J.I. Packer Quotes

James Innell Packer (born 1926), usually cited as J.I. Packer, is an English-born Canadian evangelical theologian in the low-church Anglican and Calvinist traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential evangelicals in North America.] He has been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America since its inception in 2009.


“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The Puritan ethic of marriage was first to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, then to proceed with God’s help to do just that.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” ~ J.I. Packer


“There is nothing more irreligious than self-absorbed religion.” ~ J.I. Packer


“I need not torment myself with the fear that my faith may fail; as grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace (Phil 1:29).” ~ J.I. Packer


“Nor is it the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves. 

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care and concern to do good to others – and not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.” ~ J.I. Packer


“There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on for ever.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God was happy without humans before they were made; he would have continued happy had he simply destroyed them after they had sinned; but as it is he has set his love upon particular sinners, and this means that, by his own free voluntary choice, he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till he has brought every one of them to heaven. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional upon ours.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” ~ J.I. Packer


“There is tremendous relief in knowing His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me , so that no discovery can disillusion him about me , in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age.” ~ J.I. Packer


“All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me.” ~ J.I. Packer


“To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Thus the effect of his gift of wisdom is to make us more humble, more joyful, more godly, more quick-sighted as to his will, more resolute in the doing of it and less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in this fallen world is full….
Thus, the kind of wisdom that God waits to give to those who ask him is a wisdom that will bind us to himself, a wisdom that will find expression in a spirit of faith and a life of faithfulness.” ~ J.I. Packer


“A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man’s image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The Christian up to his eyes in trouble can take comfort from the knowledge that in God’s kindly plan it all has a positive purpose, to further his sanctification. In this world, royal children have to undergo extra training and discipline which other children escape, in order to fit them for their high destiny. It is the same with the children of the King of kings. The clue to understanding all his dealings with them is to remember that throughout their lives he is training them for what awaits them, and chiseling them into the image of Christ. Sometimes the chiseling process is painful and the discipline irksome, but then the Scripture reminds us: “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons . . . No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:6-7,11). Only the person who has grasped this can make sense of Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God” (KJV); equally, only he can maintain his assurance of sonship against satanic assault as things go wrong. But he who has mastered the truth of adoption both retains assurance and receives blessing in the day of trouble: this is one aspect of faith’s victory over the world. Meanwhile, however, the point stands that the Christian’s primary motive for holy living is not negative, the hope (vain!) that hereby he may avoid chastening, but positive, the impulse to show his love and gratitude to his adopting God by identifying himself with the Father’s will for him.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The purpose of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible through faithful Christian living and witness-bearing” ~ J.I. Packer


“Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator.” ~ J.I. Packer


“What we do every time we pray is to confess our impotence and God’s sovereignty.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Wisdom will not go with comforting illusions, false sentiment, or the use of rose-colored glasses.” ~ J.I. Packer


“I can hide my heart, and my past, and my future plans, from those around me, but I cannot hide anything from God. I can talk in a way that deceives my fellow creatures as to what I really am, but nothing I say or do can deceive God. He sees through all my reserve and pretense; he knows me as I really am, better indeed than I know myself. A God whose presence and scrutiny I could evade would be a small and trivial deity. But the true God is great and terrible, just because he is always with me and his eye is always upon me. Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We should not…think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotion. We should recognise rather that such fellowship is a spiritual necessity, for God has made us in such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment.” ~ 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!” ~ J.I. Packer


“People have gotten into the practice of following private religious hunches rather than learning of God from His Word; we have to try to help them unlearn the pride and, in some cases, the misconceptions about Scripture which gave rise to this attitude and to base there convictions henceforth not on what they feel but on what the Bible says…modern people think of all religions as equal and equivalent – they draw their ideas about God from pagan as well as Christian sources; we have to try to show people the uniqueness and finality of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s last word to man…people have ceased to recognize the reality of their own sinfulness, which imparts a degree of perversity and enmity against God to all that they think and do; it is our task to try to introduce people to this fact about themselves and so make them self-distrustful and open to correction by the Word of Christ…people today are in the habit of disassociating the thought of God’s goodness from that of His severity; we must seek to wean them from this habit, since nothing but misbelief is possible as long as that persists.” ~ J.I. Packer


“I must labor to keep my heart actively responsive to God.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.” ~ J.I. Packer


“There are two sorts of sick consciences, those that are not aware enough of sin and those that are not aware enough of pardon.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The preacher should work to convert his congregation; the wife should work to save her unbelieving husband. Christians are sent to convert, and they should not allow themselves, as Christ’s representatives in the world, to aim at anything less. Evangelizing, therefore, is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelizing includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Many have found it hard to see what claim the law can have on the Christian. We are free from the law, they say; our salvation does not depend on law-keeping; we are justified through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. How, then, can it matter, or make any difference to anything, whether we keep the law henceforth or not?

