The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson, 2012, Crossway, Wheaton, Ill., ISBN 9781433530036, 224 pages, $17.99, hardcover.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is something that every evangelical church should consider foundational to their life and ministry. The very word "evangelical" comes from the Greek word for "Gospel", euaggelion. In far too many of our churches and hearts, however, the Gospel is either assumed without being exposited or it is incompletely put forth in ways that undermine its truth and power.
In The Explicit Gospel, Texas pastor Matt Chandler seeks to address these concerns by articulating a thorough and biblical overview of the Gospel message. Chandler looks at the Gospel through two lenses that he calls the "Gospel on the ground" (i.e., the relationship of holy God to sinful man mediated by the sacrifice of Christ) and the "Gospel in the air" (i.e., the cosmic, "big picture" story of God's plan for His glory). The book is laid out in three sections: two discussing these two perspectives and a third dedicated to their implications and applications.
In the first section, Chandler grabs the reader's attention by presenting a no-holds-barred picture of God's holiness as inviolable and man's sin as "glory theft". Because of these truths, he reminds us, God's judgment is just and sure and there can be no self-justification by any one of us. From there, he gives a clear statement of the person and work of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross. After considering these things, Chandler shows from Scripture that man's response to the Gospel can only go two ways-acceptance (repentance and belief) or rejection (hardened hearts). There is no middle ground of soft religiosity or casual obedience.
In the section on the "Gospel in the air", Chandler looks to the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation for a framework for the "God's-eye view" of the Gospel. He is not treading any new ground here, but his portrait of God's quest for His greatest glory through creating the universe and then reconciling all creation to its original purpose at the end of all things is a carefully crafted and passionate retelling of these truths. He compellingly argues that the full Gospel message has to include both perspectives to be fully accurate.
The final section holds the meat of Chandler's appeal. He shows that an understanding of the Gospel that "stays on the ground too long" will lead us to a man-centered message the reduces the glory of God in salvation to "fire insurance" that has no impact on our daily lives and sucks the drive out of our mission as a Church. The ditch on the other side of the road, however, a Gospel that "stays in the air too long," leaves us open to a message that tries to make God's renewal of all things into our job on earth. This leads down the path of syncretism, universalism, and a Christianity that takes its cues from the culture and abandons our God-given mission altogether. The book's final chapter gives readers a cringe-worthy look at how (on either side of the message) reducing this story of God's glory into mere moralism robs Christ of His due honor.
Overall, The Explicit Gospel, is an excellent resource for new believers and seekers, or as a reminder to pastors and teachers to preach the whole Gospel faithfully and frequently. While Chandler's style reflects his youth and enthusiasm, it manages to catch the beauty of this changeless Gospel in a helpful idiom for a new generation.
Type: Practical Theology/Soteriology
Take: Highly Recommended
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