Let God Be Wiser Than Man

How to read the Bible without ruling out something God has told us

By Published on July 24, 2020

In this passage from his classic book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, the late J.I. Packer explains that we must believe God is Lord and King to share the Good News. It’s the belief that will keep us going when people don’t listen. But some Christians speak as if they don’t believe God is in control.

Professor Packer had been one of the great leaders of world Evangelicalism for over fifty years. He died last Friday, July 16th, at the age of 93.


Every Christian really believes God is in control, he writes. We can tell from the way we pray.

This conviction, which animates your intercessions, is God’s own truth, written on your heart by the Holy Spirit. In prayer, then (and the Christian is at his sanest and wisest when he prays), you know that it is God who saves men; you know that what makes men turn to God is God’s own gracious work of drawing them to himself; and the content of your prayers is determined by this knowledge. Thus, by your practice of intercession, no less than by giving thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge and confess the sovereignty of God’s grace. And so do all Christian people everywhere. …

For a tribute to J. I. Packer, see his friend David Mills’s J.I. Packer, Man Who Told Us a Difficult Truth, RIP.

If that’s true, why do some Christians say they don’t believe it?

The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the church — the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic. People see that the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign lordship of God over those actions.

They are not content to let the two truths live side by side, as they do in the Scriptures, but jump to the conclusion that, in order to uphold the biblical truth of human responsibility, they are bound to reject the equally biblical and equally true doctrine of divine sovereignty, and to explain away the great number of texts that teach it.  The desire to oversimplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even good people should fall victim to it. …

How, then, do you pray? Do you ask God for your daily bread? Do you thank God for your conversion? Do you pray for the conversion of others? … In your heart you believe in the sovereignty of God no less firmly than anyone else. On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed.

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