Monday, February 27, 2006

Rhema vs. Logos

It happens every now and again. Well, it happened yesterday again!

Somewhere, sometime, someone came up with the idea that the Greek word 'rhema' has a totally different meaning to that of 'logos.' I do not know who started this mythological hoax, but once again the church fell for the hoax!

Yesterday, one of the pastor's at church preached a sermon that included Mt 4:4, "But he answered, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."'" The Greek word for 'word' here is rhema. The claim is that rhema does not refer to the Bible like logos does, but to a fresh word from the mouth of God.

What follows is a little study on the uses of 'rhema' and 'logos.'

It is a little long, but I hope it is worth the reading.

1. Introduction

In the Charismatic world we have been inundated with all kinds of teaching from all over the world. Some of it legitimate, and others not. In the last two decades or so the teaching has been spread that there is a major difference between RHEMA and LOGOS. Is there a difference? If so, what are the differences between these two words? If not, how do they relate to each other? It has been taught that rhema is the spoken Word from God to each individual or to a people today, whereas logos is God's written Word as we have it in the Bible.

One thing that we must not be, is scared of what our studies of the Word of God will reveal. We should also never come to the Scriptures with preconceived ideas. We should also not always merely accept what we are taught from the pulpit or in conferences by "reputable" teachers. We should be like the Bereans that kept on comparing what Paul preached with the Scriptures they had.

In the final analysis we are all responsible for our own faith and system of doctrine. If we are to mature as Christians, then we have to "be diligent to present [ourselves] approved unto God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (NASB 2 Tim. 2:15). This study is not just a matter of semantics. Is it semantics that separate us from the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons? It is the true meaning behind common words that we use. There are many words that are shared between them, and us, yet they have vastly different meanings. So, it is important to know exactly what a word means as set forth in the Scriptures.

2. Meanings

  • Rhema

First, let us look at some lexicons and a theological dictionary.>

The following resources were used:

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance from the Online Bible.
Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament abridged in one volume and translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley.
W.E. Vine's Expository dictionary of New Testament words.
Thayer's A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament.
Louw and Nida's Greek-English lexicon, recognised by many Greek scholars as one of the best works on Greek lexicography.
Bauer's A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, recognised by many Greek scholars to be the best work on Greek lexicography.

This is what I gleaned from the above res>ources about rhema.

[what has been uttered by the living voice, sound from the voice with a definite meaning, words joined together to form a sentence; something expressly stated like an announcement or treaty, the Septuagint translates both logos and rhema from the Hebrew dabar, that which is uttered in speach or writing; speech, discourse, the subject matter of speech; a minimal unit of discourse, single word, focus on the content of the communication, differences between logos and rhema is a matter of style; thing, expression]

  • Logos

This is what I gleaned from the above resources about logos.

[a word, decree, the act of speaking, teaching, reason, account; first sense of collection, counting, conversation; expression of thought, statement; thoughts expressed in words, relates to speaking and thinking, a divine declaration recorded in the OT; systematic and formal treatment of a subject, the content of what is preached; matter]

3. Translation

  • Rhema

Spoken

The following verses related to rhema all show its usage with the general meaning of "speaking".

Mt 4:4; Mt 12:36; Mt 18:16; Mt 26:75; Mt 27:14; Mr 9:32; Mr 14:72; Lu 1:38; Lu 1:65; Lu 2:17; Lu 2:19; Lu 2:29; Lu 2:50; Lu 2:51; Lu 3:2; Lu 5:5; Lu 7:1; Lu 9:45; Lu 18:34; Lu 20:26; Lu 22:61; Lu 24:8; Lu 24:11; Joh 3:34; Joh 5:47; Joh 6:63; Joh 6:68; Joh 8:20; Joh 8:47; Joh 10:21; Joh 12:47; Joh 12:48; Joh 14:10; Joh 15:7; Joh 17:8; Ac 2:14; Ac 5:20; Ac 6:11; Ac 6:13; Ac 10:22; Ac 10:37;

Ac 10:44 ""While Peter was still saying these things (rhema), the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word (logos). Here the logos is equated with the rhema that Peter delivered unto them.

Ac 11:14; Ac 11:16; Ac 13:42; Ac 16:38; Ac 26:25; Ac 28:25;

Ro 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Should we believe that here the rhema refers to the spoken word? No, here it has nothing to do with the word being a spoken word or a written word. The word here is the gospel of Christ being preached.

