A Theology of Horticulture II
Therefore the only question remaining is “How do we get ourselves attached to this new Vine of Christ?” The answer is that we have to be grafted in. That means that we have to be broken off the old Vine of Adam and grafted into the New Vine of Christ, which is his living Body the Church.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:3
The Church is the visible body of Christ where the word of God is truly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. Baptism is the initial and foremost sacrament of the Church, the most fundamental of the visible Church’s God-given privileges of grace. This process of breaking a branch from the old Vine of Adam and grafting it into the new Vine of Christ is precisely what happens in Holy Baptism. And it happens every time to little babies just as surely as it happens to adults who come to the Fountain of Life as believers. It is a false dichotomy to set God’s promises against God’s sovereign freedom. Those who say that God is not bound to holy baptism because that would violate his freedom are overlooking the fact that he has declared to us that baptism is his chosen instrument of the new birth and he has bound himself by his own word to the sacrament. Those who speak of the minister as trying to have control over God by the instrument of the sacraments falsely set God’s freedom against his character. One thing is certain, God is not at our beck and call; he is free and absolutely self-determined, and theologians who use sophistical arguments to overthrow the trustworthiness of the gospel sacraments of the Church will not tame him or his Church. He keeps his word and always accomplishes what he promised. For that reason the two most perfect events in which we will ever participate, in this life, are Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion. In the first sacrament we have no freedom to bring to our Lord. But in the second sacrament, we must exercise the freedom he has given us in the first, freely offering back to him what he has freely given us. Everything we have, we have been given. Christ never gave his Church empty and ineffectual rituals, nor has he left us to our own devices. In a life that is marked by betrayals, incompletion, failure, and death, God has given us two guarantees of his love and solidarity with us in the Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion.