Excerpt from the book If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall

Chapter 5:
(Knowledge puffeth up, so add to knowledge…)


As we read the Gospels, it is important to remember that Peter and his fellow disciples were relatively young men when they began to follow Jesus. Peter’s unbridled exuberance is typical of a man in his twenties, old enough to choose his own path but young enough to still be rather reckless. Young people are typically more daring than their elders; what young people call adventurous, older people call irresponsible. Too often, such joie de vivre (joy of living) is extinguished by the time we reach middle-age, smothered by the setbacks and disappointments we have suffered along the way. It is no small thing that God promises to renew our youth as we walk with him.

Psalm 103:5:
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

One thing that youth does not have is the wisdom of experience. Inexperience breeds a peculiar kind of arrogance. There is nothing more self-assured than untested theory. Newlyweds swear that they will never argue. Parents-to-be swear they will never yell at their children. Children swear they will not make the same mistakes as their parents. Everything seems so easy until you try doing it yourself.

This bit of wisdom is often attributed to the American writer Mark Twain: "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." Obviously it was the young man and not his father who learned the most in those passing years.

We have seen that faith is required to please God. Faith without works is dead, so we must couple faith with good works, or virtue. In order to understand what constitutes a good work, we require knowledge. But we dare not stop here. Knowledge alone has a dangerous side-effect. Knowledge "puffeth up."

1 Corinthians 8:1:
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

Knowledge can fill you with pride, with predictable results.

Proverbs 16:18:
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

The puffer fish is a unique sea creature. It has the ability to inflate itself up to three times its normal size, giving the impression that it is much larger than it really is. Of course, it is still just a small fish. The puffer fish could well serve as the mascot of many institutions of higher learning, Bible colleges included. Fresh graduates puffed up with untested knowledge go out into the world expecting their elders to step aside and make room for their brilliant ideas.

Knowledge leads to pride and pride leads to a fall. Yet the biblical promise is, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall." How do we ensure that the knowledge we gain is an asset and not a liability? "To knowledge," wrote Peter, we must add "temperance" (2 Pet. 1:6a).


Simply having an idea for a new way to do things does not guarantee success. New is not necessarily better. The worthiness of an idea is revealed by its strength under testing. Knowledge must be proven in the fires of experience. It must be tempered.

In the production of metal or glassware, raw material is tempered – hardened or strengthened – by the application of heat and/or cooling. The prophet Ezekiel used the picture of a wall daubed or coated with "untempered mortar" to describe the deceitful assurances made by false prophets.

Ezekiel 13:10:
Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter....

Ezekiel 22:28:
And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.

What seems powerful in theory can prove impotent in application. Potential is an overrated commodity. Men and their ideas must be proven before they are relied upon.

Galatians 6:4:
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

1 Thessalonians 5:21:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Untested knowledge is only theory. This is the folly of the novice. He confuses theoretical knowledge with expertise. But reading a book about building a house does not make you a carpenter. Knowledge is accumulated; expertise is developed. The road to mastery is deliberately and slowly traveled. Time and experience are essential to the maturation process.

We begin every new endeavor as a novice. In order to develop expertise, we apprentice ourselves to someone who has already mastered the skills we desire. That is God’s way for family, society, and church: "Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder" (1 Pet. 5:5). In due course, the younger becomes the elder to a new generation.

God wants his church governed by people who have proven themselves over time. A man shows his fitness to lead a congregation by the life he leads outside of it. If he is negligent to attend to the needs of his own household, he will certainly ignore the needs of an assembly of households. How backwards it is when we consider it noble for a man to forsake his duty to his family in order to serve the church. This is not God’s way! In actuality, such a man serves neither God nor his family.

1 Timothy 5:8:
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

How many problems in the church would be avoided if we simply followed God’s plan!

1 Timothy 3:4–6:
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Calling a novice an elder is like calling a boy a man. Changing the name does not change the reality. Still, it is the person who appoints a novice to a position of oversight who is most to blame. Giving a man too much too soon all but guarantees his failure. That is why Paul advised Timothy, "Lay hands [in ordination] suddenly on no man" (1 Tim. 5:22). Like fruit on the vine, men must be given time to mature.


