CRITIQUE OF THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL by MATT CHANDLER
AN ASSIGNMENT SUBMITTED TO DR. BARKSDALE
April 15, 2015
Matt Chandler is a young man who is wise beyond his years. He is a promising pastor in the Dallas, TX area with a rather large church, which is part of the multi-site movement. He is now the author of four books, including one with his wife. However, it is this book, which helped to put him on the map as an author. The title of the book gives the thesis of the entire book, explaining the explicit gospel. Chandler has over come much in his life including batting a very rare type of brain cancer, to come back from it to continue to lead the charge in his ever-growing church (The Village Church).
Starting off this book is a great explanation of what the Gospel truly is. There are two overall arching themes that Chandler continually refers to through out the book, what he calls the Gospel in the air and the Gospel on the ground. This book consists of eleven very thorough chapters ranging to 223 pages not including the appendix. In the first four chapters he covers who God is, mans role, Christ role in the universe and all things, and the necessary response. The second portion of the book he discusses the roles of creation, the fall, reconciliation, and ultimately the consummation of all things.
This critique is a little more challenging, while having listened to the whole book, there are no highlights for reference. In his chapter on God Chandler handles a delicate topic with great care. Explaining how God is whom he is to the best of his knowledge, focusing on His transcendent creativity, His sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and last but not least His self-regard.
Chapter two deals with the role of man in God’s plan. How we are to be subject to the wrath of God, and how weighty it truly is. Chandler also explains who we were before the fall and the relationship we once had with God in light of being his creation. Chapter three covers Christ, and how he was sent to take the blame of our sins upon himself. This is not an easy chapter to read or to hear.
Chapter four in short is about our response to the work of Jesus on the cross. This is one of Chandler’s longer chapters in the book. He starts with a section dealing on faith vs. works and later moves into response and responsibility, responding to the Gospel is not the Gospel itself, and he ultimately ends with how we should respond with faith to the Gospel.
He begins the second section of the book the Gospel in the air, with creation. In chapter five he begins with a section from Romans chapter 8, giving us a lesson in film by talking about in media res. In this chapter he covers some of the more historic views of creation and lays out his own personal view. He does a very good job of covering a lot of the aspects of how creation came to be and why it is. Now in chapter six he covers a very uncomfortable topic for some people who call themselves believers, and that is the fall. In this chapter he takes a comprehensive look at the fall and how it affected not only man but all of creation.
Chapter seven has to be by far the best chapter in the book, because it is the one that brings the ultimate hope into the picture. He takes a look at the work Christ did on the Cross and how it paid for the sins of those who are elect. He also goes big picture about what it means for the world that Christ came and died on the cross. He finishes the book talking about the ultimate consummation of heaven and earth, and then the dangers of the Gospel staying in the air or on the ground for too long with out the other aspects of it.
Overall this book is a very informative book, even for a person who thinks they have a grip on the Gospel. It has much insight in it, breaking down the central elements of a Gospel presentation and putting much more meat on the bones than a simple “elevator pitch” would offer. While there is not much that can be said negatively about this book, there is a lot still to be said in general.
Starting with the few negatives that could be found, it mainly takes place in the backend of the book. The last few chapters when he is making his argument for the Gospel staying in the air too long or on the ground longer than it should, those chapters seemed to get stretched out like he was trying to meet a quota that had been set for him. He could have probably cut both of those in half and had a stronger case for the point he was attempting to make.
It is in the chapter on response that Chandler points out how we need to be faithful to God’s call, while not taking Scripture out of context. He referents Isaiah 6, the chapter where God asks “who shall we send?” and Isaiah says, “send me” and how we always want to use that verse out of context. That was a great point that most believers overlook. He points out the fact that Isaiah was signing up for a fruitless ministry and God told him it was going to be that way and he still goes anyway.
Through out the book Chandler is constantly making reference to the Gospel in the air and the Gospel on the ground. It seems as though understanding what exactly he is referring to becomes more difficult as you progress throughout the book. He doesn’t seem to make any big statements that send up red flags going hey, that is not quite right or that isn’t true.
One thing that sticks out in mind is how he made reference to not understanding much about eschatology. And always kind of steering clear of that topic because he was uneasy with it, that really resonated with me because that is where I am. I don’t personally have a set eschatological view that I can point to and go yep I am a part of that camp. His idea of locking down the big ideas of the end times and then working out the small stuff makes a lot of sense to me.
I could really appreciate how he ended the book in dealing with moralism and the cross. For some people it is easy to confuse the two, with out Christ we have essentially moralism. It is because of the cross that there is a distinction to be made. He lists a bunch of different examples of how people are not living in light of what Jesus has done, but instead of the things that person has tried to do to earn favor with God. He says, “When bad things happen—when a guy loses his job or gets sick—he begins to think of all the ways he has failed God as a reason that the bad things are happening.” He also believes that, “The perverted fruit this produces is something akin to the prosperity gospel.”
In light of this understanding it has made me want to make sure that I am perfectly clear in my presentation of the Gospel, and I am not presenting something that is centered around what man can do, but around what Christ has done. It is easy to fall victim to the therapeutic moral Deism of our day and think we are preaching the gospel, when in reality all we are preaching is self help, or in fact a prosperity gospel of name it, claim it type of mindset.
I also appreciated his detailed treatment of creation. He did a very nice job explain his view of historic creationism. While I am still not certain of anything other than what the Bible itself says about creation, he makes a strong case for historic creationism. He got me thinking by his explanation of reshit and how it is “representative of the early stages of an unknown period of time” This has helped me think of picking up this line of thought and possibly taking a stance with this argument. He also adds that they believe in literal 24-hour days after Genesis 1-2, which is something that I am in agreement with.
This is an excellent book for every Christian to read. It is full of rich theological ideology that is relevant to today’s readers in breaking down the Gospel and making it explicit instead of implicit. It is not often one finds a book that has such few flaws as this one. While some may take offense at a few points on several areas Chandler has done a tremendous job in backing up whatever claims he made with Scripture. Whether you are a new Christian or a seasoned believer this is a book everyone should read.
Chandler, Matt. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
 Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012)211.
 Ibid., 210
 Ibid., 96.