- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Crossway; Reprint edition (June 30, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433542110
- ISBN-13: 978-1433542114
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 339 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Explicit Gospel (Paperback Edition) Paperback – June 30, 2014
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“If you only read one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.”
―Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California
“This book, like the gospel itself, is clarifying, convicting, comforting, and compelling all at the same time. I wholeheartedly invite you to read it, to be overwhelmed by the mercy and majesty of God in the gospel, and then to spend your life making this gospel explicit in every facet of your life and to every corner of the earth!”
―David Platt, Pastor-Teacher, McLean Bible Church; author, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
“People who come face-to-face with death make the best evangelists. I have to believe that’s why my friend Matt Chandler is so passionate about a clear, biblical presentation of the gospel. Life is short. Eternity is long. May this book drive you to greater clarity in preaching the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ.”
―James MacDonald, Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; author, Vertical Church
“That the gospel is not clearly taught in classic liberalism is disheartening but not surprising. That frequently the gospel is not taught in evangelical congregations is both disquieting and surprising. Evangelicals will not deny the gospel, but they may assume it while talking about everything else―and that is tragic. Matt Chandler issues a robust call to make the gospel an explicit and central part of our preaching, and takes pains to show what that looks like. Amen and Amen.”
―D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“Matt Chandler presents the gospel in a way that is balanced, hope-filled, and very, very serious, all the while presented with Matt’s trademark humor. Even more faithful than funny, Matt insults all of us (including himself) in a strangely edifying way, and in a way that I pray will make you treasure Christ even more.”
―Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President, 9Marks
“The Explicit Gospel is a roadmap and wake-up call to our generation to grasp the full, expansive, and true gospel story. Matt is a leading voice, a great expositor of the Scriptures, passionate about Jesus, and serious about the gospel and making God known. When he speaks, I listen, and when he writes, I read. This book reflects the clear and core message of Matt’s life, leadership, and passion for a generation hungry for truth.”
―Brad Lomenick, Executive Director, Catalyst
“Too often the gospel fails to take root when it is assumed. The explicit gospel transforms individuals, churches, and nations as the mission of God is carried forward. Matt Chandler has gifted the church with a powerful tool to combat the assumed gospel. The Explicit Gospel is a serious threat to the moralistic, therapeutic deism that cripples the lives of so many. I highly recommend this book to both believers and unbelievers alike.”
―Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“Matt Chandler’s excellent book will help Christians avoid common errors that occur when we make assumptions about the meaning of the word gospel.” (April 2012)
"The Explicit Gospel brings extraordinary clarity and creativity to what all assume is understood―but quickly realize has been forgotten.” (May 2012)
About the Author
Matt Chandler (BA, Hardin-Simmons University) serves as lead pastor of teaching at the Village Church in Dallas, Texas, and president of the Acts 29 Network. He lives in Texas with his wife, Lauren, and their three children.
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and managing editor of the seminary's website for gospel-centered resources, For the Church. He is a popular author and conference speaker, and also blogs regularly at Gospel Driven Church, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. His books include Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Deeps, The Pastor’s Justification, The Storytelling God, and The Wonder-Working God.
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Let me warn you, if you find yourself becoming defensive over his ideas in this book before you get upset and throw it across the room, ask yourself what it is that has brought out that emotion in you and analyze yourself a bit. Most likely, you will learn something about yourself that you didn't even realize was there. Had you thrown the book across the room, you will probably have missed something that could transform you in bigger ways than you could ever imagine. Read it, you will know what I mean.
Now that I started with that, let me tell you what I liked about the book:
-Occasionally when he tell stories, they are vivid stories that serve as poignant illustrations for what he is trying to teach. Not only does it entertain the reader, but you can definitely relate to where he is coming from.
-He is so honest about his own sin. He doesn't preach at you, he is completely authentic in who he is and where he has come from and where he struggles currently. I think often times preachers who write books avoid talking about themselves because they fear it will look bad or hypocritical or that they have to maintain a "perfect" image to teach what they are trying to teach so people believe them. Not Matt. He is real and honest and that is effective.
-Chandler has a way of understanding human behavior and pointing out, not just the massive ways we fall short, but the minute tiny things that we do on a daily basis that hurt us and we don't even realize it. We have so much to gain from that understanding in our sanctification.
-This book as blown my mind, not surprisingly, and given me new realms of understanding that I want to pursue in my relationship with Jesus. I can't speak for everyone but I know that I know, in theory, what Christ did on the cross and I know that I know, in theory, who God is, but I really want to fully grasp the reality of what all that means, not just for me but for those I share the gospel with. I think this is a fantastic jumping off point for me to really pursue that.
