Knowing God

by J.I. Packer

InterVarsity Press (1973)

“For over 40 years, J. I. Packer’s classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. This edition is updated with Americanized language and spelling and a new preface by the author.

Stemming from Packer’s profound theological knowledge, Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith— knowing about God and also knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God.

Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by a those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.”

 

To purchase, click here: Knowing God – J.I. Packer

 

 

 

 

Foreword

  • p6 – “…ignorance both of his ways and of the practice of communion with him — lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.”
  • p6 – “…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.”
  • p6 – “…Christian minds have been confused by the modern skepticism. For more than three centuries the naturalistic leaven in the Renaissance outlook has been working like a cancer in Western thought. Seventeenth-century Arminians and deists, like sixteenth-century Socinians, came to deny, as against Reformation theology, that God’s control of his world was either direct or complete, and theology, philosophy and science have for the most part combined to maintain that denial ever since.”
  • p7 – “Ninety years ago C.H. Spurgeon described the wobbling he then saw among the Baptists on Scripture, atonement and human destiny as “the downgrade.” Could he survey Protestant thinking about God at the present time, I guess he would speak of “the nosedive”!”

Chapter 1 – The Study of God

  • p13 – “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.” [Spurgeon]
  • p14 – “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.” [Spurgeon]
  • p14 – “Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” [Spurgeon]
  • p14 – “The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. 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.”
  • p15 – “Five basic truths, five foundation-principles of the knowledge about God which Christians have, will determine our course throughout. They are as follows:
    • 1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
    • 2. God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore Him.
    • 3. God is Saviour, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as His sons, and to bless them accordingly.
    • 4. God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, and the Spirit applying it.
    • 5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This, and nothing else, is true religion.”
  • p16 – “There was a time when the subject of God’s attributes (as it was called) was thought so important as to be included in the Catechism which all children in the churches were taught and all adult members were expected to know.”
  • p17 – “To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach the 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.”
  • p18 – “Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God Himself the 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. As He is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so He must Himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use we must put it.”
  • p18 – “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.”

Chapter 2 – The People who Know their God

  • p21 – “They never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained. ‘What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ,’ wrote Paul.”
  • p21 – “…we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of His cross and mediation, on the basis of His word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith.”
  • p21 – “A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.”
  • p21 – “First, one can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of Him…Second, one can know a great deal about godliness without much knowledge of God.”
  • p22 – “We may know as much about God as Calvin knew–indeed, if we study his works diligently, sooner or later we shall–and yet all the time (unlike Calvin, may I say) we may hardly know God at all.”
  • p23 – “We have said that when a man knows God, losses and ‘crosses’ cease to matter to him; what he has gained simply banishes these things from his mind.”
  • p23 – “What other effects does knowledge of God have on a man?
    • 1. Those who know God have great energy for God
    • 2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God
    • 3. Those who know God show great boldness for God
    • 4. Those who know God have great contentment in God”
  • p23 – “While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonour done to God’s name goads them into action.”
  • p24 – “Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers.”
  • p24 – “Yet the invariable fruit of true knowledge of God is energy to pray for God’s cause–energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and a relief of inner tension when channelled into such prayer–and the more knowledge, the more energy.”
  • p24 – “If, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.”
  • p25 – “…God’s hand is on history at every point, that history, indeed, is no more than ‘His story’, the unfolding of His eternal plan, and that the kingdom which will triumph in the end is God’s.”
  • p25 – “He knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man; His kingdom and righteousness will triumph in the end, for neither men nor angels shall be able to thwart Him.”
  • p26 – “Once they were convinced that their stand was right, and that loyalty to their God required them to take it, then, in Oswald Chamber’s phrase, they ‘smilingly washed their hands of the consequences’.”
  • p26 – “It is the spirit of all who know God. They may find the determination of the right course to take agonisingly difficult, but once they are clear on it they embrace it boldly and without hesitation. It does not worry them that others of God’s people see the matter differently, and do not stand with them.”
  • p26 – “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 favour to them in life, through death, and on for ever.”
  • p27 – “‘If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king….But if not’–if no deliverance comes–‘be it known to thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods.’ (It doesn’t matter! It makes no difference! Live or die, they are content.)”
  • p27 – “Lord it belongs not to my care
    • Whether I die or live;
    • To love and serve Thee is my share,
    • And this Thy grace must give.
    • If life be long, I will be glad,
    • That I may long obey;
    • IF short–then why should I be sad
    • To soar to endless day?”
  • p27 – “The Lord Jesus Christ is now absent from us in body, but spiritually it makes no difference; still we may find and know God through seeking and finding His company.”