Ro 10:18; 2Co 12:4; 2Co 13:1; Heb 1:3;

Heb 11:3 "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."

God spoke and all that exist came into existence. In 2Pe 3:5 it is the logos that was spoken and the heavens existed. Here it is clear that rhema and logos are meant to be synonyms.

Heb 12:19 "and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages (logos) be spoken to them." Here once again logos is equated with rhema.

1Pe 1:25 "'but the word of the Lord remains forever.' And this word is the good news that was preached to you." The rhema of the Lord here is the gospel that was preached.

2Pe 3:2 "that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles."

The rhema of the prophets that the New Testament disciples knew in those days were written, yet they are referred to as that which was spoken by the prophets. In this case rhema can be seen as referring to that which is written. Although the prophets spoke those words, to the people that Peter wrote to, they were written. See also Jude 1:17.

Other than spoken

Lu 1:37 "For nothing (no word) will be impossible with God."

Lu 2:15; Ac 5:32;

Ro 10:8 "But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);" The word of faith being preached is the gospel. The gospel today is part of the written Scriptures. Should it not then be known as the logos? During the early years of preaching the gospel, it was not written down yet, but the gospel is just as well contained in the OT as it is in the NT. Anyway, the word of faith is preached here and not written.

Eph 5:26 "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," Here there is no reason to go either way as to what rhema is referring to. It could be pointing to the gospel that is cleansing us, or to the whole of the Bible that has a sanctifying effect on us.

Eph 6:17 "and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," Is the sword of the Spirit that which is spoken or that which is written, or both? Something that I just thought of is this: Do the Scriptures refer to that which God has spoken or to that which is written when it uses the phrase word of God? I am almost sure that it uses the former meaning. Whether it uses the phrase rhema of God, or logos of God, it still points to that which is spoken.

Heb 6:5 "and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come," In the context the Scriptures are speaking about salvation and related subjects, and I would venture to say that in this case "word of God" refers to the gospel as that which is good.

  • Logos

For the sake of time and space we will not display all instances of logos or its derivatives which amount to about 320. Selected verses will be used here.


In the gospels logos is used as a spoken word in the greatest majority of cases. We can learn from this that logos is not to be interpreted as that which is written alone. It is to be suggested that the word used to refer to the written word of God is graphe. When a reference is made to logos as that which is written and especially when a quote is made from the Old Testament, is seems never to show the whole of the Old Testament as the logos, but rather a book or even just a verse. e.g. Lu 3:4 "As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."'", Joh 12:38 "so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'", Joh 15:25 "But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'"

Spoken

Mt 5:37; Mt 7:24; Mt 7:28; Mt 8:8; Mt 8:16; Mt 10:14; Mt 12:32; Mt 12:36; Mt 13:19; Mt 15:12; Mt 15:23; Mt 21:24; Mt 22:15; Mt 24:35; Mt 26:44; Mr 5:36; Mr 8:38; Mr 10:24; Lu 1:20; Lu 4:22; Lu 4:36; Lu 5:15; Lu 6:47; Lu 9:28; Lu 10:39; Lu 23:9;

Joh 2:22 "When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture (graphe) and the word that Jesus had spoken." Here John uses the word graphe to refer to the written Scriptures, and logos to refer to that which Jesus had spoken.

Joh 4:39; Joh 4:50;

Joh 14:23-24 "Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." John is not using logos here as that which is written, but rather as those words that Jesus spoke to the disciples.

Joh 17:6 "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word." Verse 14 will clear up what the logos here refers to. It refers to that which Jesus spoke to them.

Joh 17:14 "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."

Joh 17:20;

Joh 18:9 "This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken:" Logos here refers to a portion of the Scriptures, and not all the Scriptures.

Joh 18:32; Ac 2:22; Ac 2:40;

Ac 4:4 "But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand." Logos here refers to the gospel as preached by the apostles, and not all the Scriptures.

Ac 5:5;

Ac 10:44 "While Peter was still saying these things (rhema) , the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word." These words (rhema) of Peter were seen as a logos. Here we have a direct equation between these two words.

Ac 11:22; Ac 13:15; Ac 15:27; Ro 3:4;

Ro 9:6 "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel," The word of God here most probably refers to the promises God made to Israel. In verse 9 the word is shown as the promise to Abraham.

