Book ReviewsEvangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer, 1961, 126 pp.; InterVarsity Press $5.95.
Almost 30 years ago God sent this little volume across my path and He used it not just to tune up my evangelistic efforts but to give my evangelism a complete overhaul.
Dr. Packer became my mentor in evangelism. I was so helped and excited about it that since that time I have personally distributed over 3,000 copies.
It is the expansion of an address given on October 24, 1959, at the Pre-Mission Conference of the London Inter-Faculty Christian Union.
It does not purport to be a blueprint for evangelistic action today, but it does clearly set out biblical principles for any evangelistic efforts.
It is not an examination of all the modern methods of evangelism but rather, lays down the relevant principles for God-centered evangelism.
It is the finest piece of biblical and theological reasoning in print to clarify the relationship between God's Sovereignty and man's responsibility in the great work of evangelism.
Dr. Packer answers the two most asked questions: If God is in control of everything, does that mean the Christian can sit back, and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all?
The author shows how a proper biblical understanding of God's sovereignty is not a hindrance to evangelism but an encouragement, an incentive and a powerful support for evangelism.
His very definition of evangelism should cause every sincere Christian to own it, to read it, study it and distribute it.
To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ to sinful men in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.
No, this book is not a must--it is an ABSOLUTE MUST.
I am delighted to review Bonar's small treatise on a "living ministry." This little booklet was given to me fourteen years ago by Pastor Walt Chantry. He stated then that his own practice is to work through it once or twice every year. Since then I have adopted the same practice.
This is 48 pages of constant conviction. A Scottish Presbyterian preacher of 1866, Bonar has much to teach us "evangelistic baptists" about the subject of soulwinning -- from a sovereign grace foundation. These "smart bombs" of undisputed truth target the coldness, complacency, and barrenness of our ministries--ministries that otherwise convince onlookers that we are doing the work of the gospel ministry.
To Bonar, the fruitfulness of our ministries is the winning of souls and the edifying of believers (with emphasis upon the former). To Bonar, life begets life. Where a minister's own private walk with the Saviour causes his ministry to be "drenched in Christ" and in the issues of eternity, and where there exists the attendant signs of seriousness, boldness, and broken-heartedness, there will be fruit. To be sure, he would say, the amount of fruit will vary from man to man as God has sovereignly dealt to every man the measure of faith. Nevertheless, the tendency to rest in ministerial busy-ness, fulfilling all our pastoral duties, even with business-like precision, while excusing the fact that sinners are not being changed, and that there is no sorrowing over sin, nor any broken hearts seeking after God for mercy, can be nothing but a cop-out--laying the result of our laxness at the door of the sovereignty of God. Might we be strangers to soul anguish and urgency? Might our time be found consumed with lesser things? Might we be ministerially acceptable yet lukewarm?
The fourth chapter of the five is part of a ministerial confession of sin, composed by a gathering of Church of Scotland ministers in 1651. From this, Bonar launches off into stating fourteen areas of specific sins pertinent to the work of the ministry. This chapter is powerful! It could be used at solemn assemblies or simply for an annual "judgment seat" that a pastor holds privately for himself.
The booklet's final chapter is an appeal for concrete steps to be taken to see the infusion of the Spirit's life into our lives and ministries. Begin doing the things that make a difference; things that will increase solemnity, urgency, and humility in our own lives as ministers of the gospel; things that will make our preaching more earnest, more gripped with eternity, and will bring us the experience of Whitefield, who preached a "felt Christ."
This challenging little X-ray machine is not meant to discourage us, but it does seek to keep before us the high calling of a herald of Christ who stands between sinners and eternity with the best of Books in his hand, the Law of Truth on his lips, the world behind his back, and a tear in his eye, pleading with men, "Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" It is easy in our daily experience to lose the edge of a spiritually hot life and ministry that has the unpretentious countenance of a "dying man speaking to dying men." We must not give up by settling into a casual, relaxed pastorate.
May the Lord use this diminutive volume to create such a passion for the lost in us that concerted efforts will be made to put the Biblical Gospel in the ears of more and more sinners out of hearts experimentally pulsating with the realities of Christ and eternity.
It is a pleasure to introduce Calvary Press to the readers of this journal. Under the leadership of Pastor Michael Gaydosh, this new publishing concern is connected with the Calvary Baptist Church in Amityville, NY. They are committed to making available "bite-sized" pieces of valuable literature to God's people.
The first two efforts show the concern for both quality and relevancy to the contemporary scene. Ryle's essay is taken from The Upper Room (Banner of Truth) and is filled with practical wisdom for young men, their parents, and their pastors. As an experienced soldier Bishop Ryle admonishes his younger counterparts by exposing some of the peculiar dangers which face them (pride, love of pleasure, thoughtlessness, contempt of religion, and fear of man) and giving general counsels ("get a clear view of the evil of sin," etc.) and special rules of conduct ("break off every known sin," etc.) to guide them. Here is an excellent book to be used with teenagers and young men in both the home and the church.
Spring's booklet is taken from his larger work, The Power of the Pulpit (Banner of Truth). What pastor does not long to have his people fervently praying for him? What pastor does not need it? Spurgeon credits his ministerial success to the prayers of his people. Using Paul's exhortation, "Pray for us," Gardiner Spring makes an impassioned call for all who benefit from the public ministry of the gospel to pray for those vessels of clay who, fraught with temptations and weaknesses, are set apart by God to preach. I have personally purchased a copy to present to every family in the church I serve.
Both booklets may be obtained directly from Calvary Press, Box 805, Amityville, NY 11701, or from Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service, P. O. Box 613, Carlisle, PA 17013.
If these two titles are indicative of the quality of material which Calvary Press hopes to continue to make known, then may God greatly increase their efforts.