Book Review: Weakness Is the Way by J.I. Packer

  • Weakness Is the Way - PackerHardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (May 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433536838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433536830
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Crossway
  • Amazon.com
  • WTS Books

Many thanks to Crossway for this review copy of J.I. Packer’s Weakness Is the Way: Life With Christ Our Strength.

An Overview

Packer’s little book is made up of four well-written chapters, based on 2 Corinthians, around the truth–that the way of true spiritual strength, leading to real fruitfulness in Christian life and service, is the humble, self-distrustful way of consciously recognized weakness in spiritual things.”  Packer defines “weakness” as inadequacy, whether physically, spiritually, and so on.

Chapter One: About Weakness.  This chapter is really an introduction, a road map, to where Packer is going in this little work.  Having defined “weakness” as inadequacy, Packer states and builds on this truth: “Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us all across the board.  We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own” (p. 15).

By way of “A Personal Postscript,” Packer concludes this introductory chapter by pointing out two physical struggles in his own life as “a recognition that the Christian way of life and service is a walk of weakness.”  First, in his youth, Packer reflects on the impact of wearing for ten years, a black aluminum patch to cover a hole in his head, which was a result of a road accident.  Second, Packer reflects on a three-year experience of the hobbling and wobbling discomfort of a disintegrating hip, “leading to a year of steady but slow recovery from its surgical replacement.”

Chapter Two: Christ and the Christian’s Calling.  This chapter is essentially a brief non-technical commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:6-6:2, with the central point being that the gospel message calls on all of us “to be realistic in facing and admitting our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our actual transgressions, and our consequent guilt before God” (p. 50).

Chapter Three: Christ and the Christian’s Giving.  This chapter is a survey of chapters 8-9.  Also, I find this to be the most interesting chapter in the book.  For instance, those who look to wealth as a source of stability and strength are actually revealing a weakness, that is, they have become idolaters (worshiping their investments, possessions, and bank balance); while “God–the transcendent triune Lord who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together, the divine team that is currently in action for our salvation–comes a poor second in our loyalty and love” (pp. 56-57).

Chapter Four: Christ and the Christian’s Hoping.  I find this chapter to be the most pastoral, truly giving Christians on the way hope.  In this chapter Packer returns to a brief discussion of 2 Corinthians 4:5-5:8.  Under the final heading, “Look Forward, and Look to Christ,” Packer concludes, “Neither I who write these pages nor anyone who reads them knows as yet what it will be like, experientially, to leave this world.  But one day we shall all have to do that, and it is wonderful to know that somewhere in the process of transition out of the body in the next world, Christ himself will meet us, so that we may expect his face to be the first thing we become aware of in that new order of life into which we will have moved” (p. 116).

Critique, Recommendation, and Conclusion

As someone who enjoys reading whatever J.I. Packer puts his pen to, for the average Christian reader, with the exceptions of the first and the last chapters, he or she will find this little book not as readily accessible.  This is not to take away from the contents of the book.  Rather, now comes my recommendation, the trained pastor or Bible teacher should first read this little work and put things on the bottom shelf, so to speak.

For those who’ve come to love the writings of Packer over the years, here’s a little work, that I believe, packs something of a big punch–though Packer’s approach to weakness in this work is not only about physical weakness, which is periphery, but really is about our inadequacies as Christian disciples on the way.  “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” or as the subtitle of the book reads, “Life With Christ Our Strength.”

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