Does The Last Reformation Get Back to the Book of Acts?

last-reformation-movieThe Last Reformation is a global movement founded by Torben Sondergaard. On the Last Reformation website, it is stated, “We believe that the church is facing a new reformation.” Specifically,

A reformation that will go deeper than any reformation before: away from church traditions, suffocating structures and countless meetings in church buildings. We believe that it is a reformation, where we get back to what we read in the Acts: A simple disciple-life led by the Holy Spirit, where the kingdom of God comes near in homes, on the streets, in shops – yes, all places where people are.

In The Last Reformation, the 2016 movie, Torben Sondergaard claims, “We as the Church today stand in front of a new reformation. A reformation where we are coming back to what we read in the Book of Acts.” Many of his reasons for reform are noble and valid. He concludes, “It’s time to get back to what we read in the Book of Acts.” Signs and wonders, casting out demons, repentance, speaking in tongues, and baptism in Jesus’ name alone are focal points of the movement, yet the way in which each one of these elements are portrayed is actually at variance with the Book of Acts. As this critical refutation will demonstrate, The Last Reformation is unbiblical or incomplete in all of its emphasized beliefs and practices. Even more important than what they choose to promote within the movement is what The Last Reformation fails to mention or emphasize.

Signs & Wonders

In this segment, I will show what The Last Reformation teaches about healing, and also how The Last Reformation is in error in their approach to emulate the signs and wonders of the Book of Acts.

Followed by several scenes of people from all around the world allegedly getting healed, Acts 3:6-7 is quoted in The Last Reformation:

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” (Acts 3:6-7)

Unlike the miracles of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, the supposed “miracles” in The Last Reformation are either not spectacular or not verifiable. We don’t see diseases cured, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, etc. Instead, for the most part, we see people being relieved of minor pain in their bodies. The most significant healing is Simon Ekkelboom who apparently walked for the first time in ten years after prayer. However, he mentions a muscle disease which he still has at the time of the interview. Why wasn’t he healed from the very source of his disability? It is also curious that no medical documentation is provided to verify the healing when it easily could have been given. Neither could I find any websites or medical documentation online which provides evidence for this miraculous healing of Simon Ekkelboom.

Like the other participants in the movie, Peter Ahlman from Sweden tells his story about wanting to get back to book of Acts. When they met, Torben told Peter to lay his hands on a 25-30 year old woman who had a knee problem for many years and “command the pain to go away.” Peter said he almost blacked out because he was so nervous. He said also, “I had no faith, I think, either” (24:03). It is not mentioned whether or not the woman had faith. Despite his lack of faith, Peter prayed and something happened to his surprise. This strikes me as very odd. The passages are too numerous in the Gospels to list here of how Jesus healed people according to their faith. Jesus rebuked the faithless (Matthew 17:17; Mark 4:40; Luke 8:25). Also, when Jesus came into His own country, He “did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). So what new doctrine is this that an unbeliever can be “healed” by a messenger who “has no faith”?

Peter Ahlman later uses similar verbal formulas like, “I command all pain to leave right now.” Others also “command the pain to go” or say, “Pain, go right now in the name of Jesus.” With such commands, these participants claim to see literally thousands of people healed within their own individual circles of influence. The usual procedure is asking random people if they have any pain or sickness, and then commanding it to go away in the name of Jesus. Once again, while they claim to be returning to the Book of Acts, these verbal formulas and approaches are foreign to the text when it comes to healing. We don’t observe the Lord and His Apostles approaching random people and asking them if they have any pain in order to be healed. Rather, in the Gospels and Acts we normally observe spectacular miracles performed by the Apostles for those who were desperate for healing when faith is exhibited.

real-last-reformationI don’t deny that something is happening to these people in The Last Reformation. But what is it? As Christians, we are warned about “signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Jesus said, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. . . . For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:11,24). The Book of Revelation speaks about a miracle-working false prophet (Revelation 13:11-18; 16:13-14). And John said, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Though the word “real” is written in the sky by an airplane in the movie, credulity on our part can be spiritually fatal.

It was not the intention of Luke to teach in the Book of Acts that many signs and wonders should be the expected norm for the day-to-day Christian life. Moreover, it is significant that Luke emphasizes how it was the Apostles who did the signs and wonders. Luke recorded: “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” (Acts 2:43); “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12). Thus, the miraculous signs and wonders recorded in the Book of Acts during the apostolic age had a specific purpose to confirm the Gospel message (see Mark 15:20; Hebrews 2:3-5). But Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Matthew 16:4).

