The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler with Jared Wilson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 224 pp)
According to the latest Pew Report, 78.4% of Americans consider themselves Christian. Moreover, some have no idea why they went to church growing up. Church attendance rates drop dramatically when people enter their twenties, most likely because church is seen as an obligatory service to a God people don’t know.
I still remember the last sermon I heard at the church I attended growing up. It was about why George Washington was a good man. Not Jesus, but George Washington. Not until I heard the gospel explicitly preached did I find the truth: Jesus. In Matt Chandler’s and Jared Wilson’s book, The Explicit Gospel, the authors outline why preaching the gospel explicitly and emphatically is important.
“My daughter was three, and it hit me that my kids were going to grow up in the church. 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 [in my church who hadn’t heard the gospel previously] had heard the gospel but didn’t have the spiritual ears to truly hear it, to receive it. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit wasn’t going to let it go that easily. The question began to haunt me” (12).
Chandler and Wilson then outline how Christians should preach and hear the gospel on both the ground level (micro level) and the air level (macro level). In the gospel on the ground, they trace the biblical narrative of God, man, Christ, and response, and in the gospel on the ground, they look at the meta-narrative of the Bible’s story of redemption.
Perhaps the most poignant thing said in the gospel-on-the-ground section is after the authors outline who humans are (sinners).
“So far we have seen that the Scriptures reveal God as sovereign and glorious and tell us that his sovereign plan is to make manifest the supremacy of his glory. We have also seen that the Bible tells us that we fall short of God’s glory in our sinfulness, which is made manifest in our predisposition and efforts to worship things and people that are not God. Because God’s passion is for his own glory, then, and because he is perfectly righteous, his response to our idolatry is wrath, eternal condemnation administered by him in consigning us to eternal conscious torment in hell…Enter grace” (53).
Chandler and Wilson sketch the gospel of Christ’s grace and salvation in one of the most considered, poignant, and convicting ways I’ve read. An old idea we perhaps don’t hear often enough, the topic holds significant weight for me. The chapter on Christ is by far the most explicitly stated (most likely why the book is named what it is) I’ve heard in a long time, and the authors call for response.
“The gospel is such power that it necessitates reaction. Jesus Christ has worked such an outrageous wonder that he demands response, whether hatred or passion. Anyone ambivalent about what Christ has actually done just isn’t clear on the facts. To present the gospel, then, is to place a hearer in an untenable position. The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him” (63).
Something for the Contemporary Church Goer
For the section on the Gospel in the air, Chandler and WIlson focus on the main narrative of the bible: Creation, Fall, Reconciliation, and Consummation. They also warn the reader about the dangers of exclusively focusing on either the Gospel in the air or the Gospel on the ground.
The Explicit Gospel is a well-written, biblically faithful and thorough explanation on what the Gospel is and how the Gospel should inform and transform people. Granted, the book does rehash some well-tread arguments and ideas (Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation), and painting the gospel as something in need of explicit statement is an Evangelical position dating back to the 1920s. But, at the same time, I think it is worth bringing the argument back, as Chandler and Wilson have obviously found the need to do so in their churches. Chandler and Wilson effectively argue their point in a well-thought-out way and will most likely advance the conversation of the Gospel to those who merely heard bland statements about Christ growing up.
Myself, I was moved by this helpful reminder, as I perhaps don’t always present the Gospel as effectively and intensely as I should when leading others in my church. The authors gave me something to wrestle with and chew on by effectively identifying problems and systematically tearing them down. This is worth a read.