Article - Debate Your Case!
Should Christians and the church be involved in debates over the Scriptures? Today, people are so afraid of offending others that they brisk at the idea of debating the Scriptures. They are afraid that standing up for the truth against one’s neighbor will cause them to no longer be their friend. Losing a worldly friend, who will not help us get to Heaven in the shape they are in, should not be the litmus test of whether debating is authorized by God and valuable. Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, “Does God authorize debates?” And, “Will this please the Father and convert the lost to the Truth?”
Do the Scriptures authorize Christians and the church to debate God’s Word? Absolutely! Both in private and in public, debates are authorized by God. One on one, God encourages us to debate spiritual matters with our neighbors. The Proverb writer said, “Debate your case with your neighbor, And do not disclose the secret to another” (Proverbs 25:9). If our motivation is “preaching the truth out of love” (Ephesians 4:15), we should never be afraid to discuss the Scriptures with our friends. Remember, you never become someone’s enemy by debating truth with them. Paul said, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). For the truth of God to overcome error and sin, we must take up the Sword of the Spirit and go to battle against error. Debating with one’s neighbors is a great way to do that!
Public debating is also a great way to expose masses of people to the truth in an environment where logical thinking and common sense can prevail. Acts, which is the Book of Conversions in the New Testament, is full of debates and the conversions that resulted from them. Stephen, the first great martyr, paved the way for public debating. In Acts 6:8-10 the Scripture says, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen ( Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” Initially, we may think that Stephen’s debating was futile and even a contributing factor to why he was stoned—and it probably did lead to his death. However, it was definitely not futile. In recognizing the fact that Saul was holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen we overlook one very important fact. Saul, was present for at least part, if not all of Stephen’s debate and it must have had an effect on him (Acts 6—Those of the synagogue of the Freedman were from Cilcica; Saul also was from Tarsus of Cilicia—See Acts 22:3). It’s no coincidence that Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, who utilized Stephen’s great debating technique later in the Book of Acts. The Bible says Paul, “…vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28). On another occasion the Scripture reveals, “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:8-9). Some might ask, “Was this debating successful?” It definitely was. The very next verse reveals the value of debating as a tool of spreading God’s word. “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).
While there is no doubt that debating is authorized by Scripture some will still ask, “Is it something we should be doing today?” Indeed it is! If we fail to avail ourselves of every known method of evangelism, we are failing to reach as many people as possible. In fact, Christians are commanded to be ready to debate the truth. Peter said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The Greek word for defense is where our word apologetics comes from. Christians are to be ready to give a reasoned, logical, defense of the truth whenever and wherever they can. Thus, we can know that debating is still a very powerful tool for winning the lost to the Lord.
Be sure, God does not buy into the unscriptural idea that if we debate or challenge our neighbors on the truth we will offend them and they will never obey the gospel. God says that debating is a very effective way to reach the lost with truth. In the book of Acts thousands were converted through the preaching and debating of great men of God. In very recent history, thousands have been exposed to the truth and converted out of error through debating. Will we take up the mantle of debating today and support those who are willing to debate? Instead of viewing these folks as mean and antagonistic, let’s get behind them and encourage debating as a highly evangelistic endeavor! May God help us to “debate our case with our neighbor” (Proverbs 25:9)!
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