In his 2010 book titled Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, John MacArthur asserted, there had been a centuries-long cover-up by English New Testament translators that had obscured a precious, powerful, and clarifying revelation by the Holy Spirit.

After more than fifty years of translating, studying, teaching, preaching, and writing through the New Testament, I thought I had its truths pretty well identified and understood—especially in the realm of the New Testament theology of the gospel. In fact, clarifying the gospel was the most important and constant emphasis of my writing—from The Gospel According to Jesus, Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, and The Truth War to countless sermons and articles through the years. But through all those efforts, a profound and comprehensive perspective, one that dominates the New Testament and is crucial to the gospel, escaped me and almost everyone else. (Slave, p.1)

What is the discovery that has escaped the notice of every Christian until now?

...the Bible uses a metaphor...a word picture you might not expect, but it is absolutely critical to understanding what it means to follow Jesus. It is the image of a slave. Time and time again throughout the pages of Scripture, believers are referred to as slaves of God and slaves of Christ. 7 In fact, whereas the outside world called them Christians,’ the earliest believers repeatedly referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord’s slaves. 8. For them the two ideas were synonymous. To be a Christian was to be a slave to Christ. 9” (Slave, p. 12) 1.

MacArthur’s source for his revelation that Christians are slaves and not servants was Murray J. Harris, professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and former warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2007, on an all-night flight to London while reading Slave of Christ by Murray J. Harris, that I realized there had been a centuries-long cover-up by English New Testament translators that had obscured a precious, powerful, and clarifying revelation by the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly, the cover-up was not intentional—at least not initially. Yet its results have been dramatically serious. A cover-up in the English New Testament translations? Was that true? Why? And with what consequences? (Slave, p.1)

In 1988, theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler, resigned from ministry in the Evangelical Free Church of America because the denomination refused to dismiss Murray Harris from Trinity Seminary for his denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his book, Conviction Without Compromise, Geisler explained:

“Professor Murray Harris wrote, In his resurrected body...his essential state was one of invisibility and therefore immateriality. 5 Another characteristic of Jesus resurrection body was the ability to materialize and therefore to be localized at will. 6 The Ascension vividly dramatized Christs earlier exaltation to Gods right hand—a parable acted out for the benefit of the disciples as a visual and historical confirmation of a spiritual reality. 7 It is not historical in the sense of being an incident that was observed by witnesses or even that could have been observed by mortal gaze. 8 Here again is a denial of the orthodox view of the resurrection of Christ...


Not only do many cults deny the physical bodily ascension of Christ, but an astonishing number of contemporary evangelicals do as well. These include such notables as George Ladd, Murray Harris, and Millard Erickson. Harris referred to the ascension of Christ as a parable, saying: The Ascension vividly dramatized Christs earlier exaltation to Gods right hand [at the resurrection]. It was a parable acted out for the benefit of the disciples as a visual and historical confirmation of a spiritual reality. 13 Harris affirmed that in his normal or customary bodily state after the Resurrection, Jesus was neither visible to the human eye nor composed of flesh and bones. 14 Then, when his appearances on earth were ended, Jesus assumed the sole mode of being visible to the inhabitants of heaven but having a nonfleshly body. 15 However, both the Bible (Acts 1:1-11; 1 John 4:2) and the creeds consistently affirm that Jesus went to heaven in the same body of flesh (Greek: sarx) in which He was raised.


Source: Conviction Without Compromise: Standing Strong in the Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith, Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Harvest House Publishers, 2008, (pp. 116, 153-154, , 379-380, 382) 2.

In a 2007 sermon, MacArthur recommended another liberal scholar, Edgar J. Goodspeed, as an authority on the proper translation of doulos in the New Testament.

There are about twenty established English translations of the New Testament, about twenty. Only one of them...only one of them always translates doulos slave, only one and it is a translation of the New Testament written by a formidable scholar in New Testament Greek who studied the original papyri, and things like that, by the name of E. J. Goodspeed. Have you ever heard of Goodspeed translation? Goodspeed is a well-known scholar. For fifteen years he was a pioneering professor of New Testament Greek at the University of Chicago. The Goodspeed translation always translates doulos as slave. And when you read it, it gives you an entire different sense of our relationship to Christ. You do have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, you are His slave. That’s putting it as simply as I can put it.  (Slaves for Christ)

About Edgar J. Goodspeed (1871–1962):

In his day, Goodspeed would be described as a liberal.His views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible were typical of the liberal wing of Protestantism of the early twentieth century. This may be seen in his Story of the New Testament (1916, revised 1928) and in his Introduction to the New Testament (Chicago, 1937), popular-level books in which he approaches the Bible in the same critical and liberal spirit as did Harry Emerson Fosdick, the most well-known Northern Baptist author of the day (c.f. Fosdicks A Guide to Understanding the Bible, 1938). For example, in his Introduction to the New Testament Goodspeed writes that the Gospel of John cannot reasonably be considered the original work of a Galilean fishermen ... or the translation of such a work (p. 326). He maintains that the apostle Paul was the author of the epistle to the Colossians but was not the author of Ephesians. He also concludes that the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) were not written by Paul.” (Bible Researcher: Goodspeeds New Testament)

Edgar J. Goodspeed was professor of New Testament Greek at the Rockefeller-funded University of Chicago the same source of funding of which Harry Emerson Fosdick was beneficiary at the interdenominational, ecumenical Riverside Church in New York City, also founded and funded by John D. Rockefeller.  Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy,” after preaching his famous sermon, Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Harry Emerson Fosdicks brother Raymond managed the Rockefeller Foundation from 1921 to 1951. Fosdick preferred Goodspeed’s modernist American Translation to the more traditional Authorised Version.


