I read this and found it so intriguing that I thought I would share it with everyone. If you have arguments against it, I encourage you to read the book critically as well as the scriptural references before you post a condescending, ignorant comment. I would also point you to Brian Montgomery’s Note, “Brothers and sisters in Christ,” so that certain beliefs are not attacked for something they are not; i.e., Calvinism as Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism as Pelagianism.
This book is based on how one word (doulos) has been mistranslated in scripture to mean servant when it should be translated slave and the effects that has upon our theology and understanding of the Christian life. A classic case of Orthodoxy leads to Orthopraxy or right doctrine leads to right living.
Bound, Blind and Dead
We have already noted some of the significant differences between the slavery of the 1700s British imperialism and that of the first-century Roman world. Most significantly, Roman slavery was not racially defined, such that first-century slaves were generally indistinguishable from free men both in physical appearance and in dress. Moreover, Roman slaves often had the opportunity to earn their freedom—eventually becoming citizens and even masters themselves. Additionally, the slaves of a good master enjoyed a stable and relatively comfortable life, and the slaves of important people often possessed a certain degree of their own prestige and influence. First-century slaves might be highly educated or trained as specialists in their fields, allowing them to function in the same capacity as free persons. In fact, some slaves even worked as doctors, teachers, or philosophers in the employ of their masters. Though Roman society never viewed slavery as the ideal, the institution did not generally carry the same stigma that is associated with the eighteenth-century slave trade.
Nevertheless, Roman literature does provide examples of injustices inflicted upon slaves by cruel and unjust masters. In the same way that John Newton’s experiences affected his theological perspective, accounts like these would have given first-century Christians a vivid understanding of the pain and misery that comes from enslavement to a wicked tyrant. History professor S. Scott Bartchy gives one such example:
“In his discussion of the futility of anger, Seneca reports that a very rich Roman freedman, Vedius Pollio, allowed the flesh-eating fish to dine on slaves. One day, as a slave carelessly broke a crystal vase in the presence of some guests, including Augustus Caesar, Vedius commanded that the slave be thrown into the fish-pond. In answer to the slave’s cry for help, Augustus commanded that all the crystal owned by Vedius be brought before him, broken up and thrown into the grisly pond instead of the slave.”
Though this account represents the exception and not the rule, it provides a vivid illustration of the kind of extreme cruelty that wicked masters could inflict upon their slaves.
Over time, Roman law began to protect slaves from such circumstances. Around AD 61, theLex Petronia:
“Prohibited owners from exposing their slaves to fight with wild beasts without permission from the magistrate (approval was given only when very bad conduct was proven). Antonius Pius, Emperor during the middle of the second century A.D., proclaimed that if a slave took refuge at a statue of the Emperor, the provincial governor was to hold an enquiry; if he was convinced of the owner’s cruelty, the owner was to be forced to sell all his slaves.”
But the need for laws like these indicated that cruelty to slaves did occur in the Roman world.
Early Christians would have been well aware of the abuses a slave could suffer at the hands of an unjust owner. Many first-century believers were slaves themselves, and some of them were subjected to harsh and unfair treatment. In light of this, Peter instructed them, “Be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:18-19)
It is against the cultural backdrop that the New Testament speaks of slavery to sin and of sin’s reign in the human heart. Sin is the vilest, most dreadful master imaginable (cf. Gen 4:7) –a reality which would not have been lost on first-century believers. They would have naturally drawn parallels from the worst abuses in their culture, understanding the total subjugation that such slavery entailed.
As we saw in chapter 2, they could also look to the Old Testament for illustrations of such oppressions, the foremost of which was the pharaoh of the Exodus. By the first century, it was not uncommon to think of redemption in terms of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Such provided a natural parallel to the Christian’s redemption from sin. In the same way that Pharaoh was a brutal tyrant, daily afflicting his Israelite work force with hardship and bitterness, “sin too is a harsh taskmaster that ruthlessly uses [its slaves] but fails to offer any real reward.” Thus, whether they considered the ill-treatment of slaves in their own culture or the plight of Israelite slaves in ancient Egypt, first-century believers would have readily understood the imagery of slavery to sin.
Sin is a cruel tyrant. It is the most devastating and degenerating power ever to afflict the human race, such that the entire creation “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:22). It corrupts the entire person—infecting the soul, polluting the mind, defiling the conscience, contaminating the affections, and poisoning the will. It is the life-destroying, soul-condemning cancer that festers and grows in every unredeemed human heart like an incurable gangrene.
But unbelievers are not just infected by sin; they are enslaved by it. Jesus told His listeners in John 8:34, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” The apostle Peter likewise described false teachers as “slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome; by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19). Using this same imagery, Paul; reminded the Romans that, before their salvation, the “were slaves of sin” (6:17). Every human being, until the moment of redemption, is under the domain of darkness and dominion of sin. The unbeliever is wholly corrupted by the bondage of his fallen condition and utterly unable to free himself from it.
