Category Archives: J.I. Packer

“The most impressive feature of his preaching” by Mark Jones

“J.I. Packer once mentioned to me what he thought was the most impressive feature of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s preaching: ‘He brought God into the pulpit.’ How many preachers today bring God into the pulpit?”

–Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 212.

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“The supreme mystery” by J.I. Packer

“The real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation.

The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man– that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one– the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.

‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.

This is the real stumbling block in Christianity. It is here that Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many of those who feel the difficulties concerning the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement, and the resurrection have come to grief.

It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the Incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the Incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.”

–J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1973), 53.

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“Idolatry is trying to play God to one’s gods” by J.I. Packer

“Paul’s words here endorse the consistent biblical testimony that idolatry is inexcusable. Scripture never condones idolatry on the grounds that men knew no better, but condemns it on the assumption that they did, and that irrespective of whether they had encountered any part of God’s special revelation or not (Is. xliv.10-20; Hab. ii. 18-20).

Quite so, says Paul; for it is out of general, not special, revelation that idolatry has been manufactured. Idolatry is a lie grafted on to some of the intuitions of general revelation in order to smother the rest; it was invented to provide sinners with gods they can worship while remaining their own masters. One of the contradictions of fallen human nature is the desire to be lord of what one worships.

As a creature, man yearns for a god to serve; as a sinner, he is resolved to play God himself, and demands that everything else should serve him. This explains the absurd actions of the pagan who directs acts of worship to the image he made himself (Is. xliv. 10-20), while at the same time developing techniques of sacrifice, prayer and sympathetic magic for getting his imaginary god to do what he wants (cf. 1 Ki. xvii. 25-28 with verses 36, 37, and Mt. vi. 7).

And Scripture recognizes more forms of idolatry than polytheism. It says that idolatry exists whenever man gives himself up, heart and soul, to mastering an adored object. Covetousness is thus idolatry (Col. iii. 5). So it by no means follows that sinners forsake idolatry when they abandon polytheism.

All that happens is that they change their gods. Some ‘idolize’ wealth; and Christ calls such the slaves of Mammon in just the same exclusive sense as the Christian is the servant of his God (Mt. vi. 19, 24). Others ‘idolize’ and live for ideas, ideals, a cause, power, a wife, children, country, beauty, and many other things besides.

The self-contradictory lust of sinful man to have something he can worship and master at the same time takes countless forms, each exhibiting the same pathetic ambivalence.

Trying to rule what one serves—being enslaved by what one tries to rule—trying to play God to one’s gods, and ending up the captive of them all—that is idolatry, in all its forms. It is a satanic parody of man’s original relation to his Maker, and a source of endless misery to all its practioners.”

–James I. Packer, “Some Thoughts on General Revelation,” Christian Graduate 9.3 (1956): 119.

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“Preach the Christ of the Bible” by J.I. Packer

“If we do not preach about sin and God’s judgment on it, we cannot present Christ as Saviour from sin and the wrath of God. And if we are silent about these things, and preach a Christ who saves only from self and the sorrows of this world, we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible.

We are, in effect bearing false witness and preaching a false Christ. Our message is ‘another gospel, which is not another.’ Such preaching may soothe some, but it will help nobody; for a Christ who is not seen and sought as a Saviour from sin will not be found to save from self or from anything else.

An imaginary Christ will not bring a real salvation; and a half-truth presented as the whole truth is a complete untruth.”

–J.I. Packer, “The Puritan View of Preaching the Gospel,” in A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 164-165,

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“Glad and happy to do it” by J.I. Packer

“It is a great privilege to evangelize; it is a wonderful thing to be able to tell others of the love of Christ, knowing that there is nothing that they need more urgently to know, and no knowledge in the world that can do them so much good.

We should not, therefore, be reluctant and backward to evangelize on the personal and individual level. We should be glad and happy to do it. We should not look for excuses for wriggling out of our obligation when occasion offers to talk to others about the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we find ourselves shrinking from this responsibility and trying to evade it, we need to face ourselves with the fact that in this we are yielding to sin and Satan.

If (as is usual) it is the fear of being thought odd and ridiculous, or losing popularity in certain circles, that holds us back, we need to ask ourselves in the presence of God: Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor?

If it is a false shame, which is not shame at all but pride in disguise, that keeps our tongue from Christian witness when we are with other people. We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more—our reputation or their salvation?

We cannot be complacent about this gangrene of conceit and cowardice when we weigh up our lives in the presence of God.

What we need to do is to ask for grace to be truly ashamed of ourselves, and to pray that we may so overflow in love for God that we will overflow in love for our fellow men, and so find it an easy and natural and joyful thing to share with them the good news of Christ.”

–J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961/2008), 85-86.

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“Personal yet majestic” by J.I. Packer

“Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are– weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible!

Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. He has us in His hands; we never have Him in ours. Like us, He is personal; but unlike us, He is great.

In all of its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for His people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that He shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of His majesty and His unlimited dominion over all His creatures.”

–J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity  Press, 1973), 83.

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“The repentance that Christ requires” by J.I. Packer

“The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limits to the claims which He may make on their lives. Our Lord knew– who better?– how costly His followers would find it to maintain this refusal, and let Him have His way with them all the time, and therefore He wished them to face out and think through the implications of discipleship before committing themselves.

He did not desire to make disciples under false pretenses. He had no interest in gathering vast crowds of professed adherents who would melt away as soon as they found out what following Him actually demanded of them. In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to responded to the message of free forgiveness.

In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness, in one sense, will cost everything; or else our evangelizing becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims tat Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation. Such is the evangelistic message that we are sent to make known.”

–J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1961/2008), 81.

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