If God is sovereign, do we really need to witness to our neighbors or send missionaries to other countries or stand on a box at the beach to preach the gospel? Won’t God take care of the salvation of the people who are hearing the message in these various witnessing experiences? That is the question that many ask. J. I. Packer wrote a book to answer the question. It’s called Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. It’s our book of the Month. And it’s one of the best books on evangelism you will ever read.
It’s only four chapters long, but they are chapters full of valuable teaching that makes this difficult subject easier to understand. Chapter 1, Divine Sovereignty, basically makes it clear that you do believe in it. You believe that God is in control because you are thankful for your salvation. You don’t thank yourself because you know God did it. You also believe in it because you pray for others to be saved. You don’t pray that they will save themselves. God is the only One who can save anyone. So Divine Sovereignty is not a problem.
What about human responsibility? Chapter 2, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, shows that we are responsible to tell others about Christ. It is clear from the commands of scripture that Christians are to be involved in evangelistic work.
But that is not to take away from an opposite problem, that of under emphasizing God who provides the fruit from that work. Packer writes, “Our evangelistic work is the instrument he uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument.” There is the answer to this difficult question in a nutshell. He concludes the chapter by pointing out that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies, but friends who work together.
So, if we are responsible to evangelize, how should we do it? Chapter 3, Evangelism provides the why, the what, and the how of evangelism. Why should we evangelize? To bring glory to God and because we love our neighbor. What is evangelism? Packer answers by telling us both what evangelism is (going into the world as Christ’s agent to “teach sinners the truth of the gospel with a view to converting and saving them”) and the message (it’s about God, our sin, Christ, and faith and repentance). He provides excellent explanations for each of these points.
How should we evangelize? He doesn’t give exact advice, but a key principle that must be applied to whatever approach is used. Here it is:
…the faithful explanation and application of the gospel message. From which it follows-that the test for any proposed strategy, technique or style of evangelistic action must be this: will it in fact serve the word? Is it calculated to be a means of explaining the gospel truly and fully and apply it deeply and exactly?
Finally, chapter 4, Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism, Packer answers the big question: if God is in control and “has already fixed the future by his decree and resolved whom he will save and whom not-how does this bear on our duty to evangelize?” To tell you his answer would be like giving you the ending of a story that you are reading. You need to read it. But I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with obedience and success. Again, excellent explanations are given to help you understand these vital points.
This is a book that is a must-have and must-read. In fact, you should read it often. Once a year is probably not enough! It won’t take long, and it will have an impact on your life.