Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Slave

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. 2010. December 2010. Thomas Nelson. 227 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed John MacArthur's Slave in 2011. I loved it then. I love it now. It's a book well worth reading and rereading. Are you a slave to sin? Or are you a slave of Christ? What does it mean to be Christ's slave? What does the Bible mean by the word slave? (And why do most translations get it wrong and translate the word slave as servant?) Why is the Bible so rich in slave-master imagery? MacArthur addresses these questions in this book. To keep it very simple, the book is about what it means to be a Christian: to be a Christian is to be a slave. The book is plenty complex. MacArthur examines slavery in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He specifically talks about slave culture during the Roman Empire. He provides readers with the context they need to grasp the significance of the biblical imagery. Readers learn about slaves; readers learn about masters. In the Christian context. Do you see God as your master? Should you be seeing God as your master? I loved how the book ties slavery into adoption. The book concludes with four "rich paradoxes" of Scripture: slavery brings freedom, slavery ends prejudice, slavery magnifies grace, and slavery pictures salvation.

Overall, the book is just excellent. I highly recommend it!!! 

The table of contents:

  • One Hidden Word
  • Ancient History, Timeless Truth
  • The Good and Faithful Slave
  • The Lord and Master (Part 1)
  • The Lord and Master (Part 2)
  • Our Lord and Our God 
  • The Slave Market of Sin
  • Bound, Blind, and Dead
  • Saved From Sin, Slaved by Grace
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 1)
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 2)
  • Ready to Meet the Master
  • The Riches of the Parodox

When we call ourselves Christians, we proclaim to the world that everything about us, including our very self-identity, is found in Jesus Christ because we have denied ourselves in order to follow and obey Him. He is both our Savior and our Sovereign, and our lives center on pleasing Him. To claim the title is to say with the apostle Paul, "To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21) (11)
In addition to the name Christian, the Bible uses a host of other terms to identify the followers of Jesus. Scripture describes us as aliens and strangers of God, citizens of heaven, and lights to the world. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, members of His body, sheep in His flock, ambassadors in His service, and friends around His table. We are called to compete like athletes, to fight like soldiers, to abide like branches in a vine, and even to desire His Word as newborn babies long for milk. All of these descriptions--each in its own unique way--help us to understand what it means to be a Christian. Yet, the Bible uses one metaphor more frequently than any of these. It is a word picture you might not expect, but it is absolutely critical for understanding what it means to follow Jesus. It is the image of a slave. Time and time again throughout the pages of Scripture, believers are referred to as slaves of God and slaves of Christ. In fact, whereas the outside world called them Christians, the earliest of believers repeatedly referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord's slaves. For them, the two ideas were synonymous. To be a Christian was to be a slave of Christ. (12)
We don't hear about that concept much in churches today. In contemporary Christianity the language is anything but slave terminology. It is about success, health, wealth, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. We often hear that God loves people unconditionally and wants them to be all they want to be. He wants to fulfill every desire, hope, and dream. Personal ambition, personal fulfillment, personal gratification--these have all become a part of the language of evangelical Christianity--and part of what it means to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Instead of teaching the New Testament gospel--where sinners are called to submit to Christ--the contemporary message is exactly the opposite: Jesus is here to fulfill all your wishes. Likening him to a personal assistant or a personal trainer, many churchgoers speak of a personal Savior who is eager to do their bidding and help them in their quest for self-satisfaction or individual accomplishment. The New Testament understanding of the believer's relationship to Christ could not be more opposite. He is the Master and Owner. We are His possession. He is the King, the Lord, and the Son of God. We are His subjects and His subordinates. In a word, we are His slaves. (14-15)
The gospel is not simply an invitation to become Christ's associate; it is a mandate to become His slave. (19)
Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel (in which God initiates everything and receives all the glory). The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. But the Scripture is clear: unless the Spirit of God gives spiritual life, all sinners are completely unable to change their fallen nature or to rescue themselves from sin and divine judgment. They can neither initiate nor accomplish any aspect of that redemption. Even the supposed "good things" that unbelievers do are like filthy rags before a Holy God (Isa. 64:6). Contrast that with every other religious system, in which people are told that through their won efforts they can achieve some level of righteousness, thereby contributing to their salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. (121-2)
Adoption, in Roman times, signified a new beginning: entrance into a new family such that all previous family ties and obligations were broken. The adoption process consisted of several specific legal procedures. The first step completely terminated the adopted child's social relationship and legal connection to his natural family. The second step made him a permanent member of his new family. Additionally, any previous financial obligations were eradicated, as if they had never existed… Once the adoption was complete, the new son or daughter was then completely under the care and control of the new father. The previous father no longer had any authority over his former child. (156-7)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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