Slave by John MacArthur.
This is a book review of Slave – The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ by John MacArthur.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, Rev 1:1
The word for servant in that verse is doulos (δοῦλος). According to Strong’s data it means: 1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition 1a) a slave. MacArthur’s book is centered on this definition.
First of all here are the book’s chapters to give you an idea of the ground the book covers, and the logical progression of MacArthur’s thinking:
1) One Hidden Word
2) Ancient History, Timeless Truth
3) The Good and Faithful Slave
4) The Lord and master (Part 1)
5) The Lord and master (Part 2)
6) Our Lord and Our God
7) The Slave Market of Sin
8) Bound, Blind and Dead
9) Saved from Sin, Slaved by Grace
10) From Salves to Sons (Part 1)
11) From Salves to Sons (Part 2)
12) Ready to Meet the Master
13) The Riches of the Paradox
My paperback copy is 280 pages. It has an Appendix from Church History and a Study Guide at the end. It is published by Thomas Nelson.
One criticism of this book is that John MacArthur allegedly employs hyperbole in suggesting that the use of the word servant in Bible translations over the years somehow deliberately masked the word’s true meaning. He calls it a “cover-up” in the preface. Whether this was intentional or not, a compelling case is made for re-thinking the word “servant” and how that should impact our relationship with our Redeemer.
MacArthur recalls reading Slave of Christ by Murray J. Harris in 2007 while on an all-night plane flight. This was the book which eventually prompted him to write Slave. You can read a review of Harris’ book at Sharper Iron. Here is an excerpt of that review:
I would have liked to have seen more detail on the debate over the translation of doulos in modern English versions, given that Harris served on the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version and that the debate over the proper translation of doulos was an impetus for his research (p. 17). Harris does address this issue, but briefly in an appendix, almost as an afterthought. Nevertheless, I found this book to present a conclusive argument that doulos should be translated “slave,” and that New Testament Christians should think of themselves just as Mary (Luke 1:38), Paul (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Titus 1:1), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Epaphras (Col 4:12), James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1) did – as slaves of Christ, totally devoted to Him.
MacArthur also mentions Edwin Yamauchi’s Evangelical Theological Society article titled Slaves of God. Yamauchi makes some important observations and paradoxes on our position as slaves of God. These are explored further in MacArthur’s book and Yamauchi’s entire article can be read online HERE.
Another criticism of the book has been MacArthur’s “Lordship Salvation” stance. Also there are the odd times where MacArthur’s Five Point Calvinism comes through. This might put some readers off from reading the book and benefiting from its central theme. However, this would be a great pity because the book has a timely message for those Christians who tend to see God as some type of heavenly Santa Claus (Prosperity Gospel). It is especially needed today where we see diversity and social justice demands trump what Christ expects of His true followers.
Are we followers of Christ when we feel like it or do our lives reflect a servant’s attitude towards our Redeemer? Are we prepared to suffer with and for Christ? Are we prepared to one day face Christ and give an account of our lives to the One who has redeemed us? These are some of the uncomfortable questions the book poses.
Here are some select quotes:
Murray Harris has observed: One of the classic Christian paradoxes is that freedom leads to slavery and slavery leads to freedom.
To be a Christian is to be a slave of Christ.
Paul was far more concerned with obeying his divine calling than with gaining man’s approval. Only one thing mattered – pleasing the Master.
The freedom of the Christian is not freedom to do what he or she wants but freedom to obey God -willingly, joyfully, naturally.
He calls us to obey, not because He needs us but because He knows we need Him.
Jim Elliot was one of five American missionaries to Ecuador who were martyred by the Waodani Indians. He is famous for his statement “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Despite one or two areas where I might disagree – now more than ever, Slave is an important book for Christians. I highly recommend it.
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