We answer our calling by fulfilling the demands of our calling. Otherwise we are salt without savor, of no use to God or man.

Matthew 5:13:
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

When Paul sent instruction to Titus concerning the ordination of church elders, he told him to look for men who were "sober, just, holy, temperate" (Titus 1:8). Temperance "in all things" is one of the demands of the Christian calling.

1 Corinthians 9:25a:
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things....

Temperance is self-control. We will submit to Christ’s mastery only to the extent that we master our own bodies.

v. 27:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

To "keep under your body" is to "possess your vessel in sanctification and honour."

1 Thessalonians 4:4–5:
That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God....

Temperance is evidenced in self-restraint over our appetites and passions. It is moderation.

Philippians 4:5:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Self-restraint begins with a bridled tongue.

James 1:26:
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

Our words should be few and carefully selected.

Ecclesiastes 5:2–3:
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

When we lose control over our disposition, we say we lose our temper. A temperate man keeps his temper. He is slow to anger.

Proverbs 14:29:
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

Proverbs 16:32:
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

People who are unsure of their own beliefs often feel threatened by those who express a different point of view. People expect me to get angry when they say they don’t believe in Jesus. I don’t get angry; I feel sorry for them. I remember what life was like without Christ. But there is no virtue in arguing the point. Our mission is to preach the gospel, not triumph in debate.

2 Timothy 2:25:
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth....

Sometimes your best option is to walk away.

Titus 3:10–11:
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.


The road of temperance is not extreme. It veers neither to the left nor the right. Proverb 30 teaches us much about the boundaries of temperance:

Proverbs 30:7–9:
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

A temperate climate is neither hot nor cold. But this does not mean we are to be lukewarm concerning the things of God. This was the sin of the church of Laodicea:

Revelation 3:15-16:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

The Christians of Laodicea had amassed considerable material wealth. Unfortunately, the warning of the Proverb – "Lest I be full, and deny thee" – was ignored. Their indifference toward the things of God foreshadowed their spiritual decline.

v. 17:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked....

Lukewarm believers do not warm those who are cold and damper the fire of those who want to further the cause of the Lord. They are a stumbling block to the rest of the congregation. This was the sin of Gad and Reuben.

Numbers 32:6–7:
And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?

Because the cattlemen of Gad and Reuben were content to settle in Gilead outside the land of Canaan, they wanted to be excused from the campaign for the Promised Land. Moses showed them their error and they repented of their selfishness. Leaving their families and cattle in Gilead, the men joined their brethren in battle, vowing to return only when "the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance" (v. 18).

There is always more at stake than our personal well-being. This is no time to be lukewarm concerning spiritual matters. Every day people are being destroyed for lack of the knowledge of God that you and I take for granted.

1 Corinthians 15:34:
Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

In many societies procrastination is a way of life. The Kenyan hip-hop group Boomba Clan pokes fun at East African culture in a hilarious music video called "African Timer." Mexicans laugh at themselves for their tendency to do everything mañana (tomorrow). But of course, it is difficult to see the humor when you are depending on someone for help. Paul needed immediate assistance from Apollos for the church in Corinth, but Apollos sent word that he would come at a more "convenient time."

1 Corinthians 16:12:
As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.

A ministry is not like a winter coat that you can keep in storage until the cold weather arrives. There is no "convenient time." Those who strive for the mastery must be faithful and steadfast year in and year out.

2 Timothy 4:2:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

1 Corinthians 15:58:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Temperance is often manifest in our stewardship of time. Every great achievement in life was accomplished over periods of twenty-four hour days and seven-day weeks. No one gets "extra" time.

Romans 13:11:
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

The Master is sure to arrive when we are least expecting him!

Mark 13:35–36:
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

If you want to stand and not fall, you must be temperate. Your knowledge must be tempered by experience, lest that knowledge only serve to puff you up. Knowledge with temperance is expertise. You must bridle your words, your appetites and your emotions so that your passions do not lead you astray. You cannot be hot-headed, easily offended by those who disagree with you. You cannot be given to rash decisions, running to and fro hoping to find the will of God, rushing off into battles that the Lord has not called you to. With temperance, you couple the passion of youth with the wisdom of experience, taking the best of both worlds. To have passion for the things of God without being ruled by your passions – this is temperance.