Hey everyone, this post is an excerpt from Matt Chandler’s new book The Explicit Gospel. Over the next couple days I will be posting a couple excerpts from the book to give you a taste of what it is about. I highly recommend you pick it up when it is released as it will be a great and challenging read for any Christian.
1. The Gospel: Distinguishing Between Content and Implication
Distinguish between the gospel’s content and the gospel’s implication is crucial. As we rightly see the gospel as encompassing God’s work, through the culmination of Christ, of restoring all things, we can be tempted to see our good works, whether preaching Scripture or serving meals at a homeless shelter, as God’s good news. This is a temptation that honing in on the ground gospel can help us identify and mark out. We need to rightly divide between gospel and response, or we compromise both. D. A. Carson writes:
The kingdom of God advances by the power of the Spirit through the ministry of
the Word. Not for a moment does that mitigate the importance of good deeds and
understanding the social entailments of the gospel, but they are entailments of
the gospel. It is the gospel that is preached.7
We can exercise this delineation by continuing in Acts 2:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many
wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were
together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and
belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day,
attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their
food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the
people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being
saved. (Acts 2:42–47)
All the things that prompt people to mistakenly say, “This is the gospel,” can be found in this passage. What we actually see in Acts 2:42–47 is the beautiful fallout of the proclamation that precedes it. This list tells us the hearers’ response to the gospel. Why did they start living in community? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why did they begin to share their goods with one another? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why are they now on mission? Because the gospel had made them a people. Why are they seeing signs and wonders? Because the gospel had made them a people. All of these workings are outworkings of the gospel.
If we piggyback the work of the church onto the message of the gospel, we don’t enhance the gospel. It is just fine without us; it doesn’t need us. Furthermore, doing that results in preaching the church rather than preaching Christ. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves,” Paul writes, “but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).
Believing the news that God is holy, that you are a sinner, and that Christ has reconciled you to God by his life, death, and resurrection is what justifies you. This is our foundation, our root. The things that we read in Acts 2:42–47 are the fruit. They show the building of the home, but they are not the foundation.
If we confuse the gospel with response to the gospel, we will drift from what keeps the gospel on the ground, what makes it clear and personal, and the next thing you know, we will be doing a bunch of different things that actually obscure the gospel, not reveal it. At the end of the day, our hope is not that all the poor on earth will be fed. That’s simply not going to happen. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feed and rescue the poor; I’m saying that salvation isn’t having a full belly or a college education or whatever. Making people comfortable on earth before an eternity in hell is wasteful.
Taken from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler copyright 2012. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.