Although from months ago, the video Grace, Salvation and Faith (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTgDkeV6HFY&t=84s) is highly relevant to understanding Torben Søndergaard’s and The Last Reformation’s soteriology (doctrines of salvation).
In this video Torben focuses upon Ephesians 2:8-9 (as many have quoted it in response to Torben’s teachings about baptism) and explains that it has been a highly misunderstood verse. Torben tells us that faith in Christ cannot simply mean faith in Christ, but denotes obedience to Christ (5:01, 9:30, 9:59, 10:56). He explains that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and other religious individuals believe in Jesus, but are not saved. He rightly brings up the point that neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor Mormons believe in the right and Biblical Jesus (4:24). However on this note, based on some of his previous statements, it is possible that Torben believes in the false New Apostolic Reformation’s Kenotic Jesus, whom laid aside His divinity during the incarnation (living merely as a man fully reliant on the Holy Spirit), as Torben has taught that Jesus was baptised in the Holy Spirit (Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1-3, Acts 10:38), not baptised in the Holy Spirit. After His baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13-17) to indicate publicly that He is the Messiah or the Anointed one (John 1:29-34)) and that we can do the same things that Jesus did, as we have the same Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:3-11 demonstrates the Kenosis, which is not an emptying of Christ’s divinity during the incarnation, but a humbling and emptying of Himself of His divine prerogatives and submission to the Father’s will. Colossians 2:9 tells us that all the fullness of deity dwells in Christ bodily, ergo that Christ maintained His divine nature as God the Son and took a human nature upon Himself. Christ was and still is fully God and fully man.
However in Torben’s stress that faith in Christ means to obey Him, he is twisting Ephesians 2:8-9 to say the opposite of what is intended. Let’s go with this line of reasoning and for the sake of argument substitute faith with obedience in verse 8:
8 For by grace you have been saved through
faith obedience; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NASB)
If it is by obedience that we have been saved, it can be argued that our salvation is of ourselves and is no longer a free gift, but a result of works. No, the point of these verses is that our salvation is wholly unmerited and that both grace and faith go hand in hand, it is our faith/trust in Christ that brings us to salvation, not our obedience to His commandments or any other works.
On this note however Torben in trying to correct the error of both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, makes a mistake similar to their own. For example: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures have rendered believing in Christ as exercising faith in Christ, this denotes not a saving faith/trust in the vicarious atonement of Christ on our behalf, but active obedience to Christ’s commandments.
Mormons combine faith and works as a means of getting to heaven (as their performance will determine which Kingdom they will end up in) and often misunderstand that when one advocates for salvation by faith apart from works (Romans 3:28), that one is arguing for a living and active saving faith which precedes and ultimately results in works (but that said works do not precede saving faith) not a passive professed faith which produces no fruit. It must be mentioned however that faith that does not ultimately result in works cannot save and is indeed a dead faith (James 2:14-17).
Mormons have a similar soteriological formula to that of TLR: Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and enduring to the end. The Last Reformation: Repentance, baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins and baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by the speaking of tongues. Torben also believes that one can lose their salvation and that their salvation is only assured when they eat fruit from the tree of life. The similarities are eerie. Yet I would say that Mormons are still a step ahead in their system in that they stress the necessity of faith, which sadly indeed is in the wrong Christ.
The Greek word πίστεως/pisteos is translated as faith in Ephesians 2:8 and derives from the root πίστις/pistis which means faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness, conviction, persuasion (http://biblehub.com/greek/4102.htm). πιστεύω/pisteuo rendered as believe means believe, have faith in, trust in, to be persuaded, to have confidence in, pass, entrust (http://biblehub.com/greek/4100.htm).
Let us also look at how the Bible defines faith:
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (NASB)
This gives us a better understanding of what faith refers to, namely that faith refers to persuasion, conviction and trust, not obedience. However true saving faith will result in obedience, but it would be erroneous to define faith itself as such. Faith in Christ thus can be said to refer to trust in the person and work of Christ (The Gospel: His death for our sins, His burial and resurrection on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)) alone for our salvation.
