When I first came across John MacArthur’s latest book Slave my initial reaction was to recoil inwardly. I thought, “Here MacArthur goes again, taking another hardline stance… lots of truth, little grace.” I decided to give the book a try though, since I was preparing to preach on Philippians 1:1 where the Apostle Paul refers to himself and Timothy as ‘doulos‘ – servants in almost all english translations, yet MacArthur argues is really to be translated as ‘slave‘. After reading the first chapter for free on my Kindle, I purchased the rest of the book, and I’m glad I did.
MacArthur demonstrates that the predominate title given to followers of Christ in the Bible is not ‘Christian’ (this word only occurs 3 times), but rather it is ‘doulos‘ – which occurs 142 times in the New Testament. In secular greek, doulos is never translated ‘servant’ as most english translations have it, but rather it is always ‘slave’. Furthermore, there are at least six other greek words that could be used for the word ‘servant’, but doulos is not one of them.
MacArthur shows that the distinctions between servants and slaves are tremendously significant for the life and identity of the follower of Christ.
- Servants are hired; slaves are owned – servants are defined by what they do, slaves are defined by who they are… and Christians are Christ’s possessions. He bought us with the price of his own blood. The primary purpose of a slave is to honor, obey, and please his or her master.
MacArthur goes on to show that everybody is either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ. Sin is a cruel master… the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23). Christ the Lord (kurios – master) is a kind and great master. it is an honor, joy, and true freedom to be redeemed from the slave master of sin and purchased by Christ. Or as MacArthur puts it;
“To be a slave of Jesus Christ is the greatest benediction imaginable. Not only is He a kind and gracious Lord, but He is also the God of the universe. His character is perfect; His love is infinite; His power, matchless; His wisdom, unsearchable; and His goodness, beyond compare. It is no wonder, then, that our relationship to Him as our Master brings us great benefit and honor.”
Next time you read the Bible and you see the word ‘servant’, replace it with the word slave and you’ll notice the important implications it has for your faith and joy in Christ.