John MacArthur has been churning out quality Christian books and resources for over thirty-five years. He has been defining and defending the biblical gospel in books like The Gospel According to Jesus, Faith Works, Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, and The Truth War. Each of these books, beginning especially with The Gospel According to Jesus has had a profound effect on my life and pastoral ministry.
Slave, MacArthur’s newest book continues to articulate the biblical gospel, the very same gospel that was preached by the apostles, Reformers, and Puritans. The uniqueness of this book is that the author seeks to “pull the hidden jewel” as he says, “all the way into the sunlight.”
MacArthur’s concern is that what is means to be a Christian has been and is being redefined by many evangelicals. But the New Testament clearly delineates the meaning of what is means to be a Christian, namely, a “wholehearted follower of Christ.” MacArthur picks up the same theme he began in The Gospel According to Jesus when he argues that Christian discipleship “demands a deep affection for Him, allegiance to Him, and submission to His Word.”
The Greek term doulos is at the heart of MacArthur’s concern. While English translations have been notorious for mistranslating this term as “servant,” the proper translation is “slave.” He notes this glaring error and insists that while many Greek words can be translated “servant,” doulos is certainly not one of them! The author highlights the key distinction between a servant and a slave, namely, “servants are hired; slaves are owned.”
Therefore, Christian disciples are defined in a biblical sense as slaves of God. MacArthur adds, “He [Christ] is the Master and Owner. We are His possession. He is the King, and the Lord, and the Son of God. We are His subjects and His subordinates … True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life. Instead, it is about devoting myself completely to Him – submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else.”
MacArthur argues convincingly that Christ is Lord and Master over his church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). Indeed, Christ is sovereign over every person and everything in the universe. John Hus is cited as a model of one who fully gave his life “to the sovereign lordship of Christ and the supremacy of His Word …”
The author demonstrates the folly of a watered-down version of Christianity: “To diminish the dominating role of Scripture in the life of the church is to treat the Lord of the church as if His revelation were optional … Nonbiblical ministry, non-expository preaching, and non-doctrinal teaching usurp Christ’s headship, silencing His voice to His sheep.”
MacArthur presents the biblical portrait of man apart from Christ, namely, “bound, blind, and dead.” The backdrop of depravity sets the stage for grace to rule and reign in the hearts and minds of sinners. For “it is from slavery to sin that God saves His elect, rescuing them from the domain of darkness and transferring them as His own slaves into the kingdom of His Son” (Col 1:13). The author continues, “Freedom in Christ, then, is not freedom to sin but freedom from sin – freedom to live as God intends, in truth and holiness.”
MacArthur presents an excellent summary of particular redemption, a doctrine that has been neglected for years in the church. He argues, “Christ’s death on the cross actually pays the penalty for the elect sinner, redeeming him from sin and rescuing him from God’s wrath … the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work are applied only to those whom God has chosen for Himself.”
The author sets forth the biblical teaching concerning adoption. The historical precedent for adoption is shown in the Old Testament. And the New Testament reality of adoption is explained in detail. All of God’s elect are thus “simultaneously sons and slaves.” MacArthur adds, “Like justification, adoption rests on the loving purpose and grace of God.”
Finally, the author presents four compelling paradoxes that relate to the overall theme of the book:
1. Slavery brings freedom.
2. Slavery ends prejudice.
3. Slavery magnifies grace.
4. Slavery pictures salvation.
John MacArthur just keeps getting the gospel right. Ever since he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus, he has been warning the church to define the gospel biblically and keep Christ at the center of the gospel. He continues to remind the church to steer clear from the no-lordship position that is promoted by the Free Grace Movement, which is, in the final analysis, a different gospel.
MacArthur hits the Christological target with this book. With the skill of a theologian-marksman, he exalts and magnifies Christ. In the final analysis, Slave is a primer on Reformed theology and is written with humility and great erudition. It should receive a wide reading for years to come and make a significant difference in the body of Christ.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program.