Where would you place the 'confession' in a communion service?
I was speaking about that yesterday with another gospel minister. I 'flew a kite' for the idea of confessing after receiving the sacrament. Perhaps, I wondered aloud, we could receive Christ in the bread and wine (of course with reverence recognizing the body of the Lord) and then repent of all our unworthiness. Perhaps this would better model the fact that our repentance flows from the prior grace showered on us 'when we were still sinners.' (Rom 5:8) In our sin we are unable to turn to Christ, yet in His mercy He has turned to us to 'justify the wicked' (Rom 4:5). And, as recipients of such undeserved mercy, our hearts are then humbled into repentance. So should we put the confession after communion?
What do you think?
I've been thinking about this especially because I'm writing a paper on repentance at the moment. Here is the outline of my proposal. I'd love any thoughts you may have on it...
"I propose to write on the implications for pastoral ministry of our doctrine of repentance. Where should repentance fit into our soteriology and therefore how should we proceed in preaching and teaching, in evangelism, administration of the sacraments, in pastoral care, edification of the flock and in relations with the parish and wider world? In each instance the minister of the Word of grace encounters sin in its various forms. In each instance there is a danger that the covenant love of God will be presented as a conditional contract - a kind of "repent, then believe" ordo salutis. This would be to invert the Gospel in which Christ meets us exactly in our sin and does so unconditionally and with no respect to our capacity for Him or His new life. (Romans 4:5).
On the other hand Christ's salvation is precisely a salvation from sin - a deliverance from the realm of the flesh, the world and the devil. "The wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9). The triune God embraces sinners and in that embrace, changes them (1 Cor 6:11).
How do we as church model this Gospel ordo salutis? How do we preach repentance from our pulpits? At what point do we call the enquiring non-Christian couple to live out a Christian sexual ethic? To whom do we administer the sacraments? (In this question lies, among other things, the balance between communion as a "converting ordinance" and the dangers of "eating and drinking judgement" (1 Cor 11:29)). How do we counsel our people towards repentance? What counts as repentance when various addictions and relational involvements muddy the waters?
I'm sure my research for this will take me in many directions, yet I propose that I begin with the Biblical material, in particular the Old Testament covenants and the NT Pauline corpus. I also hope to investigate the controversies regarding the Western 'ordo salutis' comparing historical positions with each other and the Biblical data. I intend to make use of Calvin's distinction between 'Evangelical and Legal Repentance', especially as it has been developed by JB Torrance. As I begin these lines of enquiry I expect that many others will subsequently open up."