The message of the false prophets of Israel was one of peace. But their peace was an illusion. They preached peace when there was no peace, or what Luther called a carnal peace. Luther said that when the gospel is preached with passion and with accuracy, it does not bring peace. In fact, our Lord Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). That does not mean that we are called to use weapons of military combat to further the extension of the kingdom. We are to be peacemakers. We are to be tolerant, kind, and patient people. But if you look at the record of history, the true prophets of Israel contended for the truth, and every time they did, controversy emerged.
Probably no human being has engendered as much controversy as Jesus Christ did. People were galvanized either for Him or against Him. The record of the Apostolic church in the book of Acts is the record of ongoing and unabated controversy. The controversy focused on the preaching of the gospel. So controversial was the preaching of the gospel that the religious establishment of the Jewish community forbade the Apostles from preaching the gospel at all because it was controversial and because it divided people.
In our generation we’ve been told that the highest virtue is peace. We’ve lived in the age of the atomic bomb. We’ve seen widespread warfare. We’re tired of disputes, tired of people fighting and killing each other. It is by God’s grace that churches aren’t burning people at the stake or putting them on torture racks as was done in earlier centuries. We’ve learned to coexist with people with whom we disagree. We value that peace. But I’m afraid the danger is that we value it so much that we’re willing to obscure the gospel itself. We have to be careful of speaking about unity when we really don’t have it. At times I think we believe we have more unity than we actually have.