After earning his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, Edgar Goodspeed studied for two years in Germany under liberal modernist scholars Adolf von Harnack and Fritz Krebs. “Later, in 1919, he served as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis and, from 1920 to 1924, as secretary to the president of the University of Chicago. From 1930 onward, Goodspeed served on the American Standard Bible Committee, thus providing critical leadership in the production of the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament of 1946.” In 1923, as a University of Chicago biblical scholar Goodspeed produced the first self-styled “American” translation of the New Testament. The modernist translation, which was more of an interpretive paraphrase than a word-for-word translation, caused a furor in the U.S. and Canada.

He shied away from literal, word-for-word renderings, favoring those that translated idea for idea... Though a few appreciated his interpretive clarifications—for example, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, he substitutes ‘inspired to preach’ for ‘gift of prophecy’—many felt he transgressed his duty as translator in making overt interpretations of the text. Additionally, this aim for clarity meant that Goodspeed would change peculiarly British renderings to their American equivalents, such as ‘wheat’ for ‘corn,’ renderings that often led to misunderstandings of the text. Following this principle assiduously, Goodspeed was not hesitant to speak of ‘dollars’ (Matthew 25:14) or ‘cars’ (Acts 8:27–29). His American Translation also lacked many of the conventions of an ordinary Bible. It was shorn of chapter and verse numbers, though they appeared on the bottom of the page and, in some editions, in the margins. It had modern paragraphing, of the sort one would find in a contemporary novel. And it lacked footnotes, comments, and all scholarly apparatus...

“The United Press, having received an advance typescript of Goodspeed’s translation of Luke 11, released an article accusing the translator of shortening the Lord’s Prayer... Goodspeed...translated John the Baptist’s messianic prophecy as ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is ‘coming’’ rather than the traditional ‘at hand.’ Stratton-Porter argued that ‘coming’ implied a promise for the future, whereas the traditional ‘at hand’ suggested that the Kingdom had arrived with the advent of Jesus himself... Mencken criticized his rendering of the Lord’s Prayer and his excision of part of John 8 (which contained the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery.)

“There were, to be sure, reviewers who contended that Goodspeed’s translation was ideologically biased, and a few suggested that the work stemmed from a modernist agenda. A Guelph, Ontario, reader surmised that Goodspeed and his colleagues were motivated by a desire to evade ‘divine commands. Contrary to the translator’s expressed purpose, this Canadian felt that the American Translation sought to make the Bible ‘just another group of religio-philosophical literature, its vitality emasculated, its authority questioned, its appeal deadened, its inspiration denied.’ The reviewer highlighted the Bible’s institutional source, ‘Chicago University,’ as an explanation.” (“Monkeying with the Bible,” R. Bryan Bademan) 3.

Among the conservative critics of Goodspeed’s Translation was John Gresham Machen who was Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Princeton Seminary between 1906 and 1929.  J. Gresham Machen became the leader of the conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton and when the university was reorganized in 1929, from conservative to liberal control of the seminary, he left and formed Westminster Theological Seminary. In 1924, J. Gresham Machen addressed students and faculty of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, warning them of the corruptions in Goodspeed’s translation.

“Machen, it seems, took advantage of proximity to voice his criticisms of Goodspeed’s translation within a broader denunciation of theological modernism. According to Machen, Goodspeed’s translation was a product of the theological trend that deprived traditional doctrine of its historic meaning. For example, Goodspeed had translated the Greek word meaning to justify as to make upright, thereby increasing the difficulty of deriving the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith’ from the New Testament. No doubt the modern translator is not interested in how a sinful man becomes right with God,’ Machen explained, but every historian knows that Paul was interested, and if the translator is to be true to his sacred trust, he must place the emphasis not where he would wish it placed, but where it actually was placed by the writer he is translating.’ 80 Machen and a few other conservatives were afraid that modernist Christians were substituting their own agendas for the agendas of the New Testament authors, and they considered the University of Chicago a key institution in the enterprise. Thus, not only did Machen feel that Goodspeed’s translation entailed religious retrogression’ but also that it violated the historical method in exegesis’—one of the fundamentals of orthodox hermeneutics. 81” (Bademan, p. 74)

One skeptic agreed with J. Gresham Machen, however, from a different perspective:

