28 December 2010

The review is in ... SLAVE

Unfortunately, in our watered down society where anything about Christ sends everyone running in fear and declaring we're taking over the world ... Christians don't receive the same treatment that we're supposed to share with everyone else.  If it is about Jesus no one wants to hear it but if it is about some special interest group than let their voice be heard.

Anyway, upon receiving this book and reading the back cover,  we read that English translators have “perpetrated a fraud”, a “cover-up of biblical proportions” by translating the Greek word doulos as “servant” instead of “slave.” Aside from a few translations (like the HCSB), most English Bibles fail to capture the radical nature of our relationship to Christ as Master and Lord.

For whatever reason people want to think that living the Christian lifestyle means four cars, eighteen bedrooms and money flowing out of the ears. But as a slave to Christ our devotion and desire is to be on Him.  He is the blessing, not everything else.  The blessings God does shower on us are only glimpses of what He truly wants to rain down on us.  But if we can put our focus on Him than everything else pales in comparison.

Once you get past the shock and awe of having to actually become a slave, you discover that MacArthur quickly tones down such rhetoric. He states that he believes it is a mistake to translate doulos as “servant”, this mistake is unintentional, an admission that quickly throws water on the suggestion that there is a massive “cover up.” Cover-ups are always intentional, aren’t they?
Our slavery to Christ has radical implications for how we think and live. We have been bought with a price. We belong to Christ. We are part of a people for His own possession. (21)
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. It demands dying to self and following the Master, no matter the cost. In other words, to be a Christian is to be Christ’s slave. (22)
As the book progresses, MacArthur describes the Greco-Roman slave system. He also takes readers back to the Old Testament and immerses us in the Hebrew narrative that forms the backdrop for Jesus’ slave-language in the New Testament. When Jesus called people to follow him, he was calling them to a life of self-sacrifice and total devotion to the cause of the King:
A slave’s life was one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the master – and the people of Jesus’ day would have immediately recognized the parallel. Christ’s invitation to follow Him was an invitation to that same kind of life. (43)
MacArthur’s forceful teaching on the nature of our slave-like submission to Christ may surprise some readers today. After all, we are not used to thinking in terms of being completely owned by the Savior. Though we sometimes put “Lord” in front of Jesus, we rarely invest that title with its royal connotations. We do have a conceptual problem here, but I doubt that our difficulty in grasping the Master-Slave parallel comes from Bible translation.

More likely, it’s due to the disappearance of our democracy where citizens have certain rights, and the society in general of entitlement ... because of our selfish nature it’s harder to envision the king-subject relationship that was central to the mindset of people in the ancient world.

You won’t find “cheap grace” in this book. Everything about MacArthur’s message stresses the personal sacrifice demanded in coming to Jesus.  What’s missing in the early chapters is an emphasis on love. MacArthur is right to put us in our place – as subordinates to the Savior. But the first half of the book does little to describe the bond of love between King Jesus and his citizens. The good news is that by the end of this book this truth comes out in full force. MacArthur takes readers to the doctrine of adoption to show that we become sons, not merely slaves. We become part of the family. “In salvation, the redeemed become not only His slaves but also His friends.” (148)

Throughout the book, MacArthur’s Dispensationalist version of Calvinism is evident. He makes multiple references to the rapture. He also uses the slave metaphor in his discussion on “sin”, which leads him to articulate the doctrine of total depravity and then make his way through all five points of Calvinism. At times, his vision of salvation leans toward a “transactionist” understanding, but by the end of the book, he has followed the slave imagery until it leads to the full biblical picture of vibrant relationship with Jesus:
Slavery to Christ is much more than mere duty; it is motivated by a heart of loving devotion and pure delight. Because God first loved us and sent His Son to redeem us from sin, we now love Him – longing from the heart to worship, honor, and obey Him in everything. Our slavery to Him is not drudgery but a joy-filled privilege made possible by His saving grace and the Spirit’s continued working in our lives. (208)
Overall, this book is focused on correctly understanding our relationship to Christ. Even if I don’t agree with MacArthur in all the particulars, I resonated with his emphasis on Christ’s lordship and our allegiance to his kingdom, and I believe other readers will too.

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