Matt writes like he preaches, which can be really effective when you are listening to him, but I found it a bit more challenging when reading it. It helps that I have heard him speak so I can imagine what vocal emphasis he might use here or there. I could sort of hear him in my head. As another reviewer said, he does go off on tangents. I plan to reread this book, hopefully in a study of some sort so I can really talk it out with folks to help me wrap my mind around a lot of it. He has quite the vocabulary which honestly shouldn't deter you at all from reading the book, but I had to stop and think a lot in context if I didn't know what a word was, or look it up. Frankly, that adds to my own learning and understanding so it isn't really a bad thing. Just takes a couple more seconds and it isn't often enough to make me not read it. It's not THAT far above my head.
I think it's important to realize his goal in this book, which should be obvious to you as you read what he is really trying to accomplish by writing it. I have to give him 4 stars only because of the writing style and it being hard to follow AT TIMES, but this is a game changing book.
Many reviewers dinged him a star or two because it wasn't what they expected. I don't think that tells you anything about the book itself. So that's not so helpful. Some folks disagreed with the title of the book and expected the book to exegetically go through the gospel and explain it in detail. It's semantics really. Matt Chandler wants us to be explicit about what the gospel means in our lives and when we share the gospel with others. He explains the dangers of omitting things because they aren't popular to the unchurched or churches trying to hard to attract people by watering down theology to attract more people, etc. Thus encouraging us as Christians to not only be explicit in sharing it but in living it.
He does explain the love of Christ, he does explain the cross, etc. Maybe not the way other reviewers wanted him to, but unfortunately for them, Matt Chandler wrote the book, they didn't. His title is not a misnomer.
I disagree with the claim that he makes nonessentials essentials. A few said this. I think those readers either misunderstood those pieces in context to the point he was making, didn't want to see it or were finding something to be nit-picky about. Read it and decide for yourselves. Hopefully you will have enough foresight not to get stuck in that.
It will change your perspective on "religion," on how you see God, the cross, Christians, yourself, etc. It's a must read.
In addition, Joe Thorn delivered an incredibly cogent book on preaching the gospel to self daily in Note to Self. Rounding it off with Trevin Wax's most excellent work contrasting the counterfeits to the one true gospel in Counterfeit Gospels, a book I reviewed just this last week.
If you happen to read the above reviews, you will likely find how I've grown in the grace of God through these works and how my writing has matured stylistically and selectively keeping the purpose of wholesome speech in mind.
Now on to what we've been waiting for, a review of the Explicit Gospel, a work from an author that has been anticipated by this blogger for nigh about a decade. I have watched with eagerness and joy the gospel-ministry of Matt Chandler for nearly a decade. I served with him briefly at CrossCamp. I attended the Metro Bible Study at Prestonwood. I served and attended at the Village Church for a year of training while at Dallas Seminary. I prayed for him along with thousands others as he battled cancer, and I had the joy of listening to him preach at T4G on the eschatalogical wonder of the gospel this last year. Therefore, this book has been an incredibly joyful read!
The Explicit Gospel is the culmination and product of Chandler's prayers and reflection upon pastoral ministry and the gospel during these many years at the Village Church. Not to be forgotten is the seamless interplay of countless conversations between Jared Wilson and Matt Chandler as this project came to fruition. These men have carefully considered the premise of this book and presented the premise in a very digestible and helpful fashion. Because of the thoughtful writing of these two men, this book has been a delight to read!
The Premise and Structure
The premise of the Explicit Gospel is primarily concerned with the pattern that Chandler kept seeing as a pastor at the Village Church. This pattern is that people grew up in church, attended every event, walked the aisle/got baptized, then fell away from Church, returning again as an adult to finally hear the gospel explicitly. Chandler describes his response after hearing some more of these testimonies in this way, "That night for the first time I asked the question, 'How can you grow up going to church every week and not hear the gospel?' I quickly decided that these people had heard the gospel but didn't have the spiritual ears to truly hear it, to receive it (Chandler, 12)."
Chandler goes on to consider this common phenomenon by making the following astute observation of how many churches are pastored and many functional church goers think:
For some reason--namely, our depravity--we have a tendency to think that the cross saves us from past sin, but after we are saved, we have to take over and clean ourselves up. This sort of thinking is devastating to the soul. We call this the "assumed gospel," and it flourishes when well-meaning teachers, leaders, and preachers set out to see lives first and foremost conformed to a pattern of behavior (religion) and not transformed by the Holy Spirit's power (gospel) (Chandler, 14).
