J.I Packer




By Larry Stout 

If you would ask the average Christian the question, “What is eternal life?,” the vast majority would answer something to the effect of, “getting to heaven,” or “enjoying salvation,” or something of the same.  This is because our focus is on ourselves and not on God.  Jesus stated it clearly in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”   

Do you get it?  Through Christ’s sacrificial atoning death, which we accept by faith, we are received into fellowship with God himself.  Eternal life is going to be continually experiencing that fellowship, which we come to through knowing more of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  A. W. Tozer gave us a glimpse of this when he wrote, “God can show a new aspect of His glory to us each day for the days of eternity and we have but begun to explore the depths of the riches of His infinite being,”  

The impact of Jesus’ words are life-altering and mind-transforming, but how to apply them?  How exactly do we get to “know God?”  Though there are many excellent theological treatises on this subject, the one that resonates most soundly for the average Christian is a Bible teacher by the name of J. I. Packer wrote a treatise in 1973 that remains as popular today as it was when it was printed.  Knowing God is one of those rare theological books that is so clear and simple, it presents “doctrine that actually delights.” (Christianity Today).  

Like C. S. Lewis that was discussed in the last article, J. I. Packer is a first-rate intellect, earning a doctorate at Oxford.  And like Lewis, he also knew how to present his exposition in a manner and style that the everyday man can understand.  

Packer divides his book into three main sections.  Section One is, “Know the Lord.”  This provides the foundation for the rest of the book, outlining the nature of god and His triune nature.  He also deals with the issue of idols, which is one of the best sections of the book.  

Section Two is entitled, “Behold Your God!”  Dr. Packer addresses the substance of who God is by examining his attributes, such as His wisdom and love.  But he also discusses areas that most Christians would prefer to ignore, such as God’s justice and wrath.  But these are not abstract ideas that Packer is presenting, rather he continually grounds the attributes of God in our relationship with Him, which makes it much easier to understand them, and the God who possesses them.  

Some folks find these early chapters a little rough going, primarily because they are not used to subject matter that is God directed rather than personally directed.  But these two sections are vital to appreciate the closing section, “If God Be for Us…”  Packer takes the knowledge gained in the first two sections and applies it to living out the Christian life. He addresses the heart of the gospel and how that allows us to become Sons of God. He explores how God leads us through our life and gives insights into dealing with the trials and tribulations that will eventually come our way. He closes with our blessed assurance, the adequacy of God for the Christian.  

Since J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God,” there have been others who have written in the same vein, such as Henry T. Blackaby’s “Experiencing God,” and even a new study series known as “Behold Your God” developed by John Snyder.  This is a subject that we will be studying for eternity— so we better get started!