SEEKING THE LOST SHEEP — BRO. GROWCOTT'S LAMENT
There can be no doubt God will accept the sincerely repentant sinner. The entire divine witness of the combined Gospels testifies to this glorious fact. If God is willing not only to pardon but extend mercy, receiving the repentant sinner back, then why not the ecclesia? The forgiveness of sin removes the barrier to fellowship. Why will the ecclesia in certain cases forgive sin where that sin has been confessed and acknowledged and in certain cases of divorce and remarriage refuse? The apostle Paul as the Lord Jesus’ priest to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16) representing Christ, said to the ecclesia, “To whom ye forgive anything, I also forgive, lest Satan should get an advantage of us” (2 Corinthians 2:10–11). Therefore sins should be forgiven not only by the individual but also by the ecclesia. “Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me but in some measure – not to put it too severely – to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:5–7, ESV). It is contrary to the principles of God manifestation for the ecclesia to exercise the right, in the words of Paul, to inflict “this punishment by the majority” while erecting unscriptural barriers that prevents the ecclesia’s ability to “turn to forgive and comfort”.
Bro. Thomas has reminded us that “the manifestation of the Yahweh name is only initiated not completed in the person of Jesus Christ”. If Yahweh’s character is to be amplified in the characters of true believers, then the time has come for us to “behold the glory of the only begotten of the Father” and see where is the good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10). Is he amongst the ninety and nine righteous persons “who need no repentance”, safe in their peaceful ecclesial enclosure? Or is he out in the wilderness seeking the lost sheep (Luke 15:1–7)? If we are supposed to amplify Yahweh’s character which was made plain in Christ, then should we not follow his example and seek his lost sheep?
Woe to us, if we have time and time again been delivered from our folly by the good Shepherd, if we should at the last be found safe amongst the ninety and nine, the ecclesial barriers locked against “the lost sheep” while the good Shepherd is not found in our midst because he’s scouring the wilderness looking for that which the ecclesia in their righteousness has judged as “lost”! Whether that sheep is ultimately “lost” or “found” will be for the good Shepherd to declare; but what we ought to have no doubt of, is that the “glory” the Father gave to the Son, he has given to us—a glory “full of grace and truth”, that by this means we might be one, even as the Father and the Son are one, Christ in us, as the Father is in the Son, that we may become perfectly one (John 17:22–23; 1:14). If this unity is to be realized we must remember that the Father sent His Son to “save sinners”. Therefore the Son seeks “the lost sheep” and when he at last is commanded by the Father to return, he will recognise us as truly in him, if we are found doing what the Father asked us to behold in the Son (1 John 1–3).
Bro. Growcott, under the heading “Seeking the Lost Sheep” wrote in July 1971,
"If we approached even approximately close to the fulfilment of the divine requirements for the Bride of Christ, we would need have no fear from the danger and example of re-admitted and repentant sinners, however weak in the faith they might be.
We have shut our eyes to reality, to human needs. This is why we have dried up spiritually. When the original living fire and internal first-love strength of a community starts to dry up, it has to raise harsh barriers to keep the world from being sucked into its vacuum.
Sadly, I find very many Christadelphians more ready to condemn and expel than to take the trouble in compassion to disturb their own comfortable little lives and to actually put aside their own interests and pleasures and get out and really try to help the weak, and share their burdens and problems and sorrows. This has been a great source of shame, embarrassment, and distress to me.
We have been remiss in the past in keeping the clear simple Scriptural teachings of our pioneer brethren on this subject clearly before the Brotherhood…” (Bro. Growcott)