Casting Out Demons

last-reformation-movieIn this segment, it will be explained what The Last Reformation teaches about casting out devils and how this practice is contrary to the examples given in the Book of Acts.

There is a particularly disturbing scene beginning at 58:30 where Torben literally screams at a man who was just baptized:

Freedom! Freedom! Go! Go! Freedom! Come! Leave! Go! Go! Go! I command you spirit! Go! Right now! Come out! Go! In the name of Jesus, I command this spirit! Go! Leave him! Right now! Out! Out! Go! In the name of Jesus, I command every demon, go! Right now! Go! Right now! Come out! I command this demon, go! Go, right now! Demon, go! I command every demon, leave him right now! Come out! More! More! Let it go! I command you, demon, in the name of Jesus, come out! Come out! More! Go! Go! Go! In the name of Jesus I command the last thing to go! Go, in the name of Jesus! Every demon, come out! Right now! Leave him! Leave him!

This isn’t the only time Torben screams repetitions at people after they are baptized, but there are at least half a dozen scenes just like this one in the movie. Praying for one woman in a shopping mall, he says, “Never the same,” over and over and over again (1:25:00). Finally, after the eighth time Torben says, “Never the same,” she jumps forward and says with a smile, “I’ll never be the the same.” Later, outside the shopping mall, Torben supposedly casts a devil out of the same woman with similar aggressive and repetitive commands. Compare this to what we observe in the Gospels and Acts:

  • When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word. (Matthew 8:16)
  • And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. (Mark 1:27)
  • And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. (Luke 4:36)
  • And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Acts 16:18)

But Torben does not speak with the same authority. How many times did Torben command the demon to go, and it did not? How many times did Torben command the demon to leave and it wouldn’t? How many times did he say, “Right now!” and the demon apparently didn’t depart right then? I can’t help but wonder if many of these supposed “deliverances” resemble hypnotism more than they do exorcism. Peer pressure, power of suggestion, and repetition are all tactics used here which can create a very emotional response and achieve the desired effect through unspiritual means. Often, the people simply affirm the repeated words of Torben or do what he tells them to do. So are these phenomena the results of the power of the Holy Spirit or the hypnotic power of Torben Sondergaard?

In the end, a true disciple of Jesus is ultimately judged by their fruit, not by their spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues or casting out demons. The Lord said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23). In other words, casting out devils, even if it is genuine, is not necessarily a mark of authenticity upon Torben’s ministry.

Don Blizard, another participant in The Last Reformation movie, says, “When that person comes out [of the baptismal water], they are brand new, and they are clean.” After baptizing Claudio, he tells him, “You’re a brand new man.” Later he comments about baptism, “There’s a new man wearing your old clothes.” Torben also speaks about the freedom that comes from baptism. With comments such as these, I find it very inconsistent that members of the Last Reformation perform exorcisms after baptism. Torben says, “As soon as people get baptized I start to pray for them for deliverance because … now Satan has to leave them ” (1:03:28).

With all of their talk about wanting to get back to the Book of Acts, this practice of deliverance from demons after baptism is totally unprecedented in the Book of Acts. On the contrary, we have reason to assume that devils would have been cast out prior to baptism (Acts 5:16; 8:7-12; 16:16-18; 19:12-16). Never is it recorded in the Book of Acts that the Apostles delivered people from evil spirits after baptism.

Therefore, it can be documented from Scripture that the method of exorcism in the Last Reformation, both repetitive screaming and the deliverance after baptism, cannot be observed in the Book of Acts.

“We have to say what sin is”

More important than their false doctrine about what they are choosing to emphasize in the movie is what the Last Reformation fails to mention or refuses to emphasize. The message of repentance is good, but much about discipleship and sin is left unsaid.

In The Last Reformation, Azusa Street meets Way of the Master, Ray Comfort’s technique which Torben utilizes for evangelism. He asks, “Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever had sex outside of marriage?” The Apostles didn’t use this technique, but Jesus did carry on a similar conversation with the rich young ruler about keeping the commandments, though it had the opposite effect:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matthew 19:16-21)

In other words, though the rich young ruler did not become the Lord’s disciple by selling his possessions and following Jesus, he considered himself justified rather than, as Ray Comfort would say, “a lying, stealing, and murdering adulterer at heart.” Obviously the Way of the Master evangelism is a modern innovation (whether or not the method is effective is beside the point). Once again, this is yet another practice in The Last Reformation that is never done by the Apostles in the Book of Acts. Nonetheless, the message of repentance is to be commended.

