Jan 17, 2011

Slave by John MacArthur: A Book Review

I was excited to get my hands on John MacArthur's new book "Slave" to review.  Dr. MacArthur and his writings have had a profound effect on my Christian walk as well as my ministry.  I have been privileged to receive dozens of books from his ministry, Grace to You, that have shaped much of my theology and ministry practice.  This book quickly went into the top three that I have read by him and will effect me much like The Gospel According to Jesus did. 

The premise of the book is that for many centuries Bible translators have often translated the greek word "doulos" as servant or bond-servant instead of the more accurate translation "slave".  This has been primarily to the negative reaction in the western world to the atrocities that occurred in both the English and the American slave trades.  In the process of translating such, a major theological flaw has occurred.  We have created a system of Christianity that places a lot of sovereignty in the life of the believer.  We have looked at the relationship of Christ-follower and Jesus as a partnership.  "Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life", "Jesus is for you", and "Jesus wants to do abundant things in your life" are some of the popular notions in today's church.  They all miss the point that what Christ calls us too in the gospel is complete allegiance, total surrender, and abandonment of self in order to find the treasure of the gospel - Christ himself.  MacArthur does a masterful job of taking the reader back to understanding the Roman system of slavery against the more modern understandings of it.  He shows the reader that to accurately understand "doulos" we must look at the perspective of the culture in which the New Testament was written.  He explains that while slaves had no inherent rights, many of them also benefited greatly from benevolent masters who took care of them. 

While some might think on the surface that the ideas that MacArthur expounds sound restrictive, a closer examination shows that they are the pathway to true biblical freedom.  No longer do we need to be bound to a system where Jesus is our "friend" and we "try our best to be like him."  Instead, through complete submission to Christ, we discover greater intimacy with him, a pathway to obedience, and release from the systems of this world.  I would highly recommend every pastor, church leader, and most Christians to pick up a copy of Slave.  Find the freedom of slavery to Christ.


Paul J. Sohn said...

This is by one of the most profound and life-altering books I've ever read in my life. Thank you for the summary. The key point is understanding the relationship with slave/master. We were bought with a hefty price - the very blood of Christ. What is amazing is how we find true freedom in slavery in Christ. That's amazing. Here's another post that complements yours. Thank you!


Anonymous said...

May I suggest you check out the endnotes in SLAVE? They are important because nearly all of these referebces lead to heretical works of modernist and postmodern scholars who deny the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Some of these “scholars” are in fact rabidly anti-Christian, and their works, which Macarthur recommends as authoritative, are filled with slander and blasphemy of the Lord Jesus Christ. One homosexual scholar cited by Macarthur wrote a blasphemous book which attempts to prove that Jesus was a homosexual. (Sex and the Single Savior) Other liberal scholars quoted by Macarthur claim that Christians in the early Church, including the Apostles, not only condoned the institution of slavery but were abusive and immoral slave owners and slave traders just like Roman slave owners/traders. For documentation, read this critical review: