The Divine Agreement
October 6th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-6-85 8:15 a.m.
The title of the sermon is God’s Agreement, and the text is Matthew chapter 18, verse 19. And the exposition will be 18, 19 and 20. The First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, beginning at verse 18:
Verily – truly – I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven – where things are bound and loosed –
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.
And how much more so is He here with us when we number far beyond two or three. Now the text; "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven."
That is one of the most reasonable texts that you will ever read in the Bible. There’s a fundamental foundational rationale in it that is most apparent, if you look at it closely. The contrast between agreement would be disagreement and disunity. Amos said in Amos 3:3, "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" Disunity and disharmony and disjunction bring damage and destruction to the house of the people of God. But where the people are united together, there is the blessing of heaven in our midst. For one thing, it is a beautiful thing to see brethren in agreement. Does not the Word of the Lord sing that? Psalm 133:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down on the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
It is like the dew upon Mount Hermon, and like the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there God commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
It is a beautiful thing, God says, to see brethren dwell together in harmony. It is not only a gracious benedictory gift from heaven, but it also is the source of great power. Pentecost begins like that. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were altogether with one accord in one place" [Acts 2:1]; unity, agreement, harmony, looking up to heaven for heaven’s benedictory remembrance. That brings to our hearts one of the unusual facets of God’s created kingdom; namely, spiritual mathematics. What happens when people are together in the Lord? Ordinary mathematics have no validity and no pertinency in the mathematics of the spiritual forces of God.
For example, I read in Leviticus, "Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight" [Leviticus 26:8]. That’s not ordinary mathematics. If five chase a hundred, then the multiple of that, it has no reason in it except in God.
I read again in Deuteronomy, "One shall chase a thousand, and two [shall] put ten thousand to flight" [Deuteronomy 32:30]. That’s not ordinary mathematics. If one chases a thousand, two would chase two thousand. One chases a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight. God’s mathematics.
I read again in Isaiah, "A little one – qaton, an unimportant one – a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one – sa’ir, a little unimportant one – shall be a strong nation" [Isaiah 60:22]. It is astonishing the mathematics of the Lord. It moves in a different world of its own.
It’s like David Livingston who one time tried to explain to an African chief, ice. Being there under the torrid sun of Africa, the chief had never seen ice. And Livingston was having a hard time explaining ice to that African chieftain. Spiritual mathematics are like that. It moves in a different world.
And yet as we look at it, it multiplies by division. And it adds by subtraction. As you look at that carefully, it is again a plain, rational, reasonable facet in the kingdom of God and can be seen in the lives of our work. Look at it. A man writes a book, and he pours his life into that book. And Zondervan publishes it. If it’s a good book, it’ll be published by Pat Zondervan. But after the man has poured his life into that book, he writes a better book. The out flowing of his life doesn’t decrease, it increases.
Here’s a man who paints a picture, and he pours his very soul into that picture. But the out flowing of his life, he’ll paint a better picture. Or here’s an architect, and he studies and plans a tremendous building, but the outflow of his life is increase. He’ll make plans for a more beautiful building. Here is a mother who has one, two, three children and then sometimes more. And her love is not diminished.
When I began preaching at seventeen years of age, we had large families in our church. And never will I forget a rebuke. There was a sweet family named Hobson who had about seven or eight children. And when I would visit in the home, and stay in the home because I was single those first ten years of my pastoral work, living with the people, when I would be there in the home, she would lament over the death of little Robert, her little boy Robert.
And I said in my teenage lack of understanding, I said to her, "Dear Mother Hobson, look at all of these children you have; look at all of these children. Why do you lament and sorrow over the death of little Robert? Look at all these children you have." She looked at me in astonishment and said, "Young pastor, if I had forty children and one of them died, I would be as heartbroken as though I had lost all of them." You don’t diminish in your love one child, two child, three children. You just increase in the outflow of the love of your heart.
So it is in the kingdom and patience of God. We study God’s Book, and you’d think we would exhaust its message; the more we study it, the deeper its spiritual message to our hearts. You would think we would exhaust the spiritual resources of Christ. The more we go to our Lord and bow in His presence and listen to His voice, the more He pours Himself out into our lives. And our own souls are like that. The more we give ourselves to Jesus and the more God has of us, the more there is to offer to our blessed Lord. It is a marvelous principle. "My Word will be in Him as a fountain. My life will be in Him as a great stream flowing in blessings forever."
Do you notice here in this marvelous text, not only in agreement but also in the marvelous, wonderful blessing that comes from it? "Where two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done [for] them of My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" [Matthew 18:19-20]. The center of our unity is our blessed Lord. We may differ, and we do, in a thousand categories, but in Christ we all are one, loving the Lord. The center of our agreement is the presence of the Savior in our midst.
As a youth, many years ago, I attended a Southern Baptist Convention in Washington DC. And on that Sunday I attended the Calvary Baptist Church. Of course it was filled. And on either side they had a stair – like that stairway there – they had a stairway that went up to the balcony at the front. And I was seated on the stairway like that, on a step in the stairway. And seated there, I faced the congregation; I could look at it.
And right down there on the third row, in front of the pulpit, sat Charles Evans Hughes, one of the most distinguished looking men that I ever saw. Oh, that man! He had gone to bed one night, thinking he had been elected president of the United States, only to awaken the next day to learn he missed it by a few votes. At that time he was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
I sat there on that step and looked at that illustrious man, a faithful member of that dear Calvary Baptist Church. And by his side, by his side sat an unlettered Chinese laundryman, there in the Lord’s house, both of them – as I made inquiry – both of them loving Jesus. It is a great common denominator. Whoever we are, wherever we’re from, whatever our status, one in the Lord, union in our blessed Savior.
