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Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Carry on Heavenly Work

Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work}


There Is Much Good and Necessary Work to Be Done

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Carry on Heavenly Work

Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work

There Is Much Good and Necessary Work to Be Done740}


The first motive to encourage you to do heavenly work is to consider that a Christian has much work and a little time, great work and small strength, necessary work, but many diverting duties and distractions. The work is excellent and there is none like it. People who set about salvation741 in earnest will find much to do and the further they go in Christianity, the busier they will be. Every day brings its work with it: new instructions, new mercies, new afflictions, and new temptations; these call for much exercise of grace and duty. A child of God has no time for idleness or frivolous business. Oh, there are so many things that must be dispatched during this little inch of time for eternal purposes! Soul, if you die and your work [of faith and repentance to life] is undone, your soul is undone; there is no rising from the grave to do your neglected work or get an exception at the judgment seat of God for your omission.


This work is also necessary as well as great; some duties are necessary to secure your salvation; all duties are necessary to maintain your comforts and enhance your reward in glory.742 People plead necessity for this and that [worldly] work, or this or that journey, and thus omit a duty [to God] or are absent from a [holy] privilege. But who is heedful of the necessity of working the work of God and attending to concerns of the soul? It may not be necessary for you to have peace, credit, plenty, riches, or comforts. It may not be necessary that you have a certain amount of goods, preferments, or happiness in the world. But, it is absolutely necessary that your soul is saved, that you obey God, that your neglected spiritual concerns are met, that your debts [sins] are paid for, that you obtain peace with God, that your hungry soul is fed and refreshed, that your title to Heaven is made certain, that you enjoy the presence of God, and that you improve your investment in heavenly glory.


Also, God promised to give you work, and that makes it necessary. If you are a Christian, you have committed yourself to be the Lord’s and have given up yourself to Him; you are not your own and your time and abilities are His (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).743 What you are and have is from Him and for Him; these you devoted to the use and service of God when you took Him to be your God (2 Corinthians 8:5).744 Since then, you have promised obedience to His commands many times. There are sickbed vows, promises made during afflictions, and promises made due to a troubled conscience. But every day and in every duty you tell God you will mend your ways, redeem your time, and do more and better work. How can you then stand before Him with such flattery, hypocrisy, falsehood, and treachery while your work is still undone?


Yes, your work, Christian, is an excellent work as well, above all the employments of the world. It is supernatural work, even angels’ work, but work that angels cannot do: to believe in, love, converse with, and obey Christ as your redeemer and savior, to suffer for Christ, and to be baptized into a conformity with His death and resurrection (Philippians 3:9–10; 1 Peter 1:7–12).745


This is also suitable work to which you are called in this heavenly trade. It is work suited to your nature. If you are a saint, you have received a heavenly spirit and are a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–4).746 If you are a Christian, it is as natural for you to do heavenly work as it is for the world to do earthly work. God put a disposition and propensity to new and heavenly work into your renewed nature. There is a disposition in the seed for its proper fruit. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). Heavenly work is work that is suited to your hopes, which are laid up in Heaven, “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5 NKJV). That is the blessedness: those great and glorious things you hope for that are laid up for you in Heaven, a treasure safely kept for you. Said Davenant: “[In Colossians 1:5,] hope refers to the hoped-for treasure. This reward is not merely said to be offered and proposed to us. It would weaken our hope if the certainty of those things hoped for depended on us and our disposition, so that they would be given or denied us according to the worth of our works, graces, and duties. Rather, it is said to be set aside for us, and deposited and safely laid up in God our Father for us.” A Christian’s treasures lie in hope, not in hand; they are beyond present sight and enjoyment, yet secured for their [future] use and ownership (1 Peter 1:4).747 It is “reserved in Heaven for you.” It is τετηρημενην [root: τηρεω, tay-reh´-o, keep, guard] kept, as it were, in custody, watched and guarded for you, sure and certain. The hopes of believers are firmly laid on these heavenly treasures, and their present hope is well suited to them. Heavenly work has a proportion and agreement in its nature to heavenly and eternal things (though not in relative worth; [eternal things have infinite value]). Heavenly work is work suited to your inheritance and wages in its characteristics, though not in degree; it is excellent work of the same nature as your eternal blessedness.


