“Gospel” is an underused, often confused concept, even among Christians. In The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler (with Jared Wilson) seeks to remedy this problem by clearly explaining the content, scope and trajectory of the Gospel so that it is, well, explicit.
By “explicit,” Chandler means both full and bold as well as clear and obvious. Full and bold because our understanding of the Gospel is too small. Clear and obvious because we simply assume the Gospel too often. On both accounts Chandler succeeds in making the Gospel explicit.
To dispel this Gospel fog of misunderstanding and understatement, Chandler structures Explicit Gospel into two primary parts. In part one, he approaches the Gospel “on the ground.” The Gospel on the ground looks at the Gospel on a personal level. Chandler writes, “When we consider the gospel from the ground, we see clearly the work of the cross in our lives and the lives of those around us, the capturing and resurrecting of dead hearts.” Here, Chandler discusses God, Man, Christ, and our Response.
In part two, Chandler considers the Gospel “in the air.” This section takes a cosmic, big-picture look at what the Gospel means and accomplishes creation-wide. This part looks at Creation, The Fall, Reconciliation, and Consummation. According to Chandler, both of these views are “necessary in order to begin to glimpse the size and weight of the good news, the eternity-spanning wonderment of the finished work of Christ.”
Also, there is an additional, shorter part three that deals with application and implication. Despite its shorter length, it is a gold mine of insight. In this section, he draws out the necessity of both viewpoints. Chandler argues we need the Gospel on the ground to rescue individuals and anchor us to the theology of the atonement, but we also need the Gospel in the air to draw us out of individualistic, self-centered Christianity. The Gospel redeems both individuals and all of creation. The perspective in the air thus keeps our Gospel as big as it should be and keeps us moving out in mission and acts of mercy.
Overall the book is a success, and I greatly enjoyed it. Chandler makes the Gospel joyfully explicit with a display of clear thinking, sound theology, and lively prose. He can quickly move, as only Chandler can, from the pedestrian humor of family life to the profound thoughts of God with such ease. Because of this unique blend, the book is truly a fun and enlightening ride.
Chandler’s two-pronged approach to the Gospel also comes as a welcome addition to the missional conversation that has been raging over the last few years. By appealing to the both the Gospel on the ground and the Gospel in the air, Chandler manages to simultaneously (and adeptly) lift up and expand the call and scope of missional ministry while also anchoring it to the atonement and the necessity of conversion. The Explicit Gospel will be an invaluable resource to someone who wants a balanced view of the Gospel and ministry.
Of course, as with any book, there were a couple bumps and slow downs along the way. I was a bit disappointed with his chapter on Christ. In this chapter, Chandler deals with the atonement, but in short order, too short. He tarries on numerous Old Testament passages that point to the necessity of the atonement, but I would liked to have seen a fuller development of the New Testament scriptures that deal with the subject.
By comparison, his treatment of the Fall felt somewhat inflated. It was not useless or in error, but the chapter seemed to doddle as it pertained to the central theme of the book. Again, please understand me; Chandler’s explanation of the Fall was packed with useful insights. But the continuing illustration of the Fall with the book of Ecclesiastes seemed overdone and distracting.
That being said, as a whole, the book zinged. In fact, the final chapters seemed to speed up rather than wind down. Some of Chandler’s most pointed prophetic charges, which were strewn throughout the book, came at the end. One in particular sticks out:
“Church of Jesus, let us please be men and women who understand the difference between moralism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful to preach the dos and don’ts of Scripture in the shadow of the Cross’s ‘Done!’ Resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ crucified. We are not looking to conform people to a pattern of religion but pleading with the Holy Spirit to transform people’s lives. Let us move forward according to that upward call, holding firmly to the explicit gospel.”
Chandler’s passion for the explicit Gospel clearly shines through passages like this and others throughout the book, making it a compelling read.
The Explicit Gospel has certainly stirred my heart and mind. It’s message is timely and needed, and I gladly recommend it to you. Get it. Read it.