Presented to Dr. Derek Coleman
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
EV 520 Theology and Practice of Evangelism
Justin Z. DuBose
One of the most well-known biblical passages is found in Matthew 28:19-20. This is a direct command from Jesus to his disciples. This verse is where the Body of Christ finds its primary mandate for evangelism. “Go and make disciples of all nations”, is what Jesus tells His disciples. He also tells them that “all power in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me”. Within this one passage we find both the sovereignty of God as well as our mandate for evangelism. And yet, these two theological concepts seem to almost be at odds with one another. If God truly has all power and authority to save, then what need has He of us to do His work for Him? J.I. Packer and his book, “Evangelism And The Sovereignty of God” address this issue head on.
Packer’s text has become one of the foremost books on the topic in all of Christendom. In simply mentioning to a few people at church, they were very familiar with the author as well as the title. Packer’s book addresses this topic by classifying it as “antimony”. Packer defines antimony by saying, on page 24, “an antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both understandable.” Christians tend to classify themselves as either Calvinists or Armenians, and Packer’s books says that these two can co-exist, and in fact they must.
By classifying evangelism and God’s sovereignty as an antimony, Packer is suggesting that the two can stand side by side, and in fact that they must. As Packer says, on page 27, the seeming antimony is between “what God does as King and what He does as judge.” And yet, on the same page, he notes that “God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught to us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes indeed in the same text.” He goes on to specifically cite a passage in Romans 9, the Great Commission in Matthew 28, and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
Packer notes that, as you comb through Scripture, you find that there is but one prescribed method by which men must be saved. “God’s way of saving men is to send out His servants to tell them the gospel, and that the church has been charged to go into all the world for that very purpose”. 
If both principles are plainly evident in the same text, as Packer highlights, where does this antimony stem from? “It is our widespread and persistent habit of defining evangelism in terms, not of a message delivered, but of an effect produced in our hearers.”  In defining what evangelism is, Packer notes that “according to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel.”  Packer uses the Apostle Paul as the quintessential picture of the characteristics of someone spreading the gospel of Jesus. He specifically notes three things: He was the commissioned representative of Jesus Christ, His primary task was to teach the truth about Jesus Christ, and His ultimate aim to was to convert His hearers to a faith in Jesus Christ. Packer argues that as long as we can maintain these characteristics, then we are fulfilling the human responsibility piece of the Great Commission. But what of the message that we are to preach?
Packer notes four characteristics in this regard. Our message is about God, it is about sin, it is about Christ, and it is a summons to faith and repentance. If we can preach this message while upholding the characteristics above, then we can trust God to be the sovereign, righteous judge that He is. Yet, there is still another question for Packer in all of this. What should be our motive for evangelism?
The primary motivation, according to Packer, is that we bring glory to God. The other motivating factor is our love of our neighbors, and our desire to see them saved. Packer notes that beyond simple recognition of God as King and Judge, without love our evangelism is driven by the wrong engine. What, then, is the ultimate conclusion that Packer comes to?
“We have to make room in our minds for the thoughts of divine sovereignty and of human responsibility to stand side by side.”  Packer’s ultimate conclusion, which is very aptly stated, can be found on page 101 of his book. He says the following: “It is true that God has from all eternity chosen whom He will save. It is true that Christ came specifically to save those whom the Father had given Him. But it is also true that Christ offers Himself freely to all men as their Savior, and guarantees to bring to glory everyone who trusts in Him as such.” What a powerful and sobering statement. Packer tackles one of the most difficult theological questions in all of Christendom, and surmises such a brilliant statement that it seems very hard to disagree with, at least from a wholly biblical perspective.
What then is the reaction to such a thesis? Packer begins the book in a very good place – by not only looking at both aspects, but doing so relationally. Good Christian people believe both of these things, and there then must be good biblical basis for both. His classifying them as an antimony does both justice. For many would agree that these things do, in fact, seem to be at odds. And yet, they are both so biblically true. Packer’s classification as an antimony demonstrates to all readers that reconciliation is possible, and passages such as Matthew 28, which have both concepts present within the same few verses, speak to this fact. He also acknowledges the fact that simply by praying, Christians are surrendering themselves to the sovereignty of God. This puts all the readers on a level playing field in regard to the early chapters of the book.
As he delves deeper into the antimony of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, he opens up the Scriptures further and further. In doing so, he goes to some well-known passages, such as Matthew 28 and Matthew 5, but also to some relatively obscure passages, like 2 Samuel. His treatment of the subject is extremely delicate and gentle, not at all harsh or judgmental. He comes across as a very humble man, simply seeking to exposit what the Scripture has to say about a potentially controversial subject.
In the final chapter of the book, Packer specifically goes to John 6:38-40 to demonstrate his point that these two truths can and must exist together, for this is exactly where they dwell in Scripture. His breadth in quoting Scripture, his treatment of the subject, his taking about the two relationally, all shows that he has formulated a very well-rounded and well researched opinion on the subject.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would highly recommend it to another reader, and I can understand why the book was so well-known even within just a few members of my church. The book does for the Body of Christ what all Christian literature ought to do – that it to seek unity and reconciliation of the body rather than splintering and fracture. Packer’s book can unify believers from all different walks of life, different denominational backgrounds, even different theological worldviews. If one truly seeks to hold to a biblical view of missions and sovereignty, as Packer himself says, then they must not isolate one view or the other. Scripture is clear that they stand together, not alone. There are certain concepts that we as human beings must simply write off as too wonderful and too vast for our finite brains to fully comprehend, and this is one of them. As Packer himself says, “both aspects of the will of God are facts, though how they are related in the mind of God is inscrutable to us. This is one of the reasons why we speak of God as incomprehensible.” 
Packer, J.I. Evangelism And The Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books).
 Packer, J.I. Evangelism And The Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books), 38.
 Ibid, pg. 41
 Ibid, pg. 45
 Ibid, pg. 92
 Ibid, pg. 93
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