….While it is certainly true that justification frees one forever from the need to keep the law, or try to, as the means of earning life, it is equally true that adoption lays on one the abiding obligation to keep the law, as the means of pleasing one’s newfound Father.…The sins of God’s children do not destroy their justification or nullify their adoption, but they mar the children’s fellowship with their Father.” ~ J.I. Packer


“A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.” ~ J.I. Packer


“There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.” ~ J.I. Packer


“It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians—I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians—go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians—alas, they are many—whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Seek advice, weigh advice, and practice prudence.” ~ J.I. Packer


“For it is not true that some Christians believe in divine sovereignty while others hold an opposite view. What is true is that all Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it. What causes this odd state of affairs? 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.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Our Lord Jesus Christ is both God for man and man for God” ~ J.I. Packer


“Our proud humanism, so-called, has made the world more like hell than heaven.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Regenerate people feel through their minds and think through their feelings. They are self-aware in a God-conscious and God-centered way that is beyond the understanding of those who do not not actually share this life quality .” ~ J.I. Packer


“When we looked at God’s wisdom, we saw something of His mind; when we thought of His power, we saw something of His hand and His arm; when we considered His word, we learned about His mouth; but now, contemplating His love, we are to look into His heart.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Man’s Chief End “Man’s chief end,” says the Shorter Catechism, magnificently, “is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” End, note, not ends; for the two activities are one. God’s chief end, purposed in all that He does, is His glory (and what higher end could He have?), and He has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing His name by praise, submission, and service. God is no sadist, and the principle of our creation is that, believe it or not (and or course many don’t, just as Satan doesn’t), our duty, interest and delight completely coincide. Christians get so hung up with the pagan idea (very dishonoring to God, incidentally) that God’s will is always unpleasant, so that one is rather a martyr to be doing it, that they hardly at first notice how their experience verifies the truth that in Christian living duty and delight go together. But they do!—and it will be even clearer in the life to come. To give oneself to hallowing God’s name as one’s life-task means that living, though never a joy ride, will become increasingly a joy road. Can you believe that? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! Try it, and you will see.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We think of God as too much like what we are. Put this mistake right, says God; learn to acknowledge the full majesty of your incomparable God and Savior.” ~ J.I. Packer


“In the Bible, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies. They are not uneasy neighbors; they are not in an endless state of cold war with each other. They are friends, and they work together.” ~ J.I. Packer


“What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not at all the same thing as conviction of sin. It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself and your failures and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith if a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, cheer him up and make him feel confident again. Nor should we be preaching the gospel (though we might imagine we were) if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a human’s felt wants. (`Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; he will meet your every need”-as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother, or a super-psychiatrist.) No; we have to go deeper than this. To preach sin means not to make capital out of people’s felt frailties (the brain-washer’s trick), but to measure their lives by the holy law of God. To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one is an all-around flop, but to realize that one has offended God, flouted His authority, defied Him, gone against Him and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One who, through His cross, sets men right with God again. To put faith in Christ means relying on Him, and Him alone, to restore us to God’s fellowship and favor.”  ~ J.I. Packer


“To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end to itself, to approach Bible study with no higher motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied deception.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here.” ~ J.I. Packer


“It is extraordinary how little the New Testament says about God’s interest in our success, by comparison with the enormous amount that it says about God’s interest in our holiness, our maturity in Christ, and our growth into the fullness of His image.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Every time we mention God we become theologians, and the only question is whether we are going to be good ones or bad ones.”  ~ J.I. Packer


“We should not be held back by the thought that if they are not elect, they will not believe us and our efforts to convert them will fail. That is true; but it is none of our business and should make no difference to our action. In the first place, it is always wrong to abstain from doing good for fear that it might not be appreciated. In the second place, the non-elect in this world are faceless men as far as w are concerned. We know that they exist, but we do not and cannot know who they are, and it is as futile as it is impious for us to try and guess. The identity of the reprobate is one of God’s ‘secret things’ into which his people may not pry. In the third place, our calling as Christians is not to love God’s elect, and them only, but to love our neighbour, irrespective of whether he is elect or not.” ~ J.I. Packer


“You can cut yourself off from your fellow human beings, but you cannot get away from your Creator.” ~ J.I. Packer


“You tremble before the nations, because you are much weaker than they; but God is so much greater than the nations that they are as nothing to him. Behold your God!” ~ J.I. Packer


“Men treat God’s sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is matter for worship.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable.” ~ J.I. Packer


“To long for total spiritual well-being is right and natural, but to believe that one is anywhere near it is to be utterly self-deceived.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Let your thoughts move to and fro like an accelerating pendulum, taking ever wider swings. “He’s my Father—and he’s God in heaven; he’s God in heaven—and he’s my Father! It’s beyond belief—but it’s true!” Grasp this, or rather, let it grasp you; then tell God what you feel about it; and that will be the worship which our Lord wanted to evoke when he gave us this thought-pattern for the invocation of the One who is both his Father and ours.” ~ J.I. Packer


“I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, One who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted for me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.” ~ J.I. Packer


“To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex, and self-will, the church mumbles on about God’s kindness but says virtually nothing about his judgment… The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God answers the prayer we ought to have made rather than the prayer we did make.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The gospel tells that our Judge has become our Savior.” ~ J.I. Packer


“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God’s wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Arminianism is ‘natural’ in one sense, in that it represents a characteristic perversion of Biblical teaching by the fallen mind of man.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Calvary not merely made possible the salvation of those for whom Christ died; it ensured that they would be brought to faith and their salvation made actual.” ~ J.I. Packer


“What is a Christian? The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Today, on our own turf, we face pagan ignorance about God every bit as deep as that which the early church faced in the Roman Empire.” ~ J.I. Packer


“If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God is good to all in some ways and to some in all ways.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change.” ~ J.I. Packer


“God has not abandoned us any more than He abandoned Job. He never abandons anyone on whom He has set His love; nor does Christ, the good shepherd, ever lose track of His sheep.” ~ J.I. Packer


“Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; look up from your problems to the God of the gospel.” ~ J.I. Packer


“The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give people what they choose, in all its implications.” ~ J.I. Packer


“We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us, bringing us to know Him by making His love known to us (Gal. 4:9).” ~ J.I.Packer