Heavenly work is also suited to your present privileges, you who sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).748 Gracious souls, though they inhabit earth, in point of privilege they sit in Heaven. “Through their union with Christ, they may be said,” said Zanchy, “to sit where He sits, as a husband or brother absent from his wife and brethren does possess a kingdom for them. They, though absent, may be truly said, due to being relatives, to possess it in him as members in the head. They sit in Heaven in the person of Christ, and as the lump [whole] is sanctified in the firstfruits.” Believers not only sit as relatives through their union with Christ, but spiritually through their communion with Him. Bucer said that it is in that [spiritual] sense that the apostle speaks in Philippians 3:20749 [concerning our citizenship in Heaven]. They have their citizenship in Heaven; this is a glorious privilege that only the saints enjoy. Their citizenship is in Heaven, and in this life they sit with Christ in Heaven above the world and the things below; thus their work should be heavenly also. How pleasant should heavenly work be to heavenly souls, which believers are and should be.




Your Spiritual Nourishment Will Be According to Your Work

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Carry on Heavenly Work

Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work

Spiritual Nourishment Will Be According to Your Work}


The second motive to encourage you to do heavenly work is that, as your work is, so will your spiritual nourishment be. Therefore, Christian, set yourself to heavenly work. Those who do the work that the world cannot do have food and drink of which the world knows nothing (John 4:32–34).750 The Lord has dainties and particular refreshment for those who are dedicated to and faithful in His work. They have joys unknown to strangers (Proverbs 14:10).751 Whoever else goes without, Christ’s laborers will not lack; He keeps a good table for His workmen. “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:9–11 ESV). They eat rich food and drink the sweet (Nehemiah 8:10).752 The marrow, spiced wine, and hidden manna is their food and drink (so far as they have need of it). Oh, the sweet bits and pleasant sips do those miss who are idle in God’s vineyard. “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NKJV). If you want to live well in your spiritual comforts, then work hard in your spiritual work.


Your Companions Will Be According to Your Work

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Carry on Heavenly Work

Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work

Your Companions Will Be According to Your Work}


The third motive to encourage you to do heavenly work is that your work will determine who your companions are. Those who do earthly work have earthly companions to labor with them. A person’s trade determines his or her company.753And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11–12 NKJV). But gracious souls are companions of those who fear God. “I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:63 NASB). Wicked workers have wicked men and demons casting in their lot with them (Proverbs 1:14).754 But, heavenly traders have heavenly company; they have the presence of God with them. The Lord is with you while you are with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2).755 Heavenly traders have the Comforter [Holy Spirit] with them. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 ESV). “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 NASB). There is no company like the Comforter. Friends may leave you, but if you stay with God and do His will, the Spirit of God will dwell with you forever. You may not always perceive Him, but He will always reside with you. At best, friends can only stay with you, but the Spirit of Christ will dwell in you and give you the nearest and most intimate acquaintance with Himself—if you obey His voice and follow Him. God’s laborers also have the company of angels. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 NKJV). “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7 ESV). Angels have an assignment to take care of the children of God. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11 ESV). Those are a lovely company indeed; they will never hurt you, but do you good, and you will be better off because of them (Proverbs 13:20).756


