Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God is a historical masterpiece. Though the title would seem to indicate that a final and ultimate explanation of these realities has been elucidated satisfactorily, the contrary is the case. J.I. Packer is not interested in “reconciling friends” as Spurgeon explained (at least in a philosophical sense). His main theme is that the reality of these two Biblical truths–God’s sovereignty and evangelism–must significantly challenge our thinking in the field of evangelism. His thoroughgoing Calvinism does not hinder his rich application, but rather strengthens it. As it is stated, the Calvinist “will be able to evangelize better for believing it” (126). It is the certainty that this theology is Biblical that enables the true evangelist to place his trust on the author of faith -– God Himself.
The most profound insight Packer’s classic offers is his ability to bring seemingly contradictory realities into a single book. In the end, the reader finds comfort, stability and the recognition that God’s sovereignty and evangelism are complementary and utterly dependable on one another. The writer instills this truth in his readers with utmost delicacy and sensitivity to this critical question in biblical history. Another strength of Dr. Packer is his observation that even the Arminian must come to grasp the concept of God’s sovereignty. When he prays that God would intervene in the salvation of his friend or family, unconsciously he is depending that the sovereign grace of our God may change the heart of stone and makes it into a heart of flesh. However, one critique, perhaps the only one this reviewer has to offer, concerns Packer’s omission in dealing with the famous evangelistic crusades of his time and even of our times in the 21st century. This reviewer feels rather strongly against such practices and would have preferred that J.I. Packer would offer a critique of such practices rather than leaving it to further discussion. Of course, anyone familiar with Jim Packer’s writings is aware of the irenic spirit and the gracious tone of this godly man. Hence this critique is perhaps unwarranted, but still a critique nevertheless.
This classic reveals an unpopular application to the modern Christian thinker. One who is concerned with the evangelistic enterprise will notice that the common “handing out pamphlets” or even “knocking on doors” is not the most effective approach to evangelism. Rather, the approach he offers is that of establishing relationships. Instead of bombarding the lost with undefined biblical slogans, we need to approach our neighbor with love and a genuine desire to know them and their needs. This will enable the believer to understand who they are evangelizing and how to better approach them with the gospel.