Ro 9:9 "For this is what the promise said: 'About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.'"

Ro 13:9; Ro 14:12; 1Co 1:5; 1Co 1:18; 1Co 4:20;

1Co 12:8 "To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit," One of the most conclusive evidences that rhema does not refer to the spoken word and logos to the written word is found here in this passage where logos is used to refer to the spoken word as found in the logos of wisdom, and the logos of knowledge. It has been said so many times by popular preachers that the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and prophecy are to be seen as the rhema of God to His people, yet here in this passage it is clear that they are the logos of God.

1Co 14:9;

1Co 14:19 "Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue." When speaking in a tongue it is not a rhema from God, but a logos from God.

1Co 15:2; 1Co 15:54; 2Co 1:18; 2Co 10:11; 2Co 11:6; Ga 5:14; Ga 6:6; Eph 4:29; Eph 5:6; Eph 6:19; Col 3:17; Col 4:6; 1Th 1:5; 1Th 4:18; 2Th 3:14; 1Ti 4:12; 1Ti 6:3; 2Ti 1:13; Tit 2:8;

Heb 2:2 "For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution," Here the logos is spoken by angels.

Heb 4:2; Heb 7:28;

Heb 12:19 "and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words (rhema) made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them." Again, here the logos is equated with the rhema that was spoken.

Heb 13:22; Jas 3:2; 1Pe 3:15;

2Pe 3:5 "For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, . . . 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly." When God spoke the heavens into existence, the Scriptures do not use the word rhema, but rather logos. What does this show us? When God speaks we cannot make a difference between rhema and logos.

1Jo 3:18; Re 12:11.

Other than spoken

The gospel

Lu 8:11 "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (12) The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." I would suggest that logos here refers to the gospel, because it is by this logos that "they may [ ] believe and be saved."

Joh 5:38 "and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent." Jesus said this to the Pharisees because they did not accept the good news about Jesus, "for whom he sent, him ye believe not." The word here then refers to the good news about Jesus that they did not want to accept, and therefore did not abide in them. For, if it was, they would have believed in Jesus.

Joh 8:31 "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples," Jesus did not have any technical meaning for logos except to say that in order to be a disciple of His, one has to "continue in My word." (NASB Updated edition) This word then points to the gospel that Jesus brought to them. It is a word that Jesus spoke to them from the times of His own baptism.

Ac 6:2 "And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.'" The logos here again refers to the gospel, and not to all the Scriptures. When we keep on reading we can see what the twelve meant by the word of God in verse 4, "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The gospel is intended here.

Ac 6:4;

Ac 6:7 "And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith." How does the word of God increase, unless it means that the gospel kept on spreading.

Ac 8:4 "Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word." I would suggest that the word here again refers to the gospel.

Ac 8:14; Ac 8:25; Ac 10:36; Ac 11:1; Ac 12:24; Ac 13:5; Ac 15:7;Ac 15:35; Ac 16:6;

Ac 17:11 "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures (graphe) daily to see if these things were so." In this instance the logos is set in contrast to the written Scriptures.

Ac 19:20; 1Co 14:36; 2Co 2:17; 2Co 5:19; 2Co 6:7; Eph 1:13; Php 1:14; Php 2:16; Col 1:5; Col 1:25; Col 3:16; Col 4:3; 1Th 1:6; 1Th 1:8; 1Th 2:13; 2Th 3:1; Tit 1:3; Tit 1:9; Heb 5:13; Heb 6:1; Heb 13:7; Jas 1:18; 1Pe 1:23; 1Pe 2:8; 1Pe 1:23; 1Pe 2:8; Re 6:9.

Other

Mt 5:32;

Mt 15:6 "So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God."

In this case the logos of God may refer to the whole of the Bible, but I would suggest that in the context in this case logos refers to the commandments given by Moses to the Israelites. In verse 3 Jesus asks them "why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?", and then Jesus quotes one of the commandments.

Mt 18:23; Mr 1:45;

Lu 3:4 "As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet." Here the written part that logos refers to is that verse which Luke quotes here, and not the whole of the Bible as the "written word of God."

Joh 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here logos undeniably refers to Jesus as in the following verse. Joh 1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Joh 12:38 "But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled." Again, here word refers to a portion of the OT found in Isaiah.

Joh 15:25 "But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'" Logos here refers to a portion of the law, and not all the Scriptures.

