John Duncan and me

John "Rabbi" Duncan, a 19th century minister of the Free Church of Scotland, ordered his convictions as follows, an order which I fully adopt as my own:

I am first a Christian, next a catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a paedobaptist [infant-baptist], and fifth a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse this order.

Because these are my convictions, my first priority is Jesus Christ; He has called me to be His disciple, so I am to pick up my cross, deny myself, follow Him, and encourage others to do the same. My second priority is to other Christians, Christians with whom I may not stand in full agreement doctrinally or ethically, but Christians with whom I nonetheless stand intimately united in Jesus Christ and for the cause of His gospel.

My third priority is the doctrines of grace—unmerited, costly grace. Having been brought from death to life, blindness to sight, and lost to found, all by the free gift of God’s amazing grace to a wretched sinner like me, I cannot help but confess God is sovereign in salvation. He saved me when I was not seeking Him, rescued Me when I didn’t know I needed rescuing, and died for me when I didn’t know my sins needing dying for. Jesus endured hell on the cross so I could be delivered from eternal torment: His infinite suffering is my eternal bliss; His unflappable love is my sure salvation; His costly loss is my richest gain; His voluntary sacrifice is my soul’s song. The Christian life is unspeakable joy because He did it all. “It is finished” was His cry; Praise the Lord, what a Savior!

My fourth (paedobaptism) and fifth (Presbyterian) priorities are far less important to me, and though I have paedobaptist and Presbyterian convictions, these are not hills upon which I would die. When push comes to shove, there is only one hill I would die on, the same hill Christ died on, for what He accomplished on that hill, in His death and resurrection, is that without which the gospel is powerless and meaningless. Men and women are saved by Jesus Christ, they are saved to serve Christ’s body, and they are saved by grace; their beliefs about baptism and church government are, in my opinion, matters of secondary importance to the gospel.

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