Not surprisingly, the very notion of such absolute enslavement (a doctrine commonly known as “total depravity” or “total inability”) is repugnant to the fallen human heart. In fact, no doctrine is more hated by unbelievers than this one, and even some Christians find it so offensive that they zealously attack it. Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel (in which God initiates everything and receives all the glory). The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. But the Scripture is clear: unless the Spirit of God gives spiritual life, all sinners are completely unable to change their fallen nature or to rescue themselves from sin and divine judgment. They can neither initiate nor accomplish any aspect of their redemption. Even the supposed “good things” that unbelievers do are filthy rags before a holy God (Isa. 64:6). Contrast that with every other religions system, in which people are told that through their own efforts the can achieve some level of righteousness, thereby contributing to their salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the dominant features of universal human fallenness is the sinner’s deception about his true condition. Motivated by pride, the depraved mind thinks itself much better than it really is. But God’s Word cuts through that deception like a sharp sword, diagnosing sinful men as incurably sick, rebellious by nature, and incapable of any spiritual good.
As slaves to sin, all unbelievers are hostile toward God and unable to please Him in any respect. Their total inability is underscored by the fact that they are not just bound to sin; they are also blinded by sin and dead in it. They are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18) and cannot comprehend spiritual truth because “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelieving so that they might not see the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). Furthermore, unbelievers are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), “dead in [their] transgressions” (Col. 2:13), “dead even while [they live]” (1 Tim. 5:6). In the same way that a blind man cannot give himself sight or a dead man raise himself to life, so the sinner is totally unable to impart to himself either spiritual understanding or eternal life. Like Lazarus lying motionless in the tomb, the unredeemed soul remains lifeless until the voice of God commands it, “Come forth!” Noting the parallels between the raising of Lazarus and the miracle of salvation, Charles Spurgeon observed:
“[T]he raising of Lazarus stands at the head of the wonderful series of miracles with which our Lord astonished and instructed the people. Yet I am not in error when I assert that it is a type of what the Lord Jesus is constantly doing at this hour in the realm of mind and spirit. Did he raise the naturally dead? So does he still raise the spiritually dead! Did he bring a body back from corruption? So does he still deliver men from loathsome sins!”
The story of Lazarus not only demonstrates Christ’s divine power over death (both physical and spiritual); it also illustrates the converse theological—namely, that the dead cannot raise themselves. Apart from Christ’s miraculous intervention, Lazarus’s body would have remained lifeless in the tomb. All of humanity is a race of Lazaruses. Until God miraculously intervenes, they remain spiritually dead, helplessly enslaved to the power and corruption of sin, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Or as Spurgeon said it, “Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man had become so debased, so depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit….[Man’s] nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit.”
To make matters worse, the Bible teaches that unbelievers wholeheartedly love their sin. They are not only utterly unable to free themselves from its corruption; they are also obstinately unwillingto do so. As Jesus told the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40, emphasis added). Having inherited a fallen nature from Adam, sinful human beings are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), characterized by hard hearts, depraved minds, defiled consciences and prideful actions that are hostile toward God. As the Lord explained to His followers, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23)
The apostle Paul similarly described the unbeliever’s condition id Romans 3:10-12, emphasizing the sinner’s unwillingness to come to God:
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all gone out of the way;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one. (NKJV)
Rather than pursuing God and His righteousness, unredeemed sinners gladly exchange “the truth of God for a lie” (Rom.1:25), having “given themselves over to sensuality for the practices of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Eph. 4:19). They are “lovers of self, lovers of money, [and] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4), perpetually seeking to indulge the desires of their flesh. Moreover, they are under the control and dominion of Satan, as Martin Luther explained in his treatise On the Bondage of the Will:
“Satan is the prince of the world, and, according to the testimonies of Christ and Paul, rules in the wills and minds of those men who are his captives and servants….[It] is plainly provided by scriptures neither ambiguous nor obscure—that Satan, is by far the most powerful and crafty prince of the world; (as I said before,) under the reigning power of whom, the human will, being no longer free nor in its own power, but the servant of sin and of Satan, can will nothing but that which its prince wills. And he will not permit it to will anything good: though, even of Satan did not reign over it, sin itself, of which man is the slave, would sufficiently harden it to prevent from willing good.”
Of course, those under Satan’s dominion will share his same demise of eternal destruction. Though sin promises satisfaction and life to its slaves, its reward is actually the exact opposite—misery in this life and condemnation in the next. The astonishing reality is that even if the sinner could change the condition of his heart—which Scripture teaches is impossible (Jer. 13:23)—no unbeliever would ever will to do so. Left to his own natural reason and volition, the unredeemed dinner will always choose slavery to sin over obedience to God. Until the Lord intervenes, the sinner is neither able nor willing to abandon his sin and serve God in righteousness. Both his will and his reason are utterly corrupt. Luther makes the point through a series of rhetorical questions:
“What then can [a sinner’s] reason propose that is right, who is thus blind and ignorant? What can the will choose that is good, which is thus evil and impotent? Nay, what can the will pursue, where the reason can propose nothing, but the darkness of its own blindness and ignorance? And where the reason is thus erroneous, and the will averse, what can the [unbelieving] man either do or attempt, that is good.”
The answer, of course, is nothing. The contaminated mind and corrupted will of the unconverted heart are only capable of choosing sin. The unredeemed soul therefore “is compulsively bound to the service of sin, and cannot will anything good. Apart from divine intervention, the slave of sin remains in an utterly helpless and hopeless situation. He is not only powerless to free himself, but he wears his chains with willing eagerness.