THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL by Village Church pastor Matt Chandler contains the clearest and most compelling explanation of what the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is and what it does that I’ve ever come across. Walk into most churches in America on a Sunday morning and you’ll likely hear a sermon on some kind of behavioral change that Christians need to adhere to. While change is good and should be a part of the journey of walking with Jesus, Chandler reveals the tendency of churches to assume the gospel. The danger is to spend so much time talking about behavioral transformation that we ignore the very thing that is meant to fuel that transformation. We assume people know the gospel, so we don’t spend much time on it. But, as Chandler reveals through his brilliant explanation of the gospel, most people don’t know the gospel as clearly as we may think. An assumed gospel leaves people exhausted with trying to earn God’s approval through our own work when God’s approval has been freely given to us not because of anything we’ve done, but because Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed to us through faith in him.
Chandler explains two important perspectives, or narratives, of the gospel revealed in the Bible. The first narrative he calls “the gospel on the ground.” This narrative is God, Man, Christ, Response. This is the gospel as God’s means of saving individual people, and it is all about elevating the glory of God. Chandler clearly explains the betrayal sin is against God’s glory, the need for God’s justice to be met, and God’s deep love for humanity in satisfying his own justice through the atoning death of Jesus. The second narrative, which Chandler calls “the gospel in the air,” shows that though God is about saving individuals, his redemption is far-reaching to the whole of his creation. Man’s sin has disrupted the created order, and man’s salvation ends in a restored creation where God and man live together forever. “The gospel in the air” is about the importance of Christians to live lives of love and mercy within the culture we live in.
After walking us through the two narratives of the explicit gospel, Chandler gives some caution about focusing on one of the two narratives to the exclusion of the other. There’s a need for balance because God is clearly about both narratives.
Finally, Chandler returns to the idea of behavioral transformation, but this time having laid the foundation of transformation with an explicit, instead of assumed, gospel. He describes our role in sanctification as “grace-driven effort.” While many churches assume their people have the gospel down, THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL envisions communities of faith that find their motivation and fuel for life transformation through a clear understanding and embracing of the gospel. It’s not about us or what we do. The gospel is about what Jesus did. We are free because Jesus has set us free.
I loved this book. I’ve been listening to Matt Chandler on the Village Church’s podcast for years, and I’ve always felt God uses him to communicate the Scriptures really well. Every church and every Christian needs to read this book because, like Rick Warren has said, “It’s that important.” An embracing of the gospel as Chandler describes will change everything.
I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own