Even though Torben says, “We have to say what sin is” (36:48), I suspect that there are many sins apart from the 10 Commandments that are left undefined in the Last Reformation movement. For example, what about female teachers? Even in the repentance segment of the movie, Ilze Esterhuyse, a woman, gives a teaching on “true repentance,” (41:09) but the Scriptures say: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12, NKJV).

What about the sin of divorce and remarriage? Torben has been demonstrably negligent concerning the permanence of marriage, and the proof is in the movie. On pages 67-68 of his book, Sound Doctrine, Torben writes, “First, let’s look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.” He continues,

[Jesus] mentions five different things the Law says: You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not give false testimony, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Then Jesus speaks of some of the laws and commandments in the Old Covenant that He came to fulfill. If we read what He says about the different laws, we can see that He makes them stricter instead of breaking them. He wants a higher standard.

Actually, Jesus mentions six things the Law says, not five, as Torben claims, but we’ll get to that below. In this chapter of his book, Torben has set himself up for the perfect opportunity to exegete some of the most radical and unique teachings of Christianity found in Matthew chapter 5. He proceeds to elaborate on murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26) and adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-30). Though he introduced the topics of forbidding oaths (Matthew 5:31-37), non-resistance (Matthew 5:38-42), and loving your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) in the paragraph above, he puts forth zero effort to interpret what these commandments actually mean for Christians to obey. Even more concerning is the fact that Torben conveniently ignores Matthew 5:31-32 on the permanence of marriage:

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

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Let me offer one example of why this is so irresponsible of Torben. The movie opens up with a baptism in Fort Collins, Colorado, my hometown. In fact, I did a double take because the Fort Collins woman baptizing the man looked like an old friend from Fort Collins. Not only was I troubled by the fact that she was baptizing a man (another unprecedented practice not to be found in the Book of Acts), but also because we had an online conversation in 2014 that did not end well. At the time, apparently when she was getting involved in the Last Reformation, I was informed by some close mutual friends that she believed God told her that she was going to marry a young man (perhaps the same man that is being baptized in the film). The only problem is that she was already and presently married with children at the time we spoke. How could the Holy Spirit lead a person to disobey the Lord Jesus Christ, who said that divorce and remarriage is adultery? Jesus specifically said, “If a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12). When I confronted her about this, she did not deny it, but said, “So they [her accusers] are doing what they were appointed to do long ago, and I don’t hold any ill feelings toward them, only the one [i.e., the devil] who is using them to try to hurt me and my baby.” Now according to her husband, she has been separated from him for three years and they are getting a divorce. I am absolutely convinced that this is not the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Much of the “simple disciple-life” that The Last Reformation claims to promote is left undefined and undiscussed in the movie. For example, why aren’t people exhorted to count the cost before baptism? What about forsaking all, self-denial and taking up the cross? All the calls to discipleship are conveniently avoided in The Last Reformation (see Matthew 10:34-39; 16:24-27; Mark 8:31-35; Luke 9:23-27; 14:26-33; John 12:25-26). In The Last Reformation, there is not a word about this kind of discipleship into which the Lord invites us. From Luke’s Gospel:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-33)

Speaking in Tongues

In this segment, it will be explained what The Last Reformation teaches about “speaking in tongues” being the initial sign of salvation or being filled with the Holy Spirit. However, I will elaborate on the following two points: (1) The Last Reformation interpretation of “speaking in tongues” is not the same phenomenon recorded in the Book of Acts, and (2) Speaking in tongues is not a normative sign for being filled with the Holy Spirit, not even in the Book of Acts.

Like the doctrine of baptism in Jesus’ name alone, the insistence that speaking in tongues is the initial sign that always accompanies the baptism in the Holy Spirit is another distinctive of The Last Reformation that it shares with Oneness Pentecostalism. The common theme and language of the movie is, “Get baptized in water, [and] speak in tongues,” as Rahul Dsouza states (1:17:56). In the movie, the uniform experience of those who are baptized, at least how it’s presented, is that “speaking in tongues” accompanies baptism and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Torben also says, “The Bible makes it clear that there’s always a sign when people are baptized in the Holy Spirit” (1:15:35). It is later explicitly taught that this sign is speaking in tongues.

