If I could recommend only one book besides the Bible to an intelligent young disciple of Jesus Christ, it would be this one. Knowing God, written four decades ago, is in my opinion already a classic. This was my second time to read it, but it probably won’t be my last. I truly believe that with each reading, I will get to know God in a deeper and more intimate way.
Dr. James I. Packer is a British-born Canadian theologian with an insightful mind and an extraordinary ability to exegete and apply the Word of God. Knowing God is biblical, practical, and readable. If you’re a Christ-follower who hasn’t read this book, move it to the top of your reading list, but don’t plan to read it like a novel. Instead read it like you would the Bible – slowly, thoughtfully, and with an eye to obedience. Better yet, read it with others and discuss it as you go along.
Packer’s goal is not just that the reader know the doctrines of God, but that he or she know God personally. “To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. … There can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really can become a danger to spiritual life, and we today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on guard here.”
Through this book you will grow to appreciate God – who He is and what He has done for you. You will enjoy your salvation even more by gaining an understanding of important biblical terms like propitiation and adoption.
In Knowing God, Packer employs numerous stories from the Bible to illustrate theological truths. In addition, he uses the great hymns of the faith by Toplady, Wesley, Watts, and Newton. [An aside: Being someone with a missional mindset, I understand the importance of contextualization to our target audience, and our contextualization must include worship music. However, I will be honest that it makes me sad to think that many of our children and grandchildren are missing out on these incredibly rich hymns that teach deep theological truth and connect us with the faith of our fathers.]
Packer’s book, though doctrinal, is immensely practical for the life of the believer. The last two chapters are especially important for the Christian life. In the penultimate chapter entitled “The Inward Trials,” Packer points out two major errors that evangelicals often make with new believers: (1) they don’t prepare them for the trials that will come when they trust Christ as Lord and Savior; (2) and they give them the wrong remedy when they’re hit hard by trials and temptations.
The last chapter, “The Adequacy of God,” is the grand finale. It’s based on Romans 8, especially verses 31-39, in which Paul calls on his readers to react to what he has written earlier: “What then shall we say to these things?” Packer’s explanation of the final four questions in Romans 8 is worth the cost of the book: (1) “If God is for us, who is against us?” (2) “He who did not spare us His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?” (3) “Who shall bring any charge to God’s elect?” (4) “Who shall separate us from the love of God?”