Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: "Slave" by John MacArthur

The subtitle for this book is "The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ."
When I think of metaphors to explain who I am as a Christian, I think of the father-child relationship or of how Jesus is my personal friend. I don't normally tend to think of myself as Christ's slave. It turns out that I am pretty typical for modern times. But what author John MacArthur is pointing out in this book is that early Christians all referred themselves as "slaves of Christ." In fact, the word "Christian" is only used three times in the New Testament, but "slave of Christ" occurs 123 times. His book explores the concept that because (1) this word was mistranslated as "servant" years ago (and a servant is a hired worker - very different than a slave) and (2) our culture really doesn't understand much about how slavery worked in the Roman empire of the New Testament, we have lost the meaning of this rich idea.

"Slave" contains a message I needed to hear. Thinking in terms of being a slave is the ultimate "it's not about me" attitude - which I could always use a heavy dose of. I tend to think of slavery as only negative (but in a theological sense, we were all enslaved to sin or self before we were purchased by our new Master, Christ). But one thing I need to keep in mind is that a slave did not need to worry about providing for himself - that's the master's job. What a comfort! And far from being a "slave driver," Jesus said "his yoke is easy and his burden is light."

Paul spoke of "bearing on his body the brand marks of Christ." He was referring to the scars from scourging and comparing them to the marks of ownership that a slave might have. The word picture that immediately came to mind for me was Woody in Toy Story. You remember how he has Andy's name written on his foot? And how he's not worried about anything but spending time with Andy? That's how I want to be.

I really enjoyed this book, though I must warn that it gets a little tedious in discussing theology (the doctrines of election, grace and eternal security are all discussed in depth) and in the details of Greek translation. You can tell that it is written by a seminary professor and not a layperson. There are generous footnotes and a lengthy appendix, if you like that sort of thing. I always feel obligated to read the footnotes and find it a little distracting. I wish it had contained a little more in the way of personal stories and application, but I definitely recommend it to the serious believer!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”