Chapter 3 – Knowing and Being Known

  • p29 – “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God…What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God…What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself.”
  • p30 – “What makes life worth while is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?”
  • p30 – “What are we talking about when we use the phrase ‘knowing God’? A special sort of emotion? Shivers down the back? A dreamy, off-the-ground, floating feeling? Tingling thrills and exhilaration, such as drug-takers seek? Or is knowing God a special sort of intellectual experience? Does one hear a voice? see a vision? find strange trains of thought coursing through one’s mind? or what? These matters need discussing, especially since, according to Scripture, this is a region in which it is easy to be fooled, and to think you know God when you do not.”
  • p32 – “It is a staggering thing, but it is true–the relationship in which sinful human beings know God is one in which God, so to speak, takes them on to His staff, to be henceforth His fellow-workers and personal friends.”
  • p32 – “Whether being a servant is matter for shame or for pride depends on whose servant one is.”
  • p32 – “What, then, does the activity of knowing God involve?…
    • first, listening to God’s word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself;
    • second, noting God’s nature and character, as His word and works reveal it;
    • third, accepting His invitations, and doing what He commands;
    • fourth, recognising, and rejoicing in, the love that He has shown in thus approaching one and drawing one into this divine fellowship.”
  • p32 – “…we know God in the manner of…”
    • a son knowing his father
    • a wife knowing her husband
    • a subject knowing his king
    • a sheep knowing its shepherd
  • p33 – “This is part of the biblical concept of knowing God, that those who know Him–that is, those by whom He allows Himself to be known–are loved and cared for by Him.”
  • p33 – “But Jesus…found them, called them to Himself, took them into His confidence, and enrolled them as His agents to declare to the world the kingdom of God.”
  • p33 – “…any man anywhere can enjoy the same kind of relationship with Him as the disciples had in the days of His flesh. The only differences are that…”
    • first, His presence with the Christian is spiritual, not bodily, and so invisible to our physical eyes;
    • second, the Christian, building on the New Testament witness, knows from the start those truths about the deity and atoning sacrifice of Jesus which the original disciples only grasped gradually, over a period of years; and,
    • third, that Jesus’s way of speaking to us now is not by uttering fresh words, but rather by applying to our consciences those words of His that are recorded in the gospels, together with the rest of the biblical testimony to Himself.”
  • p34 – “The Jesus who walks through the gospel story walks with Christians now, and knowing Him involves going with Him, now as then.”
  • p34 – “…to survey what we have said that it means to ‘know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’…
    • First, knowing God is a matter of personal dealing, as is all direct acquaintance with personal beings…
    • Second, knowing God is a matter of personal involvement, in mind, will, and feeling…
    • Then, third, knowing God is a matter of grace.
  • p34 – “…you can have all the right notions in your head without ever tasting in your heart the realities to which they refer; and a simple Bible-reader and sermon-hearer who is full of the Holy Ghost will develop a far deeper acquaintance with his God and Saviour than more learned men who are content with being theologically correct.”
  • p35 – “…it is constantly needful to stress that God does not exist for our ‘comfort’, or ‘happiness’, or ‘satisfaction’, or to provide us with ‘religious experiences’, as if these were the most interesting and important things in life.”
  • p36 – “The believer rejoices when his God is honoured and vindicated, and feels the acutest distress when he sees God flouted.”
  • p36 – “We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us, bringing us to know Him by making His love known to us.”
  • p36 – “Their knowing God was the consequence of God’s taking knowledge of them. They know Him by faith because He first singled them our by grace.”
  • p37 – “Here God’s knowledge of those who are His is associated with His whole purpose of saving mercy. It is a knowledge that implies
    • personal affection,
    • redeeming action,
    • covenant faithfulness, and
    • providential watchfulness,…
  • p37 – “What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larder fact which underlies it–the fact that He knows me.
  • p37 – “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

Chapter 4 – The Only True God

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Chapter 5 – God Incarnate

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Chapter 6 – He Shall Testify

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Chapter 7 – God Unchanging

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Chapter 8 – The Majesty of God

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Chapter 9 – God Only Wise

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Chapter 10 – God’s Wisdom and Ours

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Chapter 11 – Thy Word is Truth

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Chapter 12 – The Love of God

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Chapter 13 – The Grace of God

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Chapter 14 – God the Judge

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Chapter 15 – The Wrath of God

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Chapter 16 – Goodness and Severity

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Chapter 17 – The Jealous God

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Chapter 18 – The Heart of the Gospel

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Chapter 19 – Sons of God

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Chapter 20 – Thou our Guide

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Chapter 21 – These Inward Trials

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Chapter 22 – The Adequacy of God

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