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Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  7,300 ratings  ·  262 reviews
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 eva ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published November 5th 1991 by IVP Academic (first published 1961)
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4.29  · 
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 ·  7,300 ratings  ·  262 reviews

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Douglas Wilson
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Excellent. Listened to it again in November 2016. Still excellent.
Jul 28, 2011 added it
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
An Idler
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A stout, plain-spoken defense of limited atonement and irresistible grace framed by a discussion of the necessity, technique, and goal of evangelism. Biblical fundamentals in an inclusive format, perfect for starting conversations.
John Gardner
Jun 19, 2011 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
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Matt Kottman
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, evangelism, 2016
This is a short read and a helpful treatment of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. It help deconstruct caricatures of views of evangelism.
Logan Maloney
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I read this book at the perfect time. I had been recently thinking through the questions that this book is all about. Definitely recommend it to anyone thinking through the relationship between God’s sovereignty and how that helps us understand evangelism better. Not the most exciting read but I learned a lot!
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very helpful, as I tend to be fearful in evangelizing, holding tightly to the idea that it just isn't my spiritual gifting. This book spurs me on to pray for more opportunities to share, to pray for those who will hear, and to pray that I would trust that His Word does not return void.
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, ministry
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
Jeremy Pynch
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel." - J. I. Packer

This book has challenged my approach in how I share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This has quickly become one of my favorite books. I plan on reading this again before 2017 is over! If you want a really good book on evangelism and the role that believe
Miroslav Balint-Feudvarski
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent!!! It is one of the most practical theology books (and only 127 pages!) that I've ever read! Every Christian should (re)read it!
Brendan Westerfield
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was first drawn to this book in need of help assessing the confusing and pertinent dichotomy of God's sovereignty and humanity's free will. J.I. Packer is one of the simplest and most talented teachers of doctrine, and having read pieces of "Knowing God", I knew this book would be no different in his pursuit of gospel truth.

The first 1/3 of the book addressed the aforementioned controversial topic, and deconstructed it using the Bible as his only source. This was both dissatisfying and refres
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would give this book 4.5/5 if I could. It is clear, concise, and punchy. It is obvious to me why this is a classic in the extant Reformed and Evangelical literature on evangelism.

Packer’s main thesis is that the biblical belief in the sovereign God both supports and impels earnest and confident evangelism. He also argues convincingly that evangelism is defined by its content (the gospel) and faithful practice (explanation and application for the purpose of conversion) rather than by its result
From chapter one: I do not intend to spend any time at all proving to you the general truth that God is sovereign in His world. There is no need; for I know that, if you are a Christian, you believe this already. How do I know that? Because I know that, if you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God's sovereignty is the basis of your prayers.

Sadly I don't think an author could get away with saying what Packer says in the opening of chapter one. It may have been safe to say this at
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent treatment of the doctrine of God's Sovereignty and evangelism. I would recommend this to those who are new to the doctrines of Grace, or those (especially) who believe themselves opposed to the idea of God's Sovereignty in salvation and the implications on evangelism.

I had one small quibble with Mr. Packer. On page 81/81, he goes into "friendship evangelism" suggesting that we have to win the right to share the Gospel in person to person evangelism. I wholeheartedly disagre
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an excellent read. Packer does an excellent job of connecting, as the title suggests, the sovereignty of God and evangelism. I won't attempt to summarize the book but rather will encourage anyone wanting to challenge their understanding of evangelism in light of who God is to read this great book. After reading this book, I feel encouraged to pray more, develop more meaningful relationships with others without such fear around sharing the gospel, and having patience in knowing salvation is ...more
Brient P
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Exactly what I expected. Packer demolishes any sort of doubts you might have with how election and the sovereignty of God relate to Evangelism. His writing is both easy to read and deep. He shows how the doctrine of election should motivate us to share the gospel.

I only take points off for one thing. Long chapters!
C.J. Moore
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my third time through this one. I still believe it's one of the best books relating a theological subject (the sovereignty of God and human "freedom") with a practical aspect of missions (evangelism).

Cannot recommend it enough.
Jeremy Kruizinga
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books, theology
This book is a must read for every Christian. It provides a good balance between doctrine, theology and biblical insight into a very important topic.
C.H. Cobb
May 12, 2012 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
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
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.

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 sove
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Eric Fults
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 12, 2012 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
Patrick McWilliams
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Evan Gartman
Apr 01, 2016 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
Zachary Thomas
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book!

Seriously, after personally hearing that those who hold to God sovereignty in salvation shouldn't believe in evangelism, this book does an excellent and fair job of completely destroying that false premise.

I only wish I read it earlier, this has given me more confidence in my evangelism and soothed my soul for the times when there was no fruit visible when evangelizing.

Whether you believe in election or not, this is a important read to combat against such a false pre
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.
Matt Tyler
Mar 03, 2015 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.
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.
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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
“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.” 8 likes
“Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator.” 6 likes
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