“While a handful of fundamentalists worried that Goodspeed was using the Bible as a Trojan horse for theological modernism, others championed this alleged religious subversiveness of Goodspeed’s work. The religious skeptic and former Presbyterian minister Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian of the Cordon Club, a truth-seeking,’ rationalist’ association, praised Goodspeed for treating the Holy Bible’ as he would any other book.  For him, Goodspeed’s work fully succeeded in destroying [the Bible] as the ‘Word of God.’’ Mangasarian fundamentally agreed with much of Machen’s analysis. But rather than denouncing Goodspeed for his mishandling of the Word of God, Mangasarian celebrated him as a latter-day Thomas Jefferson, the president who famously excised supernatural occurrences from the gospel accounts.  He suggested that the reaction to the American Translation occurred because Goodspeed had in a number of instances destroyed...certain cherished dogmas founded on texts which have now disappeared... If every new translation is going to trim the Christian creed, what certainty is there left for believers?’ 85 Only enough, he proposed, for them to become truth-seeking members of the Cordon Club.” (Bademan, p. 75)

Apparently John MacArthur agrees with Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian when he praises Edgar J. Goodspeed and his modernist American Translation. For he seems quite familiar with Goodspeed’s modernism and his corrupt translation, and yet he affirms that among all other English translations,

...only one of them always translates doulos slave, only one and it is a translation of the New Testament written by a formidable scholar in New Testament Greek who studied the original papyri, and things like that, by the name of E. J. Goodspeed. Have you ever heard of Goodspeed translation? Goodspeed is a well-known scholar. For fifteen years he was a pioneering professor of New Testament Greek at the University of Chicago.” (Slaves for Christ)


Notwithstanding the modernist assault on the Word of God, John MacArthur charges that the translation of doulos as servant, instead of slave, seems “almost seems like a conspiracy”:

Scripture’s prevailing description of the Christian’s relationship to Jesus Christ is the slave/master relationship.15 But do a casual read through your English New Testament and you won’t see it. The reason for this is as simple as it is shocking: the Greek word for slave has been covered up by being mistranslated in almost every English version—going back to both the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it.16 Though the word slave (doulos in Greek) appears 124 times in the original text,17 it is correctly translated only once in the King James. Most of our modern translations do only slightly better.18 It almost seems like a conspiracy. Instead of translating doulos as slave,’ these translations consistently substitute the word servant in its place.” (Slave, pp. 15-16)

MacArthur’s statement that doulos is correctly translated [as slave] only once in the King James” is not true. The word slave is found one time in the KJV New Testament, in Revelation 18:13, but the Greek word from which it was translated is not doulos δουλος but soma σωμα

And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.”


And και cinnamon κινναμωμον, and και odours θυμιαμα, and και ointments μυρον, and και frankincense λιβανος, and και wine οινος, and και oil ελαιον, and και fine flour σεμιδαλις, and και wheat σιτος, and και beasts κτημος, and και sheep προβατον, and και horses ιππος, and και chariots ρεδα, and και slaves σωμα, and και souls ψυχη of men ανθρωπος.” (KJV-TR)

Strong’s Greek Dictionary
4983. σωμα soma - from 4982; the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively:—bodily, body, slave.

Soma (σωμα) reflects the dictionary definition of slave:

1. a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property
2. a person who is forced to work for another against his will
3. a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence: a slave to television
4. a person who works in harsh conditions for low pay

Terminologically doulos in Greek has a variable semantic range of meaning. Historically, what we call slavery” had flexible forms of expression from chattel slavery to indentured servitude to hired servants. This is reflected in Perschbachers Greek Lexicon which demonstrates that the word doulos can mean either servant or slave


(1401) δοῦλος, οu, ό, nom. sg. m. n. enslaved, enthralled, subservient, Rom. 6:19; as a subst. δοῦλος, a male slave, or servant, or various degrees, Matt. 8:9, et al. freq. ; a servitor, person of mean condition, Phil. 2:7; fem. δοῦλh, a female slave; a handmaiden, Luke 1:38, 48; Acts 2:18; δοῦλος, used figuratively, in a bad sense, one involved in moral or spiritual thralldom, John 8:34; Rom. 6:17, 20; 1 Cor. 7:23; 2 Pet. 2:19; in a good sense, a devoted servant or minister, Acts 16:17; Rom. 1:1, et al.; one pledged or bound to serve, 1 Cor. 7:22; 2 Cor. 4:5

Thus, with reference to the apostle Paul and his fellow missionary, Silas, the Lexicon states that doulos means servant:

1401. “in a good sense, a devoted servant or minister, Acts 16:17, Romans 1:1 et al. (Perschbacher's Greek Lexicon)


The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17 KJV)


This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’” (Acts 16:17 NKJV)

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1 KJV)

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1 NKJV)

Whereas the KJV always translates doulos as servant, the New King James Version translates doulos either servant or slave depending on the sense of the passage and Scripture as a whole. Many words of Scripture have multiple variants and the translator must take into account other verses and passages so that he does not contradict God’s own words with his choice of translation.  This reflects The Agreement Principle” for interpreting Scripture:

That principle under which the truthfulness and faithfulness of God becomes the guarantee that He will not set forth any passage in His Word which contradicts any other passage.” (Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, J. Edwin Hartill, Zondervan, 1960, p. 84)

So we wonder how John MacArthur, an expositor of God’s Word for more than fifty years, has misunderstood the words of Jesus in John 15:15 and Pauls teaching to the Galatians, which the translators of the English Bibles surely took into consideration when rendering the word doulos as servant:

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. John 15:15


And because ye are Sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Gal. 4:6-7

In a single statement, John 15:15, the Lord Jesus forever elevated His disciples above the status of servants to the heavenly position of being His friends. Moreover, Pauls statement in Galatians 4:7 is explicit that a Christian cannot be a servant (or slave) and, at the same time, a son and heir. The positions are mutually exclusive: son and heir denotes blood relationship (the blood of Christ) while servant and slave do not.

Contradicting Jesus’ words in John 15:15 and Paul’s in Galatians 4:7, John MacArthur asserts that the believer never loses his slave status, not even when he is adopted into God’s family:

In salvation, the redeemed become not only His slaves but also His friends (John 15:14-15), as well as citizens in His kingdom and, most notably, adopted children in His family.” (Slave, p. 148)

Yet, He has made us both His slaves and His children. The incomparable reality of adoption is this: If God is our Master, then He is also our Father. As Alexander Maclaren, the great Scottish preacher, explained, If we are slaves, then we are sons and heirs of God through Jesus Christ.27” (Slaves, p. 159-160)


Simultaneously Sons and Slaves... The only begotten Son of God took on the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), so that the slaves of sin might become both slaves of righteousness and sons of God!... But we have been made slaves of God, for Christ, to righteousness... Thus, we are simultaneously sons and slaves. The two realities are not mutually exclusiveeven if the metaphors are different.” (Slave, p. 175)


In John 15:15, during His Upper Room discourse, Jesus told His disciples, ‘No longer do I call you slaves...but I have called you friends. At first glance, it seems as if He might be obliterating the slave metaphor altogether.  But such is not the case, as evidenced by the fact that the disciples continued to refer to themselves as ‘slaves of Christ long afterwards (e.g., Peter in 2 Peter 1:1 and John in Revelation 1:1).” (Slave, p. 176)

John MacArthur has failed to take into account all that Scripture has to say on the subject.  Galatians 4:7 did “obliterate the slave metaphor altogether : “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”  Predictably, Galatians 4:7 is never mentioned in Slave.


Nor does MacArthur reference the law regarding the Hebrew bondservant in Exodus 21, which is the precedent for the apostles referring to themselves as servants (not slaves) of Jesus Christ.  Like the Hebrew bondservant, this was a matter of personal choice rather than God impressing them into servitude.

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” Exodus 21:2-6


Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary

עֶבֶד `ebed eh'-bed from 5647; a servant:—X bondage, bondman, (bond-)servant, (man-)servant.


See also variants of `ebed in Part 3.

The context of the Old Testament also proves that God meant servant and not slave, for the purchased Hebrew’s servitude was limited to six years during which he was to be treated as a hired servant, and not as a slave (with rigor). After his six year indenture the hired servant was to be set at liberty, or he could choose to become a bondservant in perpetuity. 

And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.”  (Lev. 25:39-43)

Moreover, the Hebrews were not permitted to make slaves (bondmen forever) of their own people, but only of the heathen:

Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.”  (Lev. 25:44-46)

In his Slave book, John MacArthur quotes Charles Spurgeon: The apostles frequently call themselves the bond-slaves of Christ. Where our Authorized Version softly puts it servant it really is bond-slave.’” (p. 219)  In his preaching, however, Spurgeon made a distinction between a slave and a bond-servant in that a slave is under the Law, whereas a bond-servant is under the New Covenant of grace. Legally, a slave has no options other than slavery; however, a bond-servant made the personal choice to be bound forever to his master. Elsewhere, Spurgeon emphatically stated that our relationship to God is not one of slavery or a servile spirit but a love relationship that constrains us to obey His commands:

When the believer is adopted into the Lord’s family, his relationship to old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new rule, and a new covenant. Believer, you are God’s child; it is your first duty to obey your heavenly Father. A servile spirit you have nothing to do with: you are not a slave, but a child; and now, inasmuch as you are a beloved child, you are bound to obey your Father’s faintest wish, the least intimation of His will. Does He bid you fulfil a sacred ordinance? It is at your peril that you neglect it, for you will be disobeying your Father. Does He command you to seek the image of Jesus? It is not your joy to do so? Does Jesus tell you, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’? Then not because the law commands, but because your Saviour enjoins, you will labour to be perfect in holiness. Does He bid his saints love one another? Do it, not because the law says, ‘Love thy neighbour,’ but because Jesus says, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments;’ and this is the commandment that He has given unto you, ‘that ye love one another.’ Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk, but because Jesus teaches, ‘Give to him that asketh of thee.’ Does the Word say, ‘Love God with all your heart’? Look at the commandment and reply, ‘Ah! commandment, Christ hath fulfilled thee already—I have no need, therefore, to fulfill thee for my salvation, but I rejoice to yield obedience to thee because God is my Father now and He has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute.’ May the Holy Ghost make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ’s love, that your prayer may be, ‘Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments; for therein do I delight.’ Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.” (Morning & Evening, Romans 3:31)

Believer, you are God’s child... you are not a slave, but a child,”— which makes the Lord Jesus our elder Brother!

