Avoiding Spiritual Quarrels

But refuse [shut your mind against, have nothing to do with] trifling [ill-informed, unedifying] controversies and ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23 (AMP)

Satan started it in Eden. He challenged the meaning of God’s command. Then he twisted God’s words into an interpretive trap that led Eve and Adam into sin. In the ensuing centuries, people have indulged in the art of “interpreting” God’s Word for their own purposes ad nauseam.

Sincere questioning that seeks truth is valid, of course. Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if his teaching was true (Acts 17:11). At times, however, our questions may be motivated by sinful desires, selfish motives, or poor discernment. That kind of distorted thinking usually generates strife, error, maybe even heresy.

Paul addressed the dangers of such “controversies and ignorant questionings” in his letters to young Pastor Timothy. The Greek word in 2 Timothy 2:23 is zetesis, which means “debate” or “controversy.”* In 1 Timothy 6:4, Paul uses zetesis in reference to “quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction” (NIV). In 1 Timothy 1:4, he connects it to divisions caused by false teaching.

Paul tells Timothy that the way to avoid these problems is to focus on that which leads to “godly edifying” and advances God’s work (1Timothy 1:4, KJV). He also emphasizes the study of truth and sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1, 6, 13). Our attempts to understand and explain God’s truth should draw people to God, His Word, and His work. The crucial question is always, “Is this going to glorify God?”

Questioning that degenerates into dissension is produced by an attitude that says, “I must be right.” The subject of that sentence is the problem—I. My dad often said, “All of us are wrong about something, and it may be the issue we’re most adamant about.” Only God is right about everything; we may be wrong about many things.

Spiritually profitable Bible study, discussion, and questioning generate worship. Truth compels us to kneel in humble awe before God. If our minds are focused on His glory and saturated with His truth, we’ll be less susceptible to error and less inclined to quarrel with our spiritual siblings.


In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (NIV). Why is that so important? How can we “watch” our doctrine closely? (See 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Read 2 Timothy 2:22-26. In what ways is this teaching similar to that of Ephesians 4:11-16? What should be the goal of all our interaction with others—whether we agree with them or not?

Read Romans 14:13-23. What were the members of the Roman church quarreling about? What was Paul’s counsel? How can we apply those guidelines to disagreements we have with other Christians?

Denise K. Loock

*Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for zētēsis (Strong’s 2214)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 7 Oct 2012. < http://
Strongs=G2214&t=KJV >

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