The result of Chandler's premise is a journey of making the gospel explicit. Chandler says, "But I want to spend my time with you trying to make sure that when we use the word gospel, we are talking about the same thing (Chandler, 15)." Chandler begins making the gospel explicit by providing a novel perspective of two ways to view the gospel. He refers to the first as the gospel on the ground (a micro-level of the gospel) and the second view as the gospel in the air (a macro-level of the gospel). Both views are looking at the same concept, the gospel, but they are seeing the different effects that the gospel has on everything. In fact, Jared Wilson in his forthcoming release of Gospel Deeps refers back to the gospel on the ground as a microscopic view of the gospel and the gospel in the air as the telescopic view of the gospel (Wilson, 36 1st proof). I think this is a very appropriate way to surmise these two perspectives of the gospel.
With the first view of the gospel, the gospel on the ground, we see how God works redemption for the purpose of restoring humanity from its fallen position to its rightful position. This aspect focuses on the concept of justification. This whole section keeps individuals in mind. Chandler describes the gospel on the ground through the biblical narrative of God, Man, Christ and Response. He says, "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 (Chandler, 16)."
The gospel in the air views the gospel with restoration of all creation in mind. This section of the book is structured around the scripture of Romans 8.22-23. "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." In this section individuals now see how they are part of a cast in a much bigger play. God is performing a mighty work that will result in the eventual restoration of all creation. "Here we find a tour de force story of creation, fall, reconciliation, consummation--a grand display of God's glory in his overarching purposes of subjecting all things to the supremacy of Christ (Chandler, 16)." This angle of the biblical narrative conveys how the gospel is more than personal. It is cosmic. Chandler says, "As we examine the gospel in the air, we'll see from the scriptural testimony of Jesus's atoning work that the gospel is not just personal, but cosmic (Chandler, 16)."
The Explicit Gospel concludes with an extremely helpful section about the many dangers of over-emphasizing the gospel on the ground or doing likewise with the gospel in the air. Chandler presents three dangers for staying with the gospel on the ground too long. These dangers include: Missing God's Grand Mission, A Rationalized Faith, and A Self-Centered Gospel. The dangers for staying with the gospel in the air too long are: Syncretism, A Christless Gospel, Culture as Idol, and Abandoning Evangelism.
Takeaways from the Explicit Gospel
I seriously enjoyed how Chandler and Wilson tackled some complicated and controversial issues in a very gracious and even-handed manner. They did not shy away from talking about the severity of God but rather highlighted how loving God's severity is, "In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God (Chandler, 41)." They painted an accurate portrayal of heaven and hell and guided readers to the right motivation for desiring the former over the latter, "Heaven is not a place for those who are afraid of hell; it's a place for those who love God (Chandler, 49)."
They exposed how many shy away from centering the gospel on christ because they wish to exalt self over Him.
In fact, all across the evangelical landscape, people want to get away from the shame and the blood and the guts and the horrific slaughter of Jesus Christ and focus on something else with the cross out on the margins. But the reason we do this isn't so much to rectify an imbalance but to idolatrously elevate ourselves. It's like the charismatics who want to make the day of Pentecost central to the Christian faith. Or the Calvinists who want to make TULIP central. Liberals want to make social justice the center. Fundamentalists want to make moral behavior the center. (Their motto is "Do, do, do," but the cross screams out "Done!") All of those things are good things, biblical things. But to make any of them the center of the Christian faith, the grounds of our hope, is to disregard the only power of salvation--the message of the cross (Chandler, 59).
As they discussed the issue of creation, they neither gave way to science's theories nor overstated what the bible says about creation. "The only reason we feel compelled to accommodate science is that science tells us we ought to. But it is science that should accommodate revelation. Revelation has been around much longer. We also have to admit up front that the Bible just isn't overly concerned with science (Chandler, 100)."
Finally, the personal anecdotes brought life to the issues. As Matt Chandler relayed story after story of encounters and interactions he had with people, I was better able to understand the urgency of making the gospel explicit and the tact and manner at which we ought to deliver gospel truth to the lost. So many of the issues relating to misunderstanding the gospel or over-emphasizing one of these two ways at looking upon the gospel could be resolved if believers were more trained on doctrine and more intentional with keeping Christ central and God's glory pre-imminent. The Explicit Gospel accomplishes both of these needs. I found myself sharpened doctrinally and reflective on how I could live Christ-centered for God's glory.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book from Crossway, today! This book will get you excited about gospel ministry and motivated to make the gospel pervasive in your spiritual life. There are a couple other helpful reviews out there on the Explicit Gospel. I encourage you to give them a read as well. I found Aaron Armstong's review at BloggingTheologically.com and Camden Bucy's review at Reformation21.org to be the most helpful reviews.
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.