Your Eternal Wages Will Be According to Your Work

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Carry on Heavenly Work

Four Motives to Encourage You to Do Heavenly Work

Your Eternal Wages Will Be According to Your Work}


The fourth motive to encourage you to do heavenly work is the fact that your work will determine your wages for all eternity. Your wages will not be because of your work, but according to your work.757He will render to each one according to his works” (Romans 2:6 ESV). The Greek word is κατα [kat-ah´], according to, not δια [dee-ah´], because of, their works. Paraeus said that the preposition κατα758 does not mean merit, but measure, analogy, or rule, by which undeserved rewards will be distributed and just punishments will be inflicted. This is how the word is used in Matthew 9:20 and 23:3.759 And so, in passages such as Matthew 25:34–35760 that refer to glory (says Paraeus), the description of works done is of the person who will receive the glory; then the passage shows the cause why it is given [(because it was done to Christ)]. Also, the word ὰποδιδωμι [ap-od-eed´-o-mee], rendered pay in Matthew 20:8,761 is used to mean a free reward without respect to merit.762 The same reward was given to those who worked one hour as those who bore the heat and burden of the day. In sum, the word according denotes the kind of work, not the cause of reward as it refers to salvation. Christ said, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12 NKJV). The text is to render to each as his work.763 Indeed, evil works cause and deserve punishment, but good works do not deserve reward. Gryner gives three reasons for the difference. First, good works proceed from God and are the fruit of His Spirit in us, but evil works come from humans and are the result of their own spirits and wills. Second, good works are not perfectly good, so they cannot have merit, but evil works are perfectly evil, so they deserve death. Third, good works are commanded, and thus being merely our duty, cannot merit payment. (Payment of a debt is not a purchase.) But sins are forbidden and thus a breach of God’s law and deserve death (Luke 17:10).764For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Death is wages due, but life is a gift altogether free. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV). Even the most spiritual duties of a person do not deserve glory for five reasons.


First, people’s most spiritual duties do not deserve glory because they are not from the person, but God’s work in him or her. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NASB). “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). Holiness is called the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).765Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:4–5 ESV). Therefore, reward is not due to saints who do not work [for their justification], but by strict way of justice to the Holy Spirit who works in them.


Second, even the most spiritual duties of people do not deserve glory because they are so small and imperfect compared with the reward, and thus do not merit the reward. People’s work is imperfect; they only know in part, and do in part (1 Corinthians 13:9; Philippians 3:12).766 The best duties as they come from the saints on earth are spotty and are like clean water that comes from a filthy container; they reek of the container from which they came. But glory is perfect by all measures and has no defect in it. Our works are also finite because they are created and are the actions of creatures, but the reward is infinite, as it comes from the love and glory of an infinite God.


Third, even the most spiritual duties of people do not deserve glory because even if our holiness were [somehow] perfect, it would not have merit because holiness is owed [as a debt] to God. As His creatures and redeemed people who have promised and covenanted with Him to love, obey, and serve Him, we owe Him our holiness (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 18:5).767 Duties are only debts, not acts of favor to God. We owe God ourselves and all we are and have. We are indebted to Christ for more than we can ever pay for His redemption grace. Even if we do all we possibly can, we cannot reimburse Christ for His blood and love, and we cannot merit unless we are out of debt.


Fourth, even the most spiritual duties of people do not deserve glory because we have nothing with which to obtain merit since we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19).768 Humans, especially God’s redeemed humans, belong to God, not to themselves. Therefore, they have nothing to give to God. Believers are His servants. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4 ESV). A servant is not his own; his time, strength, capacity, and work are his master’s. Likewise, the saint’s duties are the Lord’s. This is not by way of employment and payment of wages, but by way of redemption, right, and purchase. God bought us out of the service of sin and Satan to His own use. Our service is thus God’s due on the basis of what God did for us. We have a debt of thankfulness and cannot merit a reward. Yet more, those who have nothing except what they receive from God—what can they give to God (1 Corinthians 4:7)?769Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:35–36 ESV).