Ac 1:1 "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach." Logos here refers to that which Luke wrote before, yet it only refers to the book of Luke and not the whole of the Bible.

Ac 15:15; Ac 19:40;

Ro 9:28 "for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." Isaiah is here quoted saying that the Lord will execute His logos quickly. What was Isaiah referring to if indeed his own prophecies were part of written Scripture? Is it logical here to say that the logos refers to the written word? Logos most likely refers to a portion of Scripture, or even the spoken word of God.

2Co 4:2; Php 4:15; Php 4:17; Col 2:23;

1Th 4:15 "For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep." The word of the Lord here probably refers to that which the Lord revealed to Paul, and is not written somewhere else.

1Ti 4:5; 1Ti 5:17; 2Ti 2:9; 2Ti 2:15; 2Ti 4:2; Tit 2:5; Heb 4:12; Jas 1:21-23; 1Pe 3:1; 2Pe 1:19; 1Jo 1:10; 1Jo 2:5; 1Jo 2:14; Re 1:2; Re 3:8; Re 17:17; Re 19:9; Re 22:7.

4. The phrases "Word of God" and "Word of the Lord"

  • RHEMA

Word of God

Lu 3:2 - God spoke to John the Baptist in the wilderness.

Eph 6:17 - The sword of the Spirit.

Heb 6:5 - Tasting the good word of God.

Heb 11:3 - The worlds were prepared by the word of God.

Word of the Lord

Lu 22:61 - Peter remembered the word of the Lord about the rooster.

Ac 11:16 - Peter remembered the word of the Lord concerning the Holy Spirit.

1Pe 1:25 - The word of the Lord endures forever; the gospel is this word.

  • LOGOS

Word of God

Mt 15:6 - The word of God being invalidated by the traditions of men.

Lu 8:11 - The seed that is sown is the word of God.

Ac 6:2 - The apostles are not to serve tables with the effect of neglecting the word of God (the preaching of the gospel).

Ac 6:7 - The word of God (the gospel) kept on spreading.

Ac 8:14 - Samaria received the word of God (the gospel).

Ac 11:1 - The Gentiles received the word of God (the gospel).

Ac 12:24 - The word of God (the gospel) continued to grow.

Ac 13:5 - They began to proclaim the word of God (the gospel).

Ro 9:6 - The word of God concerning Israel did not fail.

1Co 14:36 - How did they get to know about the word of God (the gospel).

2Co 2:17 - Many peddle the word of God (the gospel).

2Co 4:2 - Not adulterating the word of God (the gospel).

Php 1:14 - Speaking the word of God (the gospel) without fear.

Col 1:25 - Paul was called to carry out the word of God (the gospel).

1Th 2:13 - The Thessalonians received the word of God (the gospel).

1Ti 4:5 - Foods are sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

2Ti 2:9 - The word of God (the gospel) is not imprisoned.

Tit 2:5 - The word of God (the gospel) must not be dishonored.

Heb 4:12 - The word of God is living and active.

Heb 13:7 - Remember those who led you and spoke the word of God to you.

1Pe 1:23 - We are born again through the living and enduring word of God (the gospel).

2Pe 3:5 - It is by the word of God (God spoke) that the heavens existed long ago.

1Jo 2:14 - The word of God abides in the young men.

Re 1:2 - John testified to the word of God.

Re 6:9 - Some were slain because of the word of God (the gospel).

Word of the Lord

Ac 8:25 - They testified and spoke the word of the Lord.

Ac 15:35 - Paul and Barnabas taught and preached the word of the Lord.

Ac 19:20 - The word of The Lord (the gospel) grew mightily.

1Th 1:8 - The word of the Lord (the gospel) sounded forth from the Thessalonians.

1Th 4:15 - Paul spoke to them by the word of the Lord.

2Th 3:1 - Thessalonians were to pray for Paul that word of the Lord (the gospel) would spread rapidly.

5. Conclusion

After what we have learnt concerning the uses of rhema and logos, we have to conclude that there is no reason for us to speak of rhema as the spoken word of God, and of logos as the written word of God. Both have the potential to be used in either way. It has become one of the Charismatic ways to bring in all kinds of unverified teachings that no-one bothers to study. If it ever happens that someone differs on something they feel is essential to their Charismania, they will come with counter attacks such as "you are not in submission to your elders", "you are critical", and "do not resist God's anointed", etc. Many Charismatic churches are still in the trap of believing that whatever the pastor says must be adhered to, because you need to remain under someone's covering. This is what I would liken unto Charismatic witchcraft. Witchcraft is the art of manipulation, and boy, do these Charismatics manipulate! Do not get me wrong! I am a Charismatic (Reformed/Calvinistic) myself, but I am daring to stand up and be counted for correct doctrine. I want to handle the word of truth correctly. We cannot do this unless we study the Scriptures for ourselves. We are to be mature Christians, and not just be spoonfed from the pulpit. Ultimately we are each responsible for our own spiritual lives.

My purpose for writing this paper was not to trample on toes, or to deviate from that which is the truth. Rather, it is a calling back to that which is the truth. How many times have we not heard that someone said, "I received a rhema from God last night." It is accepted to such a large extent - not truthfully - that there exists a major difference between rhema and logos, that it almost seems impossible that people's perception would be changed. Who wants to stand up and say "All of you are wrong, and I am right." The sheer opposition to that would already put most people off. Yet, when we know that there is wrong teaching in the church we need to stand up and speak the truth the best we know how.

After all this rambling, what is the connection between rhema and logos? One thing I have found is that rhema is never used to point to a quotation in the OT in the same way that logos is used. E.g. Joh. 12:38 "that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, …" Logos is used in this way several times where such a quotation from the OT is made, but never do we find any conclusive proof that logos is directly connected with the whole of the Bible. Rather logos is used as a part of a book or as a word. Looking at all the passages quoted above that relate to both rhema and logos we have to conclude that these 2 words are in reality synonyms for each other. As with all synonyms the "synonomic" (just coined) words do not always have exactly the same meanings or domains. There could be different shades or nuances, but synonyms, nevertheless.

I hope this study brought you, the reader, some enlightenment, and that I was able to bring the facts across clearly, and without ambiguity.

May God bless you as keep on searching for, and living out the truth.

UPDATE:
2 October 2009 - This blog post has now been translated into Swedish at Glandberger.net.

Related posts
Agape and Phileo

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi William. Great research. One comment, however. Vines Expository Dictionary does indicate that there is a difference between logos and rhema. In fact, it is pretty clear on the subject. I don't agree with what the pastor preaching said about the "flesh" vs "God", but these two words are not synonyms. Just my $0.02

William Dicks said...

Synonyms do not necessarily need to mean exactly the same all the time. Synonyms can cover different domains in which there can be variations, however, within the same context meanings are the same. When the context differs, the different nuances of synonyms come to the fore.

Anonymous said...

Thanks William. One other small point. Vines does disagree with you on the point that logos refers to a "part of a book or as a word". On page 463 of Vines, it gives just the opposite view that you have. I think that within the "different shades or nuances" there is a key Biblical truth about the differences of these words, their applications to our life, and their meanings. As I look up the verses where rhema is used vs. logos, I find powerful insights and applications for my life...all under the authority of Scripture.

William Dicks said...

Although Vines is nice as a quick lookup of words, there have been new discoveries (since Vines) in the use of ancient Greek. The lexicons of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker (BAGD) and of Louw & Nida reflect the results of this research. Before I use Vines, I would rather look at a lexicon like BAGD for indepth research and study.

Thanks for your comments!

William Dicks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks responding to my comments so quickly and for your advice and references. I appreciate your diligence in putting all this together! There is so much richness and further insight as we dig deeper into God's Word. Your research and insights have encouraged me to dig deeper into meanings of words and phrases. Thanks, William.

Anonymous said...

One observation. You mention early in your article that we should approach God's word open to what we might find and then go about eager to prove your point with an obvious bias.

William Dicks said...

Having a bias toward something does not prove being closed to something else. Most sane people have a bias toward the fact that the moon is white and that it is basically a big rock with dust on it. That bias is based on the facts we currently have. While the opposite has not been proven yet, we still have the same bias! So, if someone says that the moon is really a big ball of yellow cheese we can dismiss that comment since it has already been proven to be false.

Openness does not mean opinion-less! While being open to other ideas, we could still have opinions based on the facts we currently have, until proven otherwise.

In fact, concerning this article, some years ago I believed exactly what this article now disspells. So, I was open to be proven wrong before, and that is how I came to my current opinion.

John D said...

