Is the Last Reformation movement biblical?
Question: "Is the Last Reformation movement biblical?"
Answer: The Last Reformation is a movement, founded by Torben Søndergaard in Denmark in 2011, with a core message of returning the church to the “true gospel” and the practices found in the book of Acts. The Last Reformation offers discipleship training through its Pioneer Training School and Pioneer Leadership School. The name “the Last Reformation” implies just what it seems: the “first” Reformation of the sixteenth century was a failure in that no church today bears “true fruit.” The Last Reformation exists to bring the church back to a focus on discipleship, healing the sick, and Charismatic gifts.
The Last Reformation movement has no official doctrinal statement other than the book of Acts. Followers of Søndergaard consider Acts to be the primary guide for today’s Christians. They are careful not to call themselves a “church,” as they see traditional church structure and practice to be extra-biblical.
While the Last Reformation desires to see people come to faith in Christ and grow in Him, the movement promotes some unbiblical teachings. First, the Last Reformation teaches water baptism as part of salvation. Baptism is not just a symbol, according to the Last Reformation, but an integral part of receiving freedom from sin. From their official website: “When Peter stood up and said repent, as Jesus did, and be baptized for the remission of your sin as Jesus has commanded us to, do it. Let’s obey Jesus and preach the full gospel.” Scripture teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). Adding any religious work—such as water baptism—undermines the very concept of grace (Romans 11:6).
A second unbiblical teaching in the Last Reformation is the practice of “kickstarting.” All Christians need to be “kickstarted,” according to the Last Reformation; that is, they all need to be taught “to heal the sick, preach the gospel, cast out demons, etc. by taking them out and showing them how to do it” (ibid.). Those who are ill are told to “command the pain/disease to leave.” The idea that we should talk to illnesses is never taught in Scripture. Also, the notion that every Christian can and should heal the sick stands in stark contrast with biblical teaching. In the New Testament, only certain people were gifted with the power to heal others, and not every sick person was healed (2 Timothy 4:20).
In the book of Acts, healings did indeed occur, but there was a deeper purpose—it wasn’t about the miracle but about the Miracle-giver. The miracles in Acts were about verifying to the lost world the truth of the apostles’ message. The gospel has never been about miracles but about being justified by God through Christ’s death and resurrection. As with most modern “healings,” those performed by the Last Reformation disciples differ from those in Scripture by virtue of the types of maladies targeted. Healings recorded in the Bible were not of minor aches and pains. Jesus and the apostles healed those with total blindness (John 9), leprosy (Luke 17:12–15), lifetime paralysis (Acts 3:1–8), and edema (Luke 14:1–4). They even raised the dead (John 11:38–44; Acts 9:36–42). The Last Reformation disciples target minor things—joint stiffness, back pain, etc.—things that the mind or adrenaline can temporarily overcome to give the appearance of a permanent healing. Conveniently, such healings are not visibly evident.
A third unbiblical teaching of the Last Reformation is its focus on “deliverance” ministry, the idea of every believer being able to cast out evil spirits. Yes, spiritual warfare does exist (Ephesians 6:12), but there is no biblical command for Christians to exorcise demons and no biblical example showing exactly how to do it. If expelling demons were the job of every believer in Christ, then surely the New Testament would somewhere contain a command to do it or instructions on what to do.
Other questionable teachings of the Last Reformation concern an emphasis on the gift of tongues and Spirit baptism as separate from salvation. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit comes into the life of a believer at the time of salvation—if you are saved, then you have been baptized by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Speaking in tongues was a gift in the early church (1 Corinthians 12, 14), but those tongues were known languages used to communicate the gospel. The Bible is clear that not all believers would have the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30).
In almost every public statement, Torben Søndergaard reveals a latent hostility toward church government. Within the Last Reformation movement, we see extremely judgmental language toward the church and a rejection of biblical headship within the church. This is a reflection of the deeper struggle of Torben Søndergaard, who believes that God told him the church is so corrupt that it is up to him to rebuild it according to the Acts model. By contrast, the goal of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and the other Reformers was not to destroy or ignore the church but to purify and realign it.
Torben Søndergaard also teaches Holiness doctrine, believing it is possible to live sin-free and that freedom from sin is a product of baptism by immersion. Those who are baptized have the ability to live completely above sin. However, Scripture teaches something quite different. The apostle Paul speaks of his own struggle against his sinful nature in Romans 7:15–25. Biblically, we have no choice but to acknowledge that we still sin (1 John 1:10). To deny that we have any sin in our lives is nothing less than spiritual pride.
Underlying many of the doctrinal problems of the Last Reformation is the fact that they use as their “doctrinal statement” a book of the Bible that is not primarily doctrinal. The book of Acts is a historical book and not a theological treatise. The Last Reformation makes a big mistake in taking narrative as command—the book of Acts narrates a time when believers spoke in tongues, but it never commands all believers to speak in tongues. Also, the Last Reformation chooses to ignore the transitional nature of Acts and takes the events in Acts as normative for all believers in all ages. The history recorded in Acts is meant to show how God laid the foundation of the church (see Ephesians 2:20) and how He transitioned from Israel to the church as His witness in the world, from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, and from Jesus’ ministry to the apostles’ ministry. As a result, there are very few direct mandates for the church in Acts—our instructions and their theological basis are found in the Epistles.
Due to its emphasis on healings and tongues, its teaching of baptismal regeneration, its rejection of church leadership, and its seeking after new revelations, the Last Reformation movement is not biblical.
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