Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slave by John MacArthur

MacArthur's newest title, Slave-The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, is a must read.

The main thesis of the book is that we ought to identify with Christ primarily as His slaves. This identification has profound implications in our relationship to the Lord as well as to sin.

The opening pages of Slave put forth a strong argument that the Greek 'doulos' should always and only be rendered as the English 'slave.' The Geneva Bible and the KJV generally render 'doulos' as 'servant'. There were perhaps compelling reasons for doing so in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was thought that 'slave' would not adequately represent ancient Roman slavery. In the late medieval world, servants, were not much better than slaves. However, in our modern vernacular, 'servant' does not carry the weight of slavery, at all. Servants are voluntary, come for their hire, are independent and so forth.

So, while our conceptions of slavery may not perfectly fit the Roman idea of slavery, it is much more akin to that idea than to the modern idea of servant.

We are, in fact, bought by Christ. We are His slaves. We have no personal rights of our own. We are not free men. Furthermore, our ownership has been transferred. We used to be slaves of sin. We had to serve that master. But now, we are slaves of Christ, having to serve Him. In this paradoxical way of thinking, the slave of sin is not free. But the slave of Christ, the slave of righteousness is the only one who is free.

This changes the meaning of many passages in the New Testament that are rendered servant. Of the 124 appearances of 'doulos' in the New Testament, the KJV translates it 'slave' only one time. The rest are servant. We must dramatically rethink our connection to Christ.

Having set this stage, MacArthur moves on to examine a great deal of Scripture in light of this change of meaning. He does this while walking through the doctrines of grace. In fact, this process creates an entirely new and refreshing way of thinking about how we relate to God as totally depraved, unconditionally chosen by Him, related to Christ by His atonement, called to Him by His powerful grace, and kept by Him until the day of redemption of our bodies.

MacArthur does not forget that the New Testament also describes us as the children of God, adopted into His family and kingdom. He does this, while also pointing out that the writers of the Epistles still regularly use the slave language, long after Jesus has raised us up from slaves to children and joint heirs. Furthermore, he gives a wide testimony of the early Church that also prolifically used slave language to describe our standing in Christ.

Many early Christians held the statement, "I am a Christian" to be nearly synonymous with the idea that "I am Christ's slave." When we think of Christ as Lord, Kyrios, we should think of Him as Master, a slave owner. So, in addition to the manifold number of times we see 'doulos', slave, in the New Testament, we also see Jesus as Lord, Kyrios, the Master. The New Testament is full of this language of Master and Slave.

If we understand ourselves as the adopted children of God, we do so, understanding also that we have been raised to that position, from the position of being abject slaves. This ought to produce in us a far greater level of gratitude to the One that is both our Savior and our Lord and Master. It is a privilege to be His slave.

This book would be an exceptional group study for discussion. I highly recommend it.

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