Really there are only three occurrences in the Book of Acts where tongues are recorded (Acts 2:1-11; 10:44-48; 19:5-7). And a number of other phenomena are mentioned in connection with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as prophecy, dreams, visions, and tongues of fire appearing on each of the disciples’ heads (Acts 2:1-18). Along with the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues, all of these phenomena alike are not normative. Thus, there is a danger of adopting the Book of Acts as a prescription for Christian life after the apostolic era because waiting for these various phenomena is a deception and distraction from the Great Commission.

According to many Oneness Pentecostals, the only reason why someone has not yet spoken in tongues is that he or she is not yet worthy of salvation. This psychologically damaging doctrine carries over into The Last Reformation. For example, in The Last Reformation, Elisabeth says, “I came today, seeking God for the gift of tongues” (45:54). After her weekend with Torben, she says, “God has delivered me and blessed me with the gift of tongues” (46:20). At 1:14:26, Torben states, “We have seen many people who were not able before to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. But when they got baptized in water, the Holy Spirit came over them, and they started to speak in tongues.” The Last Reformation emphasizes a return to the Book of Acts, but nobody in the Book of Acts sought the gift of speaking in tongues.

In the video called, “Let’s talk abaut speaking in tongues and baptism with the Holy Spirit,” Torben says he believes that tongues are for everybody. He says, “When you are born by the Spirit, you get another language. . . . And I really see that that is for everyone.” He claims that everyone in Acts speaks in tongues. He bases this on Peter’s words in Acts 2:39, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Clearly the verse before clarifies that the gift in context is the Holy Spirit, not the spiritual gift of tongues. Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Going on to cite Acts chapter 8, Torben acknowledges that tongues are not mentioned in the verse, but he says that Simon saw something, which Torben thinks is speaking in tongues. Torben comments, “So they laid their hands on them and they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. You don’t read right there what happened, but you know there was a sign” (1:16:09). The text says:

Then laid they [Peter and John] their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17-19).

Torben thus implies that the sign was “speaking in tongues.” But this is an argument from silence on Torben’s part because tongues are not mentioned here at all! It is open to question how Simon knew that they received the Holy Spirit. Luke was not trying to teach in any of these passages that speaking in tongues always accompanies the receiving of the Holy Spirit as the regular and necessary practice for all time.

The second passage quoted in The Last Reformation movie is Acts 19:6. In context,

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

In the beginning of the movie, there are three quick scenes of Torben commanding the Holy Spirit to come with various people who all subsequently babble in gibberish. Torben convinces one young boy he was “praying in tongues.” The obvious implication here with the Acts 19:6 introductory reference is that when the Holy Ghost comes upon a person, they “speak in tongues.”  Later Torben comments on speaking in tongues in Acts 19 at length. He says: “In the Book of Acts, chapter 19, you read about Paul, how he came to Ephesus, where he met some believers. He did not ask them which church they attended, because this is not important. He asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And those believers had not yet got baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ and they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. So Paul, there baptized them to Jesus Christ and when he then laid the hands on them, they all received the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues” (1:24:10). But Luke simply reports in the Book of Acts with no interpretation. Speaking in tongues is no more the initial sign of salvation and the coming of the Holy Spirit than prophecy (cf. Acts 2:17-18), a superior spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), but for some reason tongues are emphasized in the Last Reformation.

The Last Reformation radically departs from the Book of Acts in several ways concerning the spiritual gift of tongues. First of all, speaking gibberish is not a spiritual gift. The spiritual gift of speaking in tongues was not gibberish, but known languages, as the Book of Acts records. Tongues (Gr. glōssa) refers to the language or dialect used by a particular people. Therefore, the book of Acts records,

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own languageAnd they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:6-11)

Second, at Pentecost, the disciples waited in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1 and 2), but these disciples were already saved, not seeking or begging to receive the gift of tongues. So far as we can tell, those who spoke in tongues in the Book of Acts were not expecting tongues, but totally surprised when the Holy Spirit came. For example, in Acts 2:1-11, the early disciples had no expectation that they were going to speak in tongues. Also, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles, Luke said the Jewish Christians “were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues” (Acts 10:45-46). This is very different than people like Elisabeth and others in The Last Reformation who are seeking the gift of tongues.