Fair enough William
Although beware of calling the many Charismatics witches!You sound like a reformed presbyterian sour mouthed Protestant!We all know the problems they have had in Norther Ireland -hardly converted anyone!The love was missing.Good teaching but watch the hardness.It will lead you into sin!

William Dicks said...

Thanks John D!

Just to clarify. I called no-one witches. I simply made a comparison between what many charismatics get into or allow onto themselves. I likened the maipulation of the flock to witchcraft.

I said:
"Many Charismatic churches are still in the trap of believing that whatever the pastor says must be adhered to, because you need to remain under someone's covering. This is what I would liken unto Charismatic witchcraft. Witchcraft is the art of manipulation, and boy, do these Charismatics manipulate!"

I did not say it is witchcraft, but simply made a comparison between the manipulation aspects of witchcraft to the art of manipulation in charismatic churches.

Instead of teaching the flock the clear unmistakable truth of the Scriptures, many of the churches manipulate their people through fear and the complete misinterpretation of the Scriptures to get the desired results... absolute obedience!

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. Keep up the great work, because there are many more people like you out here than it may seem. Only intimacy with truth brings freedom . . .=)

Rafael Frohe said...

Hi William,

Firstly i would like to say thank you for such a clear exposition of linguistics. My question to you would be related to what i consider being the for major words for "speaking" in greek. Logos, Lego, Lalios and Rhema.

As said by someone, it really stirs me up the fact that we can get different meanings from a lot of different words just to say one thing.

I am stating the progression of those words in ones life. starting with the Logos (which are those things which are put together in thought or gathered together in the mind and expressed in words), flowing into Legos (which is the substance of what is said); moving toward the act of speaking, Lalios (which would be to emit a voice, make oneself heard, to form words with the mouth, or to use words in order to declare one´s mind and disclose one´s thought), culminating in Rhema (being any sound produced by the voice and having a definite meaning).

What is nice for me is actually the closeness of those words, but the particular distinctions that they also have (as you have said yourself), starting in the mind with the Logos until that place where those words make sense in us and through us. I believe that´s the distinction the charismatic make to those two words, using unfortunately wrong associations (like you said, the written and the spoken).

Thanks a lot for your time in researching God´s Word and sharing it with us so we may be able to accurately live in the Kingdom.

Joshua Saxby said...

Hi William,

Thanks for this article. I was just doing a brief survey of these words when I thought surely some must have done this before and so I searched on google.

I still have a lot of work to do in defining exactly what is the "word of God". It means a lot more than just "scripture"

HOw about this:

The "word of God" is his revelation of himself and his will to us. This is done ultimately through Jesus who is the Word. Scripture is also the word of God. As it is written and unchanging it is the universal measure by which the Church discernes truth and knows God. God speaks to us outside of scripture through prophecy, visions and words of knowledge. Such revelation must be true to the revealed and tested word of scripture, or else proved false.

The physical words of the Scripture are not magical in and of themselves, but only of effect as spoken by God through his Spirit. This is why not everyone has the same reaction upon hearing the all-powerful gospel, but rather it only has effect when the spirit speaks/applies the words to the hearer.

How does that last point sound?

I am still figuring this one out!

Lucas said...

As a charismatic, let me say thank you for writing this. I have always been a skeptic of sorts, checking facts whenever possible. The modern charismatic movement has kept me very busy! With so many people looking for the next "Holy Ghost high" or "slaying in the Spirit", they forget to actually study God's word and see what it says. That's why it is charismatics who, in my opinion, lead the way in apostasy and outright heresy. They rip verses out of context to make them seem more powerful, concoct doctrines from thin air, and make distinctions in Hebrew and Greek that just don't exist. All this to keep their audience, who are always looking for something new, claiming it to be that "new thing" of Isaiah 43.
When I began hearing preachers make distinction between rhema and logos, I was automatically on guard. It sounded too much like word-faith doctrine to me. Upon more research, it can be proved that indeed this distinction began with the word-faith fathers.

I am glad that there are sites like yours that stand to clarify Biblical truth where it has been muddied and distorted by power hungry preachers.

Danton said...

For the sake of argument, let's assume that rhema and logos are synonymous. But let's deal with the heart of the real question. Does God speak to people today? Does He speak to people through means other than Scripture? ie. a still small voice. I'm going to say yes.

We can all agree that "hearing God subjectively" needs to be submitted to Scripture as being the final authority on the Word of God. But let's not diminish our personal relationship (ie. dialogue) with God to merely an intellectual reading of Scripture.

