John MacArthur: “To Be A Christian Is To Be A Slave of Christ”

What  is a Christian?  What does it mean to be one?  How should Christians order their lives?  What priorities should captivate and compel those who call themselves Christians?  In our day, it seems many who call themselves Christians are confused about this.  Several months ago, I embarked on a study of the descriptive terms used in the Bible to describe Christians.   I hypothesized, that understanding those terms, would shed much light on what it means to follow the Savior.  I was right.  It was a very nourishing exercise. 

Would it surprise you to learn that the word “Christian” is one of the least used terms in the Bible to describe those who follow Christ?  It occurs only three times.  The two most common terms used to describe followers of Christ are:  Disciple and Slave/Servant.

In his new book, “Slave:  The Hidden Truth About Your identity In Christ”,  Dr. John MacArthur focuses  on the term “slave.”    I was hooked by the end of the first page.    Here are some great quotes from the book:

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 Savior and our Sovereign, and our lives center on pleasing Him.  To claim the title is say with the apostle Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”  (Phil 1:21) 

“The New Testament reflects this perspective, commanding believers to submit to Christ completely, and not just as hired servants or spiritual employees, but as those who belong wholly to Him.  We are told to obey Him without question and follow Him without complaint.  Jesus Christ is our Master, a fact we acknowledge every time we call him “Lord.”

“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 church goers 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 believers 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.”

“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 what the cost.  In other words, to be a christian is to be Christ’s slave.”

“Discipleship, like slavery, entails a life of total self-denial, a humble disposition towards others, a wholehearted devotion to the Master alone, a willingness to obey His commands in everything, an eagerness to serve him even in his absence, and a motivation that comes from knowing He is well pleased…Against the historical backdrop of slavery, our lord’s call to self-sacrifice becomes that much more vivid.  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.”

In “Slave”, Dr. MacArthur argues very persuasively for a return to authentic Christianity.  I think the first seven chapters of the book should be read by every follower of Christ.  However, the last six chapters of the book are not as strong.  In them, Dr. MacArthur takes the “slave” concept and uses it to “prove” the 5 points of Calvinism.  I didn’t find it very convincing.   You may disagree with me on this one.   If you are in the Calvinist camp, you will enjoy this section.  If not, don’t let this keep you from reading the rest of the book! 

Some books are labor to read.  This book practically read itself.   I could not put it down!   I Hope you make time to read it.  Dr. MacArthur ends the book the same way I end my post:

“Thus we end this book where we began-asking the question, “what does it mean to be a Christian?  Whether we examine the national identity of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt, or the self-identification of the apostolic writers, or the nomenclature used by early Christian martyrs we find ourselves continually confronted with a concept as foreign to our Western minds as it is radical and profound.  Yet if we are to fully appreciate what it means to follow Christ, we must embrace the life-changing implications of this vital concept.  To be a Christian is to be a slave of Christ.” 

About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on May 2, 2011, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, The Christian Life, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the notes about the book. I have a copy, and am looking forward to reading it. I’m intrigued about the part on Calvinism. I don’t need convincing, but it will still be interesting to see how he does that.


  2. That is right, I just purchased McArthur’s book “Gospel According to Jesus” and the first two chapters have me intrigued.


  3. Nearly all of the sources cited in SLAVE lead to heretical works of modernist and postmodern scholars who deny the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Some of these “scholars” are in fact rabidly anti-Christian, and their works, which Macarthur recommends as authoritative, are filled with slander and blasphemy of the Lord Jesus Christ. One homosexual scholar cited by Macarthur wrote a blasphemous book which attempts to prove that Jesus was a homosexual. (Sex and the Single Savior) Other liberal scholars quoted by Macarthur claim that Christians in the early Church, including the Apostles, not only condoned the institution of slavery but were abusive and immoral slave owners and slave traders just like Roman slave owners/traders. For documentation, read this critical review:



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