Thirdly, there is no corroborating evidence in any of the epistles that the Apostles or churches placed saving significance on speaking in tongues like The Last Reformation strongly implies. Neither is there corroborating evidence in any of the epistles that the Apostles or churches taught that all spoke with tongues when they were filled with the Holy Spirit as The Last Reformation portrays. Actually, there is strong evidence against this idea. For instance, the Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question to Christians, “Do all speak with tongues?” (1 Corinthians 12:30). The context of the question makes it clear that the answer is, “of course not.”

Fourth, when the Holy Spirit fell in the Book of Acts, it was always on groups of people (Acts 2:1; 10:44; 19:7). Therefore, The Last Reformation violates its own prescriptive use of the Book of Acts by applying the spiritual gift of tongues to individuals in every case.

Fifth, speaking in tongues in the Scriptures is a gift of the Holy Spirit, but in the Last Reformation it appears to be an imitated behavior. Concerning speaking in tongues, Torben says, “Now we start to speak in tongues, when I say, ‘Now’ just say the first words and let it out” (1:16:37). Once again, teaching or prompting somebody to “speak in tongues” is not what happens in the Book of Acts.

The historical accounts of speaking in tongues in the Book of Acts was never intended to be a normative pattern for how salvation should always happen. But one thing the Apostle Peter said in the Book of Acts, which The Last Reformation fails to mention, concerning the Holy Spirit and salvation which is always applicable to all Christians alike: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

Baptism in Jesus’ Name Alone

In this segment, it will be explained what The Last Reformation teaches about baptism in Jesus’ name alone, and it will be demonstrated how this practice is contrary to the explicit command and trinitarian baptismal formula given by the Lord in the Great Commission and the Apostles’ practice in the Book of Acts.

Acts 19:5 is the first Bible passage that is displayed in the opening of the film: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In this video called “Torben Søndergaard says he does NOT need to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ,” Torben says plainly that the disciples “only baptized in the name of Jesus” as opposed to baptism in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. “Everyone in the Bible who got baptized,” he says, “got baptized in the name of Jesus.” But the Lord commanded in the Great Commission:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

But Torben is teaching the Oneness Pentecostal doctrine of baptism in Jesus’ name alone. This is the unbiblical and un-trinitarian practice in The Last Reformation movie also.

In baptism, the new believer expresses his commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what it means when the book of Acts reports that the early Christians were baptized into Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38; 8:16:10:48; 19:5). The passages in Acts are not specifying the exact words to say in a baptism, but simply means that baptisms were done in the Lord’s authority. “In the name of Jesus” occurs elsewhere in the Book of Acts without reference to baptism, signifying the authority of Christ:

  • And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18)
  • And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40)
  • But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27)
  • And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. (Acts 9:29)

Just as speaking, teaching and preaching “in the name of Jesus Christ” does not refer to a verbal formula, so it is with baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The idea would be similar to a police officer who were to make a command “in the name of the law.” These statements of baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38; 10:48), and “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:16; 19:5) supplement Matthew 28:19, which speaks of baptizing new disciples “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Luke’s description of baptisms in the book of Acts does not overrule or contradict the explicit baptismal prescription given by the Lord in the Great Commission. In Matthew, just as much as in Acts, the focus of disciple making is commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Hence, in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) those who believe are to recognize his universal authority (v. 18), become Jesus’ disciples (v. 19), be baptized in the Son’s name as well as the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s (v. 19), observe all that Jesus taught (v. 20), and live in the awareness of his presence (v. 20). The passages in Acts are not baptismal formulas, but mean the confession of Christ, with all that Christ stands for, namely the fullness of God and His salvation. In fact, never did Luke record the specific words of a baptism ceremony. The Gospel command which was given by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