But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!Matt. 12:49


For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Hebrews 2:11

Conspicuously absent in MacArthur’s Slave book is any mention of the Church as the bride of Christ, although the Old Testament is rich with imagery of the marriage of Christ to His bride and this doctrine is plainly stated in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Co 11:2)  The bride metaphor is omitted from Slave because it would expose the absurdity and falsity of MacArthur’s master/slave teaching. A bride is not aslave” of her husband, rather she is his beloved wife, his best friend and the joint-heir of all he owns.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Rev. 21:2-9

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17

Jesus Christ condescended to become a Servant-Savior due to His great love — for His Father and for His bride:

Brethren and sisters, there is this to be said, which ought to endear the Savior to you and to me — that his only motive for so having his ears bored, or digged, was his love. What says the servant in the text? ‘I love my master: I love my wife: I love my children.’ This is what our Servant-Savior said. He loved his God: never man loved God as Christ did. As God he loved infinitely him who is one with him, even his Father, and as perfect man he loved God with all his heart, and soul, and strength. He had voluntarily become a servant, and he loved his Master. And he also loved his spouse. Oh, there was little in her to love, but he thought much of her, and does think much of her now. The Church is his bride, and he sees her — ‘Not as she stood in Adams fall, When sin and ruin covered all; But as shell stand another day Fairer than suns meridian ray.’ 

He saw his character reflected in her, he saw her as what she is to be when she is perfect through the Spirit, and he loved her, oh, with such a perfect, all-constraining love, and said — ‘For her Ill go Through all the depths of sin and woe; And on the cross will even dare, The dreadful weight of wrath to bear.

He found his spouse in the mire; he brought her up out of it. He found her in poverty, and he became poor for her sake. He found her in rags, and he stripped himself to clothe her. He found her condemned, and he was condemned for her acquittal. He found her on earth, he came from heaven to bring her up from earth, that she might be with him where he is in heaven forever. Then I love the last word, ‘I love my children.’ That may be laid hold of by each one of us, for as he is ‘the everlasting Father,’ every believer may regard himself or herself as his child; and he loves each one. He could die, but he could not deny his people. He could leave heaven, but could never abandon us. He could not be content to be glorified unless, too, his people were. He dared not be satisfied to sit upon a throne, whilst they might be cast into hell, but he could come down and bring them near to himself by stooping as low as they had become. Let us bless him! Let us tonight in our hearts extol this blessed servant of God, who though King of kings had his ears opened because he loved his master, he loved his spouse, and he loved his children, and has therefore become their servant forever.” (Spurgeon, “Ears Bored to the Door-post”)

John MacArthur disparages the preaching of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” as the false health, wealth and prosperity” teaching. The fallacy of the false dichotomy is employed, presenting only two options neither of which are Scriptural.  

“Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian. We are, as believers, slaves of Christ. You would never suspect that, however, from the language of Christianity. In contemporary Christianity the language is anything but slave language. It is about freedom. It is about liberation. It is about health, wealth, prosperity, finding your own fulfillment, fulfilling your own dream, finding your own purpose. We often hear that God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be all you want to be. He wants to fulfill every desire, hope, and dream. Personal ambition, personal fulfillment, personal gratification, all bound up in an old term in evangelical Christianity, a personal relationship. How many times have we heard that the gospel offers people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?  What exactly does that mean? Satan has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it’s not a very good one.” (Slaves for Christ”)

The tenor of his teaching portrays the Lord Jesus as a cold, impersonal taskmaster, reminiscent of the Pharisees.

You do have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, you are His slave...


I can’t tell you how many years I have gone through discussions with people about the lordship of Christ. Let me tell you something real simple. Kurios and doulos are two words that describe both sides of a relationship. If there is a slave, let me tell you something, there is a lord. If there is a lord, there is a master. If there’s a master, there’s a slave. You don’t call yourself a master if you don’t have a slave and you’re not a slave if you don’t have a master. That’s why the New Testament never even bothers to defend the idea, as it were, of whether or not when you come to Christ He is your Lord. That is patently obvious. When you confess Jesus as Lord, you are at the same time confessing yourself as slave. There’s no other way to view it. Kurios and doulos are the two sides of the relationship. A slave is someone whose life belongs totally to someone else, absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence. Slavery then was a social relationship between two persons where one had nothing, willed nothing and received nothing but what the master authorized, desired and provided.” (Slaves for Christ)

One non-Christian scholar cited in Slave to support John MacArthurs slave gospel asked the obvious question: “Where’s the good news?

