Knowing God — A Book Review

“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. ‘This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ (Jn 17:3).

“What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. ‘This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me” ’ (Jer 9:23-24). [NIV]

“What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. ‘I desired…the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings’ says God (Hos 6:6 KJV)” (page 33)

Similar to Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer, Knowing God by J. I. Packer is, simply put, a discussion of “the nature and character of God.” (page 18) However, while this is a book on theology, it is also a book on the practical implications of what this particular aspect of theology–the study of God Himself–means for the believer: How does the knowledge of God and His character bring joy and comfort to the heart of the believer? Furthermore, how does this knowledge of God bring the believer into a more intimate relationship with God?

It is significant to note that Packer is driving home the value of having more than mere head knowledge of God: to know God, one must have more than simply the ability to rattle off facts about God. Rather, to know God, one needs to understand His character to the extent to which one’s entire life is affected by this personal knowledge of God Almighty.  It is this concept that is at the heart of Knowing God.

Knowing God could be divided into two parts: first, the character and nature of God, and second, God’s character as it concerns mankind, particularly the gospel and His relationship towards the believer.

Packer sets the context for the entire book by beginning with a discussion of how God has made it possible for us to know Him. He then proceeds to expound on specific aspects of God’s character, including His majesty, His wisdom, His love, and His wrath.

As one reads these chapters on God’s nature and personality, it is important to keep in mind, once again, that these chapters were not written to satiate our craving for lofty thoughts about God and theology, but rather to help us grow in understanding how great and glorious God Almighty really is. Additionally, Packer isn’t content to simply elevate one’s thoughts about God: with each chapter, Packer takes significant the time to deliberate over how each aspect of God’s character directly affects the life of the believer.

The second half of the book could be grouped under the theme of how God’s character shapes the Gospel and His relationship towards the believer. Packer develops a careful study of Christ’s work on the cross; he then expounds on the glories of what it means to be called a child of God. Personally, the chapter Sons of God–on discussing the believer’s adoption–was perhaps the most comforting and humbling chapter in the entire book, for Packer hones in on what exactly it means for the condemned sinner to now be called a son of God, joint-heir with Christ.

To conclude the book, Packer describes the magnitude of God’s adequacy and love for the believer with an examination of Romans 8:31-39.

“31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

With close to 300 pages, Knowing God could be a somewhat intimidating book to pick up and read. However, any believer who desires to grow in his understanding of God will be greatly encouraged by reading this book and will not regret the effort put into reading it, for Packer does a fantastic job of causing the believer to marvel at who God is and to desire to know and love Him more.