1 Corinthians 1:13-15 is another passage which presents a problem for the assumption that the verbal formula in baptism is in the name of Jesus alone. Paul said, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name” (1 Corinthians 1:13-15). Baptism “in the name of Paul” is mentioned here. Obviously Paul did not baptize people “in the name of Paul.” Yet Paul rejoices that he only baptized a few people so that it would not be thought that they were baptized “in the name of Paul.” It is not that baptizing a greater amount of people would cause them to think that he was baptizing with the verbal formula “in the name of Paul.” Paul was concerned about divisions in the church, not that he was thought to be baptizing “in the name of Paul” literally. “In the name of Paul” (v. 13) or being “of Paul” (v. 12) refers to identifying with Paul, rather than Christ, thus dividing the Church. We have clear evidence here that baptism “in the name of Paul” is not a verbal formula. Therefore, baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38; 10:48), and “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:16; 19:5) does not have to be a verbal formula either. However, if “in the name of Paul” (v. 13) or being “of Paul” (v. 12) refers to coming under Paul’s authority or being identified with Paul in some sense, then the same would apply to baptism “in the name of Jesus.” Similarly, Paul speaks about the Israelites being “baptized unto Moses” (1 Corinthians 10:2), which does not imply a verbal baptismal formula but rather being initiated into Moses’ movement. Thus, a person could be said to be baptized “in the name of Jesus” in the same sense that it was intended by Luke (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) when they are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19) because that is exactly how the Lord commanded his disciples to be baptized.

So we have every reason to conclude that in the Book of Acts, disciples were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So The Last Reformation is not returning to the Book of Acts in the practice of baptism. One has to wonder if The Last Reformation is Oneness since they have adopted this Oneness practice of single immersion in the name of Jesus alone rather than the early Christian practice of trine immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. There is not an affirmation of the Trinity, let alone any statement of faith on The Last Reformation webpage.

A Last Reformation?

The basis for The Last Reformation is getting “back to what we read in the Acts.” But The Last Reformation isn’t the only “reformation” within Christendom which attempts to get back to the book of Acts. In 1999, C. Peter Wagner announced a New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) in his book Churchquake. According to NAR beliefs, churches today must be reformed so that the offices of Apostle and Prophet would once again be recognized in order to govern the church. Interesting is the synopsis of Wagner’s book Spreading the Fire: A New Look at Acts-God’s Training Manual for Every Christian (Acts of the Holy Spirit):

The Book of Acts describes how the first church learned to overcome spiritual and cultural resistance–a lesson which is just as important for the church today. Here is the blueprint showing how we can fulfill the Great Commission.

Torben Sondergaard appears to be part of the NAR. The blog Spirit of Error examines the apostolic-prophetic movement (also known as the “New Apostolic Reformation“). The blog author Holly Pivec recently pointed us to the YouTube clip “How to Remember the 5 Fold Church Ministry” (part of a longer teaching by Sondergaard, titled “Reformation of the Church System“) in which Torben explains how today’s church should also have the offices of Apostles and Prophets as in the book of Acts.

In her post, “One to Watch: Torben Sondergaard,” Holly Pivec writes:

In short, he [Torben] is part of NAR. . . . This Youtube clip is titled “How to Remember the 5 Fold Church Ministry” and is part of a longer teaching by Sondergaard, titled “Reformation of the Church System.”

Sondergaard advocates a view known as “restorationism.” This is the belief that the church, after the first century, lost important truths and fell into apostasy. Those lost truths are now being progressively restored by teachers such as Sondergaard. Restorationism is promoted by aberrant groups, such as the New Apostolic Reformation movement, along with cults of Christianity, including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Sondergaard promotes the present-day governing offices of apostle and prophet, which is the core teaching of the New Apostolic Reformation. Notice, in the video clip, how he references the NAR “fivefold ministry” teaching that the church is to be led by apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. He describes a prophet as one who points out sin in individual’s lives and gives direction to the church–functions typically reserved for an individual who holds an authoritative office in the church, not just someone who has a prophetic gifting. He also says that a prophet and apostle work in tandem–a common teaching in NAR.

In summary, The Last Reformation commits the same mistake as the NAR of making the descriptive history in the Book of Acts prescriptive doctrines. The attempt to use the Book of Acts in a prescriptive fashion as a “blueprint” is misguided. Far from providing us with a normative pattern to follow, it seems that Luke included the material he did in the Book of Acts because it was not normative, and it was apostolic! Given the time span of Luke’s history of the early church, it is not surprising that he includes those miraculous events which are spectacular and unusual. Apart from all of the other errors of The Last Reformation movement, to return to the Book of Acts as a norm for the Christian experience invites all kinds of harm and heresy. Such is the result of any movement that does not make Jesus Christ and His teachings in the Gospel the foundation for Christianity.

See Also:

Holy Ghost, A Christian Movie Review

3 Questions for Bill Johnson

False Prophets Undisciplined at IHOP