Fifth, even the most spiritual duties of people do not deserve glory because if rewards were due to people by the merit of their work, then people would have something by which to glorify themselves. They might say about Heaven what Nebuchadnezzar said of Babylon: “The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’” (Daniel 4:30 NKJV). So might such say when they come to Heaven, “Is not this the mansion I prepared and deserved by my duties and graces for my glory and blessedness?” Those who are their own exalted judges are forced to say that their grace is given by God, but they boast of the improvements of this grace as if it were their own. They claim glory for their improvement of grace, though not to their “original” grace or talents. They are driven to confess Christ’s merit, but they dodge around and say that Christ merited for them so that they themselves might merit. But this is contrary to the Gospel; it tells us: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16 ESV). “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13 NKJV). “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29 NASB). And the apostle gives this reason why Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith: he would have had something to glory in, but this could not be. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God” (Romans 4:2 NKJV). So the saints, though they have a reward according to their work, it is not because of their work. It is a reward, not of debt, but of grace, yes, glorious grace, according to their work. Christian, God will not give you even a tiny bit less than the utmost that is according to your love and faithfulness. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB). He will not fail in any of His promises or disappoint you in your expected end, but will be better than your hopes. In that day of compensation, “Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?’” (Isaiah 49:21 ESV). “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43 NKJV). “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?’” (Matthew 25:37 NASB). Glory is a titanic thing, infinitely above all your labors. Christian, Heaven will make amends for all your duties and losses and abundantly compensate and exceed all your expenses for God in the world. Do you not thus have reason to set about the work of grace and forge ahead in the employments of this heavenly trade?



740Ashwood did not explicitly include each of these four motives in his outline, but the editor has included them in the outline for clarity.

741Ashwood’s use of salvation was a poor word choice without the context following. Later, it will become clear that he is alternately thinking of two kinds of work: the work of exercising saving trust (faith) in Christ and repentance to life (which two are fundamentally the same thing), and the work of living for Christ and growing in holiness and grace in the Christian life. The reader is encouraged to note the distinction as he or she reads on, although it is not always clear in Ashwood’s prose. The first work is a gift of God and it relates to justification. The second work is also a gift of God and relates to sanctification and living as Christ’s bondslave. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV).

742Christ will reward each believer with a reward that He Himself has earned, but according to (not because of) the believers’ work. “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12 NKJV).

743Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NASB).

744And this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5 ESV).

745“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:9–10 ESV). “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:7–12 ESV).

746His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV).

747“…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB).

748“…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6 NASB).

749For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 NASB).

750But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’” (John 4:32–34 NKJV).

751The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 NASB).

752Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV). The reference is not to pure fat, but to rich food as a juicy steak.

753A person’s job will determine the kind of people with whom he or she deals; different kinds of coworkers, customers, and vendors are encountered in the course of different jobs.

754Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse” (Proverbs 1:14 NASB).

755And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you’” (2 Chronicles 15:2 NKJV).

756Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20 ESV).

757Christ, by Himself, has earned the eternal inheritance and wages of each believer.

758Ashwood, in this indirect quotation, has put δια (because of) in this sentence. Given the context in the quotation and the Greek text of Matthew 9:29 and 23:3, the editor treats δια as an error and has substituted κατα (according to).

759Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith’” (Matthew 9:29 NASB). “Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them” (Matthew 23:3 NASB).

760Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in’” (Matthew 25:34–35 NKJV).

761And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first’” (Matthew 20:8 ESV).

762The Greek ὰποδιδωμι has a general sense of give out, and it may refer to something given freely, but it can also mean the payment of some obligation, such as taxes. Ashwood is right here, but not on the basis of his Greek exegesis.

763Different Bible versions translate αποδουναι as to give (KJV, NKJV), to render (NASB), to repay (ESV). These variations are in line with the scope of possible definitions in the footnote above.

764So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:10 NASB).

765But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23 ESV). Ashwood referenced Ephesians 5:9: “for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians 5:9 NKJV). But there is a textual variant by which many versions render fruit of light instead of fruit of the Spirit. The editor has thus substituted Galatians 5:22–23.

766For we know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9 NKJV). “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12 NASB).

767For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 18:5 ESV).

768Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV).

769For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB).

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