Review of C. Peter Wagner’s Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

C Peter Wagner

C Peter Wagner’s Discover Your Spiritual Gifts was published by Chosen Books in 2017.

Though short in stature, C Peter Wagner was a whale of a man and minister. His writings and life have left a monumental wake on current Christianity in America and around the globe.

I enjoyed the man and found his ministry heart-warming and enlarging. He was a genuine modern day apostle. Peter died in 2016.

He also had a delightful sense of humor.

In earlier years, I may not have dared to critique the works of such a noteworthy figure. Now I know even heroes need to be reviewed.

So here goes. . .

Pros

Significantly, Wagner is writing about spiritual gifts, a subject too often neglected and misunderstood. His fame, wisdom and understanding helps right the ship.

The short history of spiritual gifts in chapter one can be helpful to many.

Wagner emphasizes the fact that “spiritual gifts are for use within the context of the Body” and that “individual Christians disconnected from the Body are not as useful as they could be. Spiritual gifts are not for Lone Rangers.” He constantly emphasizes the Body of Christ, whether the nuclear body (the local church) or in the marketplace (the extended Body).  

Chapter 4, Pitfalls to Avoid, especially “Gift Projection,” is well worth digesting. This spoke to me and may help bring unity and confidence to church members.

Wagner is a true apostolic father, often considered “the Grandfather of the New Apostolic Reformation.” He sincerely labors to help members of the Body of Christ to discover their spiritual gifts. He designed his questionnaire to aid Christians to become everything that God wants them to be.

Cons

Wagner Minimizes the Importance of the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

Surprisingly, Wagner, does not mention the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (or Fullness or filling, or whatever people call it). If he mentions it at all in this book, I missed it. He simply assumes that believers receive one or more gifts at conversion. This assumption leaves many, perhaps most, believers unaware of receiving spiritual gifts.

Wagner teaches every believer receives spiritual gifts at the time of conversion. Is that true? He bases his theory on the references to spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4:10. In the New Testament era, all the churches emphasized the Fullness of the Holy Spirit. When there were some churches or individuals who were not yet baptized in the Holy Spirit, the apostles took action to get them filled (Acts 8:14-25). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is part and parcel of the Full Gospel (Acts 8:25).

The same scenario occurs in Acts 19:1-7 where Paul brought the novice believers up to speed by asking, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” “No, we have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit.”

The situation differs significantly today where there has been little or no teaching of the importance that converts open to and receive the Fullness of the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues as was the practice in the early church.

Practically and experientially, most believers today become aware of the gifts when they receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. Tongues then become the gateway to the other Holy Spirit gifts.

I Have Trouble with His List of Gifts

With no Scriptural backing, Wagner lists voluntary poverty and martyrdom as spiritual gifts. Although each is mentioned in 1 Cor 13:3, neither are designated as a spiritual gifts.

He correctly includes celibacy (from 1 Cor 7:7) as a charismatic gift. However, on the basis of that verse, he would also have to include marriage as a spiritual gift. Does that mean that marriage is a charisma? Perhaps something deeper, something in the nature of God and creation, is at work here.

Is hospitality a charisma, as Peter Wagner claims from 1 Peter 4:9, or is it an attribute for all members of the Body of Christ to develop? Without a clear Bible designation, it seems most appropriate to name hospitality as an attribute for all Christians to work toward.

He also includes deliverance, which is the casting out of demons, as a spiritual gift. However, Mark 16:17 says deliverance will “accompany those who believe,” not limited to those who have a spiritual gift for it.

In Romans 5:16 salvation (justification, dikaiosune) is directly termed a charismatic gift. (This means even the most inflammatory anti-charismatic is actually a charismatic whether he knows it or not!) Wagner nowhere lists salvation itself as a spiritual gift.

What is a spiritual gift and what is not? Wagner leaves us with no clear understanding. On the basis of his writing might I suggest a few more spiritual gifts? What about fasting? What about suffering, is that a spiritual gift? What about investing for the sake of the Kingdom? Perhaps child-rearing? The suggestions could become limitless.

Conclusion

The book is useful, though not without fault. It has helped many understand their spiritual gifts and will continue to guide individuals and churches. C Peter Wagner’s Discover Your Spiritual Gifts was written by a wise and influential apostle. Worth reading as long as the essential requirement of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is emphasized.

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