Tag Archives: J.I. Packer

What is an Evangelistic Sermon?

Still plugging through Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God and have appreciated J.I.’s thoughts on what constitutes evangelistic preaching:

“It is a mistake to suppose that evangelistic sermons are a special brand of sermons, having their own peculiar style and conventions; evangelistic sermons are just scriptural sermons, the sort of sermons that a man cannot help preaching if he is preaching the Bible biblically.  Proper sermons seek to expound and apply what is in the Bible.  But what is in the Bible is just the whole counsel of God for man’s salvation; all Scripture bears witness, in one way or another, to Christ, and all Biblical themes relate to Him.  All proper sermons, therefore, will of necessity declare Christ in some fashion, and so be more or less directly evangelistic.  Some sermons, of course, will aim more narrowly and exclusively at converting sinners than do others.  But you cannot present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bible presents Him, as God’s answer to every problem in the sinner’s relationship with Himself, and not be in effect evangelistic all the time.”  (Chapter 3)

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Don’t Throw the Truth (or Chicken) at the Lost

I’ve been rereading J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God today and appreciated his understanding of Paul’s evangelistic impulse as the extension of his love for his neighbor.  Speaking for myself, I would much rather throw truth at my neighbor and expect him to catch it barehanded.  But, as Packer explains, Paul wasn’t like that:

“Paul sought to save men; and because he sought to save them, he was not content merely to throw truth at them; but he went out of his way to get alongside them, and to start thinking with them from where they were, and to speak to them in terms that they could understand, and above all to avoid everything that would prejudice them against the Gospel, and so put stumbling-blocks in their path.  In his zeal to maintain truth he never lost sight of the needs and claims of people.  His aim and object in all his handling of the Gospel, even in the heat of the polemics which contrary views evoked, was never less than to win souls, by converting those whom he saw as his neighbors to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Chapter 3).

I want to be changed into the kind of man who is more zealous to pursue relationships with those with whom I disagree for the Gospel’s sake than I am jealous to defend my own freedom.  I’m not there.  But I want to be.

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All Christians Believe God is Sovereign

          “What is true is that all Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it.  What causes this odd state of affairs?  The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the Church—the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic.

           “People see that the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions.  They are not content to let the two truths live side by side, as they do in the Scriptures, but jump to the conclusion that, in order to uphold the Biblical truth of human responsibility, they are bound to reject the equally Biblical and equally true doctrine of divine sovereignty, and to explain away the great number of texts that teach it. 

            “The desire to over-simplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even good men should fall victim to it.  Hence this persistent and troublesome dispute.  The irony of the situation, however, is that when we ask how the two sides pray, it becomes apparent that those who profess to deny God’s sovereignty really believe in it just as strongly as those who affirm it. 

            “How, then, do you pray?  Do you ask God for your daily bread?  Do you thank God for your conversion?  Do you pray for the conversion of others?  If the answer is ‘no,’ I can only say that I do not think you are yet born again.  But if the answer is ‘yes’—well, that proves that, whatever side you may have taken in debates on this question in the past, in your heart you believe in the sovereignty of God no less firmly than anyone else.  On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed.”

 J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, pp.16-17.  

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