“Despite the familiarity of the parables, the slaves who populate the parables seem somehow unfamiliar. The King James Bible typically translates the word doulos as ‘servant’ rather than ‘slave.’ For many Christians the phrase ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ resonates in a way that the phrase ‘Well done, good and faithful slave,’ does not... Christians today struggle to make sense of the ways Jesus spoke about slaves and masters.  Where’s the good news?  In assessing the place of slavery in Jesus sayings, we need to account both for the battered slaves in his parables and for his mandate to his followers to become ‘slaves of all.’” (Jennifer A. Glancy, Slavery as a Moral Problem, p. 6)

Slavery is not the relationship of a bride to her espoused husband, but it does describe the attitude of a sinner who entertains hard and unkind thoughts of God, viewing Him as a hard Master, rigorous in His demands, and difficult to please.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:24)

MacArthur even teaches that the bride of Christ will be slaves in heaven, although the bride of Christ is nowhere to be found in Slave.

“Let’s go to heaven in Revelation 22. Revelation 22 we get a glimpse of heaven and in verse 3 part of it is there no longer will be any curse there and the throne of God and of the Lamb that shall be in it and’s the word again...slaves shall serve Him and they shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. If a slave tried to get away, one of the punishments that they did to a slave was to put FUG fugitivus, marking him as a fugitive.


Well, as slaves, we’re going to have something on our foreheads, it won’t be fugitive, it will be His own name whom we serve. Verse 6, He said to me, These words are faithful and true and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angels to show His slaves the things which must shortly take place.’ They were slaves in the past, they’ll be slaves in the future, slaves in heaven, we’re His slaves now who are being taught by the book of Revelation that these things will come to pass. We will never stop being slaves...never.” (Slaves for Christ)


MacArthur declares, “...we’re His slaves now who are being taught by the book of Revelation that these things will come to pass.  We will never stop being slaves...never.”  But the book of Revelation teaches that the blood-bought saints will be kings and priests” in heaven and on the earth.

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Rev. 1:5-6


And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Rev. 5:9-10

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Rev. 20:6


To what end is John MacArthur determined to prove that Christians are slaves of God and Christ? 


The answer is found in the field of liberal scholarship whose mission has been to launch an offensive against the New Testament. During the 19th century, German scholars argued that the apostle Paul did not develop his doctrine in agreement with the Jerusalem Church, but separated from the original apostles after the Apostolic Council created conflict over the matter of circumcision. (Acts 15)  Subsequently, they said, Paul moved to Hellenistic Syria where he syncretized Christianity with Greco-Roman paganism.  Modernist scholars made much of the view that Paul’s religion was based mainly upon Greek philosophy and was entirely different from the religion of Jesus.


J. Gresham Machen recognized this false teaching as an attack on the deity of Christ. In his scholarly work, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1921), Machen defended the New Testament record against the modernist claim that Jesus was not truly God but a mythical god analogous to the dying and rising gods of sundry myths in Greek and Roman paganism.

“ is in the pagan world that the genesis of Paulinism is to-day more and more frequently being sought... that hypothesis which makes the religion of Paul essentially a product of the syncretistic pagan religion of the Hellenistic age... It will be well to consider separately the hypothesis (now in the very forefront of interest) which derives Paulinism, not from the historical Jesus, and not from pre-Christian Judaism, but from the pagan religion of the Greco-Roman world...


For example, M. Brückner...brings the Jewish conception of the Messiah upon which the Pauline Christology is thought to be based, itself into connection with the widespread pagan myth of a dying and rising saviour-god. Thus Brückner is at one with the modern school of comparative religion in deriving Paul’s religion from paganism;...” (Machen, p. 211)

Modernists such as German theologian and Huguenot, Wilhelm Bousset, contended that the title of “Lord” was not applied to Jesus in the primitive Jerusalem church, which did not consider him to be God, but later in the Hellenistic churches of Antioch and Damascus which adapted the story of Jesus to pagan mythology.

The Hellenistic Jews who founded the churches at Damascus and Antioch, unlike the original apostles at Jerusalem, were liberal Jews, susceptible to pagan influence and desirous of attributing to Jesus all that the pagans attributed to their own cult-gods. Thus Jesus became a cult-god like the cult-gods of the pagan religions, and Christianity became similar, in important respects, to the pagan cults... (Machen, p. 257)


Bousset has recourse to a comparison with the surrounding paganism. The term ‘Lord,’ he says, was common in the Hellenistic age as a title of the cult-gods of the various forms of worship. And the material which Bousset has collected in proof of this assertion is entirely convincing. Not only in the worship of the Emperors and other rulers, but also in the Hellenized religions of the East, the title ‘Lord’ was well known as a designation of divinity.


