Great men inspire greatness, both in their lives and in their deaths. Such is true of James Innell Packer (1926–2020), whose life and ministry has forever marked my own. He and I only met once, and I have only read a handful of his books. But in this age, he is one who has shown me what it means to share in Christ, having held on to his original confidence firm until the end (Heb 3:14). J. I. Packer ever exerted a bold yet restful confidence in the authority and veracity of holy Scripture. He also loved Jesus deeply and cherished and proclaimed his substitutionary atoning work on our behalf. In a sea of contemporary voices, his stood out to me because it was ever matched by a gentle and lowly spirit that longed for holiness and that embraced weakness. I so deeply pray that, if God keeps me into my 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, I can humbly embrace Christ and remain faithful to his Word as Packer did unto his death.
For Packer, what was not yet has become more the already, as he passed from death to lasting life in the presence of his Savior on Friday, July 17, 2020, at age 93. But for the grace and purposes of our sovereign God, he could have died at age 70 as a result of my own youthful distraction. As a tribute to Packer’s enduring faithfulness, I want to thank the Lord for what he taught me through him that day so long ago.
***To read the rest, see my tribute to Packer at reformandamin.org.***