And one other thing:
I say unto you that whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. For if two of you shall agree, touching anything you shall ask, it shall be done by My Father which is in heaven.
Those are periphrastic future perfects. And let me translate it exactly as Matthew wrote it and as Jesus said it. "Whatsoever ye shall agree on in earth shall have been agreed on in heaven. And whatsoever you shall reject on earth shall have been rejected in heaven." When we agree – unity – in earth according to the will of God in heaven, it is invincible. God does it. God answers. It’s a marvelous source of strength and power for God’s people in the earth.
In these days gone by I baptized two wonderful women in the church. One was named Hattie Rankin Moore and the other was her sister Snow Rankin. That street that runs into SMU, Rankin Street, named for their father, and Rankin Center in West Dallas named for their father; two of the most marvelous women you could ever know. And Hattie Rankin gave her life, though she was well-to-do, she gave her life as a worker, a Christian worker among the poor in West Dallas.
In those days there was a gang over there: Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, Raymond Hamilton, Floyd Hamilton, Ralph Woods; a vicious gang. And you remember in a barrage of bullets, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were ambushed and bullet ridden in Louisiana. And Raymond [Hamilton] was electrocuted at Huntsville State Penitentiary. He was eighteen years of age; seems so young to me.
On the day that Raymond [Hamilton] was electrocuted, the families were over there in one of those hovels in West Dallas. And Hattie Rankin was with them. And they were lamenting and weeping and wringing their hands. At seven o’clock, Raymond [Hamilton] was to be electrocuted. And Hattie Rankin said to them, "Let’s take this to God. Let’s ask God to help us. Let’s ask God to save that boy. Let’s ask God to receive his soul." She got them all on their knees and quiet, and poured out her heart, and they with her for that boy to be electrocuted.
A few days after that, a chaplain, a preacher, from the Huntsville state penitentiary, came to West Dallas and visited with that family. And he said, "It was the strangest thing. I cannot understand. That boy Raymond Hamilton, it was terrible to see. He was frightened. As he faced certain death, he was just beside himself. And," he said, "at a certain time, before that seven o’clock hour of execution, suddenly," and the chaplain said, "I was with him, suddenly he became quiet and began to talk to me about his soul and about God and about the life beyond." And the chaplain said, "I led him to the Lord, and he died in the arms of Jesus." And Hattie Rankin said to him, "What time was it that he became quiet and asked you about salvation?" And it was at the exact time, the exact time that they bowed before God in prayer in West Dallas.
God is a remarkable, omnipotent helper in time of need. So Hattie Rankin Moore came to me and said, "Floyd Hamilton is in Alcatraz, that island in the Bay of San Francisco. I want you to pray with me that God will save Floyd Hamilton."
I said, "I will pray with you, Ms. Hattie." And we prayed."
Then," she said, "would you go to Alcatraz, and would you lead Floyd Hamilton to the Lord?"
After several days, I said, "I will go." And I went out to San Francisco and got on that little boat and to Alcatraz and was met by the warden. Going through that security, Lord, first time I’ve ever been introduced to anything like that. And then inside of Alcatraz, through gate after gate and steel wall after steel wall in the heart of that iron prison, I was left alone in a cell with Floyd Hamilton.
By the way, one of the men said, "I never heard of that because always when you talk to a prisoner there, you talk – before they close the prison down – you talk through a bullet proof glass. The prisoner stands on that side of the glass, and you stand on this side, and you talk to them through that glass. He said, "I never heard of being placed in a cell with a prisoner." But the warden did that for me. In the heart of that prison, through cell block after cell block and iron gate after iron gate, steel wall after steel wall, I was placed in an iron cell with Floyd Hamilton.
I told him of our compact in prayer, Miss Hattie, and that I’d come to talk to him about Jesus. At the end of my appeal we knelt in prayer, and I said, "Floyd, if you will give your heart to the Lord, and if you’re ever out you’ll give your life to the blessed Jesus, will you take my hand?" And on his knees in that cell he took my hand, and then he added, "I don’t know if I could live beyond the years of my sentence. But if I ever get out, the first thing I’ll do is come down that aisle at your church in Dallas. And I’ll be baptized, and I’ll give my life to Jesus."
He became a model prisoner. And they sent him from Alcatraz to Leavenworth, Kansas. And in God’s goodness and grace, he was pardoned. And the first thing he did, he came down that aisle here in our church, and I baptized him. And from that day until this – he’s so ill, tragically so – he’s been going around, wherever a boy would listen to him or a club would invite him or a school would open the door, he’s been telling young people about Jesus, "to give your life to the Lord Jesus."
There is power in prayer. There is beauty in God’s presence and agreement. And when the Lord’s sainted congregation come together in unity, God bears His great, mighty, strong arm to do the things for us, that are like the "twenty-ninth chapters" of the Book of Acts, the mightiness of God at our hands, at our disposal, just asking the Lord for His names’ sake. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian. It’s a marvelous thing to be in the assembly of God’s saints. And it’s a precious thing to pilgrimage through this earth in the company of God’s redeemed family.
And that is our invitation to you, to give your heart to the Lord, to come and join with us, "Pastor, this day, I open my heart heavenward to the Lord Jesus, and I ask Him to come into my life." "This day, I am joining the family of God, and I want to be a member of this wonderful church." Or, "God has spoken to me, pastor, and this day I’m answering with my life." On the first note of the first stanza, come. And may angels attend you in the way. Do it now, welcome now, while we stand and while we sing.