...the belief of the primitive Jerusalem Church...Bousset maintains, did not involve any conception of Jesus as ‘Lord.’ The title ‘Lord,’ he says, was not applied to Jesus on Palestinian ground, and Jesus was not regarded by the early Jerusalem Church as the object of faith... These momentous assertions, which lie at the very basis of Bousset’s hypothesis, are summed up in the elimination from Jerusalem Christianity of the title ‘Lord’ as applied to Jesus. This elimination of the title ‘Lord’ of course involves a rejection of the testimony of Acts. The Book of Acts contains the only extant narrative of the early progress of Jerusalem Christianity.” (Machen, p. 294)

In his refutation of these and other modernist scholars, J. Gresham Machen noted that master” and “lord” were titles given to pagan gods such as Adonis. However, only Lord” was the title of divinity whereas master” retained the common usage of a human master over slaves or disciples. Therefore, to translate the Greek word for “lord” (kyrios”) as “Master” when referring to Jesus Christ is to allow for its humanistic connotation—a master over slaves or disciples. This error weakens the doctrine of the deity of Christ and diminishes readers’ perception of Jesus as God.”  Machen wrote:

An important fact has been established more and more firmly by modern research — the fact that the Greek word ‘kyrios’ in the first century of our era was, wherever the Greek language extended, distinctly a designation of divinity. The common usage of the word indeed persisted; the word still expressed the relation which a master sustained toward his slaves. But the word had come to be a characteristically religious term, and it is in the religious sense, especially as fixed by the Septuagint, that it appears in the New Testament.

Thus it is not in accordance with New Testament usage when Jesus is called, by certain persons in the modern Church, ‘the Master,’ rather than ‘the Lord.’ Sometimes, perhaps, this usage is adopted in conscious protest against the New Testament conception of the deity of Christ; Jesus is spoken of as ‘the Master,’ in very much the way in which the leader of a school of artists is spoken of as ‘the Master’ by his followers. Or else the word means merely the one whose commands are to be obeyed. But sometimes the modern fashion is adopted by devout men and women with the notion that the English word ‘Lord’ has been worn down and that the use of the word ‘Master’ is a closer approach to the meaning of the Greek Testament. This notion is false. In translating the New Testament designation of Jesus, one should not desire to get back to the original meaning of the word ‘kyrios.’ For the Greek word had already undergone a development, and as applied to Jesus in the New Testament it was clearly a religious term. It had exactly the religious associations which are now possessed by our English word ‘Lord.’ And for very much the same reason. The religious associations of the English word ‘Lord’ are due to Bible usage; and the religious associations of the New Testament word ‘kyrios’ were also due to Bible usage—the usage of the Septuagint. The Christian, then, should remember that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing.’ The uniform substitution of ‘the Master’ for ‘the Lord’ in speaking of Jesus has only a false appearance of freshness and originality. In reality it sometimes means a departure from the spirit of the New Testament usage.” (John Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion, pp. 308-309) 

John MacArthur’s substitution of the Master” for the Lord” Jesus Christ is therefore a departure from the spirit of the New Testament and a subtle diminution of the deity of Christ. And it will be seen that the source of this false teaching is nineteenth century modernist scholarship in Germany which was smuggled into the United States in the twentieth century by liberal scholars funded by John D. Rockefeller and is now being presented as some ‘new discovery’ for investigation by postmodern scholars who also have Rockefeller connections.


In contrast to the formal master-disciple relationship, John Gresham Machen characterized the personal relationship” between the living Christ and Paul, and by extension all Christians, as one of love and intimacy:

“...what is really important is that everywhere the relationship in which Paul stands toward Jesus is not the mere relationship of disciple to master, but is a truly religious relationship. Jesus is to Paul everywhere the object of religious faith.” (J. Gresham Machen, p. 23) fact, it might be maintained, was sufficient to produce the fervent Christ-religion of Paul. For Paul interpreted the death of the Messiah as a death suffered for the sins of others. Such a death involved self-sacrifice; it must have been an act of love. Hence the beneficiaries were grateful; hence the warm, personal relationship of Paul to the one who had loved him and given Himself for him.” (Machen, p. 195)

The relation of Paul to Christ is a relation of love; and love exists only between persons. It is not a group of ideas that is to be explained, if Paulinism is to be accounted for, but the love of Paul for his Saviour. And that love is rooted, not in what Christ had said, but in what Christ had done. He ‘loved me and gave Himself for me.’ There lies the basis of the religion of Paul; there lies the basis of all of Christianity. That basis is confirmed by the account of Jesus which is given in the Gospels, and given, indeed, in all the sources. It is opposed only by modern reconstructions. And those reconstructions are all breaking down. The religion of Paul was not founded upon a complex of ideas derived from Judaism or from paganism. It was founded upon the historical Jesus. But the historical Jesus upon whom it was founded was not the Jesus of modern reconstruction, but the Jesus of the whole New Testament and of Christian faith; not a teacher who survived only in the memory of His disciples, but the Saviour who after His redeeming work was done still lived and could still be loved.” (Machen, p. 317)



Because it is the theme of redemption throughout Scripture, Paul used the marriage metaphor to reveal the intimate relationship between believers and their Lord Jesus, so that the former would not remain in bondage under the Law:

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)


Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:1-5


Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Galatians 4:21-31

Does the Christian’s life in Christ give him license to sin, as John MacArthur’s false dichotomy suggests?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:1-11


Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.” (Charles Spurgeon, Romans 3:31) .


