Many people equate argument and discussion. They are two different things. Some people may say, “We’re not arguing! We are just having a discussion.” But argument and discussion are not the same.
The Bible warns us against arguing with others. In 2 Timothy 2:23-24, the Apostle Paul warns us, 23 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” The word argument in Greek is zetesis, meaning argument or controversy or debate. There is a place for a healthy zetesis among believers, but the Bible warns us about arguments, controversies, or debates arising from meaningless questions. The foolish and stupid zetesis are controversies that are out of line and do not merit time or thought because it stimulates pointless and fruitless controversies.
Foolish and stupid zetesis are controversial questions that breed misdirected debate and unnecessary disputes.
These are the arguments that the Lord does not want us to be involved with because it only leads to quarrels. Romans 14:19 urges Christ-followers to live peaceful lives as Paul says, 19 “Let us, therefore, make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” In the same way, Jesus wants us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
Among Christ-followers, there is nothing wrong with engaging in a healthy zetesis. A healthy argument, discussion or debate is good and can help build relationships. A healthy discussion or debate is a respectful conversation about a particular topic. It strives to keep unity and peace with one another. Even though both sides of the conversation may disagree at some points, they are not hostile or hurtful to one another.
This was demonstrated in the first Church Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. The early Church was confronted with a major theological issue about salvation by grace through faith among the Gentiles. Some Jewish Christ-followers were teaching, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This was the primary and central theological issue that Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed on and debated (zetesis) them about. (v.2).
In Jerusalem, we read that the apostles and the Church leaders came together to examine this major issue. In verse 7, we are told that there had been much debate or discussion (zetesis) on the issue. The Jewish believers and Paul and Barnabas heard each other and debated around the issue. After hearing the ruling of Peter and James, that the Gentiles are also saved by grace through faith without the requirement of being circumcised, we read the outcome that “it seemed good to the apostles and the elders with the whole Church, resolving a major issue on the salvation by grace through faith alone.