4 out of 5 Stars
Author: Matt Chandler
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Buy The Explicit Gospel
I’m really grateful for Matt Chandler’s ministry. I’ve listened to his sermons from time to time and I’ve appreciated his no hold bars treatment of sin and the gospel. He's now ventured into writing and he has an opportunity to influence a wide audience with the gospel.
We need more books about the gospel. That I can count we have had Dan Phillip’s The World-tilting Gospel, J. D. Greaer’s Gospel, Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel, and now Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel. This doesn’t even take into account the dozen or more books that focus the gospel on to a particular area of theology like Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson or Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson. You may be asking why another book about the gospel? But that’s the wrong question. It assumes we get the gospel right and we don’t. I’ve read probably seven or eight books about this topic and what I have found is there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. All these authors come from different contexts and so they each highlight a different aspect of the gospel. (And the gospel is big enough to to come at from a hundred different angles.)
Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel attacks the topic from the angle of the unchurched churched. That resonates with me because I grew up in a religious background that sometimes has lost the gospel by focusing too much on law. For those who haven’t his approach may not resonate with you. The style is fluid and easy to read. (It flows like a Chandler sermon.) As a matter of fact, if you listened to him preach much you may hear illustrations that you’ve heard before. Just coming from Together for the Gospel, the section on “Consummation” had a lot of material that I heard there unpacked further.
The Gospel Explicit
On the heels of reading McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel, it was hard not to compare and contrast the two books. Chandler and McKnight did share a concern for big picture gospeling. Chandler’s second section viewed the gospel in the air where he examines the gospel within the larger story of the Bible. He makes a strong case for missional living as a necessary result of these truths. The chapters within this section were straightforward (“Creation,” “Fall,” “Reconciliation,” & “Consummation” ) and within the first section equally so (“God,” “Man,” “Christ,” & “Response”). He then examines the possible faults of focusing on either of these (on the ground vs. in the air) to the exclusion of the other and ends by looking at the topic of sanctification and gospel-driven effort. My favorite chapter of these was probably the first (“God”). In it he focuses on the creative, self-sufficient, all-glorious God. Says Chandler,
Most of us have been told that God created the universe, cre- ated all that exists within the universe, and employed the depth of his omnipotence and omniscience to create this because he desired fellowship with man. Have you heard this line of thinking before? It’s a very sweet idea, and it would be a great slogan for a Christian motivational poster if it weren’t for what the Bible actually teaches, which is that this idea is almost blasphemous. Are we to believe that God—in his in"nite perfection—was lonely? And that the response to this loneliness was to create a bunch of glory thieves? Is that the infinite God’s solution to this hypothetical imbalance in his relational well-being? This is what many of us have been led to believe. And out of our self-regard, we like to picture that a holy, glorious, splendid God—perfect solely within his Trinitarian awesomeness— wanted to be able to stand in a warm-hued living room, romantic music swelling, and look across at us to say, “You complete me.” (p. 32)
Missing from Chandler’s discussion of the gospel on the ground was any lengthy explanation of the significance of the resurrection, subsequent appearances, & Christ’s ascension. Again on the heels of reading McKnight who dealt extensively with 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s words kept ringing in my ears as I was reading The Explicit Gospel,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Cor. 15:1-7)
The resurrection is absolutely essential to the gospel and without it Paul says our hope would be in vain. There’s a direct connection with the cross (without the resurrection it’s atonement would have been worthless), to sanctification (the same Spirit of power who raised Christ also raised us to life and empowers us to live in light of our justification), and our final consummation (which is one of the points of 1 Corinthians 15--our hope is for a bodily resurrection like Christ). So where McKnight misses on justification (in my opinion) Chandler nails it and where Chandler misses on resurrection & ascension McKnight nails it.
More Explicit Please
You could really feel Chandler’s passion for getting the gospel right seep through the pages. He is passionate for God’s glory and driven to bring God’s glory through preaching an unfiltered gospel. You pencil in a chapter on the resurrection and it’s hands down my go to book on the gospel. But that’s a significant oversight in my estimation. The structure of the book lends itself so beautifully to small group or discipleship settings. He unpacks deep truths in a way that almost anyone can read for the first time and understand. For those who have the ability supplementing a more in-depth discussion on the resurrection into discipleship material using The Explicit Gospel would be easy.