Redefinition of Biblical terminology is a concerning phenomenon as this is something that cults and sects do. In this case it can cause one to trust in the wrong thing for their salvation and consequently cause one to die in their sins and under the wrath of God. What we are trusting in can mean the difference between an eternity with God or an eternity in hell.
On the note of obedience, the issue arises in that those whom do not have the Holy Spirit cannot obey nor please God (Romans 8:5-10) as man is by nature dead in his trespasses and sins/spiritually dead and a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3) and he must be regenerated/made alive spiritually (God made us a alive while we were dead in transgressions (Ephesians 2:5-6)) and adopted as a child of God though faith in Christ (John 1:12-13, Galatians 3:26). Therefore to try to get man to obey God before regeneration is fruitless, as man must have a new heart and the Holy Spirit to truly be capable of keeping the Lord’s commandments (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
In addition to the conflation of faith with obedience and the frequent omission of the necessity of saving faith in salvation (therefore denying Sola Fide or that we are saved by faith alone), there seems to be a denial of possibly three other Solas: Sola Gratia (salvation by grace alone) on the basis of Torben’s denial of salvation by grace alone in his dividing of faith from grace (2:28 (Torben outright states that grace does not save us, but that it is the faith part that saves. Ephesians 2:5 tells us the opposite, that we are saved by grace (in this verse without the mention of faith). Looking at verse 8, we see that the truth is that faith and grace go hand in hand and that both play a part in salvation, we cannot have one without the other.), 2:51, 3:50), Solus Christus (salvation through Christ alone) is undermined by Torben and TLR’s positions regarding baptism and lastly Sola Scriptura (Scripture as our sole infallible rule of faith and practice) in favour of Sola Experientia (Experience alone). This last one has been very common among followers of this movement. Experience has a tendency to trump Scripture.
Even if the Bible contradicts or speaks nothing about something that is taught or believed by an adherent, if one’s experience contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture, often their experience or what seems to work will have greater authority. Pragmatism is common and one’s experience often defines one’s theology and practice instead of Scripture alone.
Sadly it would seem that Torben and TLR are on the wrong side of the Reformation (at least on the basis of the implicit denials of several of the Solas) and would likely have been on Rome’s side rather than that of the Reformers. In some ways they seem to have more common with Rome and the cults than with the Protestant Reformers. I cannot help but be concerned that many within this movement are unwittingly being primed to cross the Tiber river and become Roman Catholic, especially as many Christians do not understand why the Reformation occurred. While they have brought up valid criticisms of contemporary Christendom (eg. The need for repentance and the necessity of actively participating in the fulfilment of the Great Commission), an emphasis upon reforming the Church system and how we do the Christian life has been misplaced, as it would seem that the most important issue has been neglected, namely the reforming of soteriology and how one has peace with God.
Let us remember that we are justified by faith in the blood of Christ apart from works:
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (NASB)
Our salvation is either fully on the basis of works or of faith. Faith alone suffices and is credited as righteousness:
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
The work that we are to do is to believe in Jesus Christ:
27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
While Torben is right that Christ saves us from our sins (Matthew 1:21), in addition He saves us from the wrath of God and reconciles us to Him:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Jesus died a substitutionary death to atone for our sins (1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13, Isaiah 53), He was punished in our place and rose again bodily on the third day. Through faith in His finished work on the cross, we are imputed with a righteousness not our own and by virtue of our faith in Christ crucified for our sins, buried and raised again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2). Our salvation does not depend upon nor is maintained by our performance (as this would indeed be salvation by our works), but is based fully on His performance on our behalf.
On this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, let us return to the legacy of the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – Scripture as our sole infallible rule of faith and practice.
Sola Gratia (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6) – Salvation by grace alone
Sola Fide (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:21-28, Romans 4:4-5) – through faith alone
Solus Christus (John 14:6, Acts 4:10-12) – in Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11, Romans 11:36, Romans 16:25-27) – to the glory of God alone.