To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain. By Matt Chandler. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013. 224 pp. Hardback, $11.99.
This book by Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX, is a devotional commentary on the book of Philippians. However, it does not provide an exposition of the book. It can more properly be called a devotional reflection on certain themes found in the book.
The main point Chandler wants to emphasize is maturity in Christ. We can look at Philippians and see what this maturity looks like and it will encourage us to pursue it (p. 11). To gain it, we must focus on Christ and strive to be like Him.
The book is easy to read. Chandler gives many illustrations from his own life and his church. Another thing he does that makes the book interesting to read is he uses the example of Lydia, the slave-girl, and the jailer from Philippians to ask how they would have looked at the things Paul says in Philippians.
Chandler mostly deals with issues of assurance and perseverance implicitly. He says that Lydia, the jailer, and the slave-girl in Philippians almost certainly struggled with sin after salvation and were not perfect. However, Phil 1:6 was probably a source of comfort for them (pp. 40-41). God was at work in them.
The statement by Paul that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling is also connected with the idea that God is at work in the believer (2:12-13). God empowers us to obey but forgives us when we don’t (pp. 77-78).
Readers of the JOTGES will probably agree with Chandler that maturity in Christ is a matter of looking to Jesus. It is not accomplished by doing a list of dos and don’ts, which only results in judging others (pp. 90-91). It is by beholding Christ that we are transformed more and more into His image (2 Cor 3:18; p. 106).
According to Chandler, the gospel is more than simply how one is saved from the lake of fire. It includes sanctification (p. 133). The power to walk in obedience is found in the grace of the gospel. This sanctification, which is part of the gospel, involves discipleship (p. 134).
Chandler is also to be commended for recognizing that godliness does not happen automatically (p. 127). However, throughout the book it seems to this reviewer that he contradicts himself on this issue. He says that the faith that saves always has works and he quotes Jas 2:26 (p. 128).
Evidently, Chandler does not see the subject of rewards for believers in Philippians or the rest of the NT. The reward for the believer is simply going to heaven. This should motivate us to aggressively pursue Christ (p. 144). Chandler feels that Paul suffers for Christ in order to share in the resurrection (p. 98).
Chandler evidently does not believe we can have absolute assurance of our salvation. He says that mature believers are serious about pursuing God because we want to be raised with Christ. It is somewhat confusing to this reviewer, but in the same discussion, it appears that he believes in a general judgment when the believer will find out if he or she is really saved (p. 219).
He asks the readers if they are serious about the fact that one day we will all give an account to God. On that day we “want” to be raised with Christ (p. 220). It appears Chandler is saying we will not know until that day, but if we are serious about the implications of the Gospel, we can have greater hope and assurance.
Chandler is an effective and engaging writer. He encourages his readers to passionately follow Christ. However, he does not have an understanding of assurance or rewards in the NT. As a result, he misunderstands what living in Christ means, as well as what Paul says in some of the passages in Philippians.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society