. Our evangelism (and our Christian faith) must hold together God's sovereignty and human responsibility in tension, as the Bible does.
Patrick McWilliams
Good book that successfully refutes the anti-Calvinist assertion that the doctrines of unconditional election, effectual calling, and particular redemption somehow impede the motivation of evangelism. However, the book cripples its own argument by an odd insistence that the truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility form an insoluble antinomy in Scripture. Ironically, I think Packer, in this very book, does a pretty good job of showing how the two doctrines logically cohere. (For a cle ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Cristina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on our role in evangelism, which is unquestionably the work of God. The author warns against both extremes (trying to evangelize on our own power using the latest techniques and foregoing evangelism altogether because it it God who turns hearts) and presents a solid Biblical middle ground. He argues that the doctrine of divine sovereignty and our evangelistic duty are not opposites, but work together for the salvation of souls in a Biblical manner.

The only thing I regret about this b
Mike E.
A short, classic work which is helpful for Christians seeking understanding related to sharing the gospel and God's sovereignty. Packer introduces the reader to compatibilism or an "antinomy" as contrasted with a "paradox."

Antinomy: "an appearance of contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable or necessary."

A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man's image and theref
Eric Durso
Oct 31, 2015 Eric Durso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read back in 2011, and just read again in 2015. Went from a 4-star to a 5-star. Great book.
May 30, 2016 Jrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is easy to read. You can read it in one sitting, really.

My favorite portion of the entire book is found in the beginning:

“I [am not] going to spend time proving to you the particular truth that God is sovereign in salvation. For that… you believe already. Two facts show this. In the first place, you give God thanks for your conversion. Now why do you do that? Because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You did not save yourself; He saved you. Your thanksgi
Feb 08, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For he knew that if Christ had opened the door for him to make known the gospel in a place, that meant that it was Christ's purpose to draw sinners to himself in that place." - pg. 113

"the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless." - pg. 104

"God gives people what they choose, not the opposite of what they choose." - pg. 104

"The belief that God is sovereign in grace does not affect the responsibility of the sinner for his reaction to the gospel.
Catherine Gillespie
J.I. Packer describes his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God as “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 book, which is short and accessibly written but still meaty, does a good job of explaining how an appreciation for God’s sovereignty actually equips and underscores evangelism, rather than rendering it moot.

I enjoyed Packer’s writing
Stephen Hiemstra
We live at a time of spiritual lethargy, which is often rightly equated with laziness. In part, this lethargy is the result of philosophical postmodernism that winsomely accepts ideas in obvious tension. Tension arises when my reality and your reality differ, but rather than work out the differences we just ignore the tension, as if it would just go away. But when the subject turns to God, this tension will not simply go away because God’s salvation is not defined by our convenient, custom reali ...more
Ben Potloff
Apr 20, 2016 Ben Potloff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've recently studied and read a lot about the relationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility and this book is definitely one of my favorites. Obviously, there are bigger and more in-depth books on this topic, but I really liked this one because of it's clarity and conciseness. Rather than a philosophical approach, Packer focuses on what God has clearly revealed in the Scriptures and encourages the reader to be okay with landing in a place of tension and mystery. Rather then ove ...more
Ryan Linkous
Feb 01, 2015 Ryan Linkous rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very helpful book as far as the why and how of evangelism. It doesn't teach evangelistic method, but it provides the philosophical and biblical grounds for Christian evangelization. Packer concisely and amicably deals with important topics such as God's sovereignty and human responsibility. Wha makes Packer compelling is his obvious zeal for personal evangelism and his obvious love and passion for God's glory. He doesn't make the evangelistic message any more complex than it needs to b ...more
Jason Harris
Feb 10, 2016 Jason Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1961, this brief classic is well worth the read.

Let me sum up my take on its message for...

Anti-Calvinists - If you say that Calvinism deters evangelism, you don't know what Calvinism is.
Non-Calvinists - You wouldn't evangelise the way you do if you weren't more Calvinist than you think you are.
Calvinists - God has people all around you who must hear the gospel to be saved. Go preach Jesus Christ. You cannot fail!
Hyper-Calvinists - You are disobedient to the clear teaching of Scriptur
Steve Hemmeke
Aug 23, 2014 Steve Hemmeke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I only read the third section, on evangelism, about 55 pages, in preparing for a sermon. The other sections address why we should evangelize if God is sovereign.

A solid and biblically grounded review of evangelism. It is not the same as conversion, but aims at it. We represent Christ as His ambassador, and speak truth about Him, inviting others to turn away from sin and trust Him as their Savior and Lord. We do this to glorify God and love our neighbor. I thought the way Packer addressed l
Micah Lugg
I loved this book. There is a reason that it is an evangelical classic.

Packer tackles some big theological territory in only few pages. It strengthened my belief in the sovereignty of God, encouraged me to engage in evangelism, and shepherded my heart closer to Christ.

I highly recommend it.
Peter B.
Jun 22, 2013 Peter B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
Packer does a good job dealing with the relation between evangelism and the sovereignty of God, namely, that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility do not conflict, but complement each other (despite the antinomy they create), and that God's sovereignty gives us our only hope in evangelism.
Mattandbecky Hancock
This little classic on Evangelism was published over 50 years ago, and in my estimation will continue to be read for decades to come. Though I already firmly believe the truths for which Packer argued, I have never read these truths stated before with such concise precision. In the Foreword, Packer describes his book as 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 evangel ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Marcel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saber que Deus é soberano na salvação nos encoraja, nos traz paciência, nos consola e nos traz perseverança para continuarmos a fazer a nossa tarefa, que é anunciar as boas-novas! Os frutos surgirão da graça divina e ocorrerão para a glória de Deus!
Erika Schanzenbach
May 21, 2016 Erika Schanzenbach rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent little book. Focused. Helpful. Practical. It will be a good one to re-read periodically.
May 31, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly simple and concise treatment of an amazingly complex and mysterious topic. Packer explains that God's sovereignty actually undergirds evangelism and gives us hope in its usefulness and success, because it all depends on Him; He makes it possible.

Packer goes into depth explaining what evangelism really is (or should be), why we should do it, and how we should do it. This includes a good description of the gospel message, what our role in God's plans are, and what our methods should
Michelle Han
Apr 15, 2014 Michelle Han rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wrestling with some questions and this book is very helpful about a Christian believer's role in light of the doctrine of God's sovereign control over everything.
Mike Knox
Jan 02, 2014 Mike Knox rated it it was amazing
Clarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’s sovereignty will hinder evangelism (7-8)

Charles Simeon’s conversation with John Wesley (13-14): following is an excerpt

“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance…and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phras
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  • Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People
  • Redemption Accomplished and Applied
  • The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
  • The Sovereignty of God
  • The Gospel & Personal Evangelism
  • Christianity and Liberalism
  • A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
  • Chosen By God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children
  • The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented
  • Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again?
  • The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
  • Systematic Theology
  • Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel
  • Lectures on Calvinism
  • The Cross of Christ
  • The Trellis And The Vine
What do J. I. Packer, Billy Graham and Richard John Neuhaus have in common? Each was recently named by TIME magazine as among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

Dr. Packer, the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College, was hailed by TIME as “a doctrinal Solomon” among Protestants. “Mediating debates on everything from a particular Bible translation to the acceptabi
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“A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man's image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all.” 5 likes
“Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator.” 4 likes
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