A low view of law leads to legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace... The truth is, it is easier to cleanse the outside of the cup than it is to cleanse the heart.” (John Gresham Machen, p. 179)


*   *   *

In his book, Slave, John MacArthur did not cite merely one or a few doctrinally unorthodox works, but the entirety of the book is derived from heretical, anti-Christian sources, Murray J. Harris and Edgar Goodspeed being merely the introduction to a bevy of modernist and postmodern scholars who deny the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and whose works are filled with slander and blasphemy of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The next section exposes this heretical foundation of sand upon which John MacArthur built his false doctrine in Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ.





















1. Footnote #7 makes the illogical argument that since the Hebrew word ebed in the Old Testament is the equivalent of doulos in the New Testament, and both can refer to literal slavery, therefore doulos always refers to a slave relationship.

7. The Hebrew word for slave, ’ebed, can speak of literal slavery to a human master. But it is also used metaphorically to describe believers (more than 250 times), denoting their duty and privilege to obey the heavenly Lord. The New Testaments use of the Greek word, doulos, is similar. It, too, can refer to physical slavery. Yet it is also applied to believers—denoting their relationship to the divine Master—at least 40 times (cf. Murray J. Harris, Slave of Christ [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999], 20-24). An additional 30-plus NT passages use the language of doulos to teach truths about the Christian life. (Slave, p. 22)

The Hebrew word עֶבֶד (ebed) was in fact translated into four different words in the Greek Septuagint:

The Septuagint of the Pentateuch (LXX Pentateuch) is marked by a variety of equivalentsδοῦλος, θεράπων, οἰκέτης, παϊςof Hebrew ebed (עֶבֶד). The interesting question is whether these renderings are to be seen as synonymous, or not. It has been suggested that the terms employed may reflect different connotations.” (XIII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Ljubljana, 2007. Society for Biblical Literature, Society for Biblical Literature, p. 225)

See discussion of ’ebed in Part 3.


2. Conviction Without Compromise: Standing Strong in the Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith, Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Harvest House Publishers, 2008.


5. See Murray Harris, Easter in Durham (Dublin; Attic Press, 1986), p. 17.

6. Murray Harris, Raised Immortal (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 54.

7. Harris, Raised Immortal, p. 92.

8. See Harris, Raised Immortal, p. 58. In a later edition of this book retitled From Grave to Glory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), Harris changed the word essential to customary without recanting his earlier view on the essential nature of Jesus resurrection body. Until later challenged, he continued to hold that believers physical bodies never come out of the grave but that they receive nonmaterial resurrection bodies at the moment of death, while their physical bodies rot forever in the grave. Some of his colleagues, such as Wayne Grudem, pronounced this view orthodox, even though Harris later gave it up. See Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: Church and Last Things, vol. 4 (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2005), p. 270...

13. Murray Harris, From Grave to Glory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 423, insert added, emphasis added.

14. Harris, From Grave to Glory, p. 392.

15. Harris, From Grave to Glory, p. 405.

3. “Monkeying with the Bible”: Edgar J. Goodspeed’s American Translation, R. Bryan Bademan, January 1, 2006.


77.  “Goodspeed Bible Is Belabored by Princeton Man,” Chicago Evening Post, February 5, 1924, EGC 43:6. Machen accused Goodspeed of returning Christendom to the theological “bondage of the middle ages.”

78.  J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1925), 24–25.

79.  Presbyterian (December 25, 1924), EGC 44:2. D. A. Hayes also elaborated on the failure of most translation efforts undertaken by individuals. See “An American Translation,” Garrett Forum (November 1923), 3-5, EGC 43:3.

80.  Baptist Beacon (May 1924), EGC 44:2, contains the vitriolic reaction of a Minneapolis fundamentalist to Goodspeed’s visit to a Unitarian congregation and is one of the few truly alarmist fundamentalist reactions to the translation I have found.

81.  For example, one fundamentalist end-times enthusiast wrote an editorial in the Chicago Evening Post (October 19, 1923, EGC 43:1) praising Goodspeed’s translation for its rendering of Matthew’s “end of the world” (KJV) as “the close of the age.” He suggests that the prophecy contained in Matthew 24 and 25 had been fulfilled in the past decade. Goodspeed was skillful in preempting the conservative reaction. In his lecture on Bible translations, given to thousands of church people in 1923 and 1924, he carefully argued that every significant revival of religion was accompanied by an increase in translation activity, thus identifying his work with revivalistic evangelicalism.

85. Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian, “A New New Testament,” Truth Seeker (December 13, 1924), EGC 44:2.