I do believe that is what is at the heart of the rhema/logos debate.

Anonymous said...

very timely article and sound research. I agree that there is not distinction between the written and spoken "word" of God ... however i think there is a subtle distinction between Rhema and Logos. Logos expressing idea or rationale. ie: what is your Logos .. your idea? The gospel is better translated Logos because its a complex idea. In the beginning was the Logos - or Gods idea or rational of creation... Rhema on the other hand is more simply just words .... spoken or written. ie: this comment is not just a bunch of rhemas ... its a logos ... anyhoot ... my 2c

williwebster said...

Thank you so much for this research. I did it myself today because i wanted to do a teaching about this issue. But I always do research myself before i just proclaim something as fact´. The more scritures I looked at the more i doubted. And finally I came to the same conclusion that you made, too. After my research I just looked it up on the internet and found...you!
I am a carismatic Pastor in a free church by the way. Greetings from Germany!

Howard Mirosh said...

Good work Bill, I have also heard there was a big difference between logos and Rhema.
I to come to the same conclusion as you did. They are interchangeable.
Also I like to use the principal of first mention. Gen 15:1 is were you first find the word “word”.
It’s dabar like you said and it means the same thing as logos and rhema.

Anonymous said...

Please read the book "Faith To live By" by Derek Prince. He has one of the best explanations of this difference.

Anonymous said...

In preparing to teach to the ladies at my church, I was led to do a study on the words, dabar, logos, and rhema. I could not find a significant difference between the meanings of the words after having studied several hours. I headed to the internet and discovered your article. I was so glad to read your findings. As a Charismatic, I thought perhaps I was being led astray. Thanks for your research.

William Dicks said...

Hi Anonymous (the one right above),

I am glad my post was of some help to you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your sharing. IMHO, although rhema and logos in many cases are difficult to distinguish each other, I still consider there are differences between them in usage / meaning. In NT, there are four cases that they (rhema and logos) appear in the same verse, they are:

(Mat 12:36) But I say unto you, That every idle word(4487) that men shall speak, they shall give account(3056) thereof in the day of judgment.

(Joh 12:48) He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words(4487), hath one that judgeth him: the word(3056) that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

(Act 10:44) While Peter yet spake these words(4487), the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word(3056).

(Heb 12:19) And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words(4487); which voice they that heard intreated that the word(3056) should not be spoken to them any more:

The speakers have choosen to use a different word in the same verse should have different meaning / application(may be small). Anyway, I still cannot figure out the difference and may be anyone here can dig it out. For me, I will continue to try...

Godwin said...

Very interesting article. Thank you for the effort you have put into this. I'm not as knowledgeable in this topic as you are, but I was reading your article with a baised point of view and it helped me come up with some discrepancy about your study.

Some of the examples you gave were regarding why was Logos used here, and why was Rhema used here, it doesn't make sense in the literal meanings of Logos and Rhema, so you must conclude that they are interchangeable. But for the same examples, I didn't use the literal meaning of Logos and Rhema, but I read those verses using my experience of Logos and Rhema with God, and they seemed to fit.

For example, Ro 10:8 is using Rhema, but you felt that in this context it should be using written. But I think actually spoken fits the bill here better. Because in your heart is where God speaks to you. So I'm not really sure why you think it should be written.

And then I looked at some of your other examples, and came with the same conclusion. I think it might have something to do with the approach you had with this study which would yield a different conclusion.

William Dicks said...

Hi Godwin,

Concerning Rom 10:8, you need to look at what the context says.

"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);"

This word that is being proclaimed is not any subjective inner message that we receive from God. It is the "word of faith that we proclaim." This "word of faith" is none other than the gospel that was given to us through Jesus and the apostles.

So, the word "rhema" here is not used as some private inner voice we hear, but rather the established gospel given to us.

It is always important to note that even synonyms can have slight differences within their semantic domains, and that the contexts in which they are used will make those differences clear.

Panoplia Soljah said...

From the entry rhema "The Complete Biblical Library," Classical Greek- rhema never developed the place of prominence in philosophical discussion that logos did. In the New TEstament, is is used far less than logos (70 times versus 300 times), and is less comprehensive in terms of the connection to wisdom or thought than logos is.

In writing what you have written, you proved too much, while attempting to correct a charismatic error, you made another one of your own. While you acknowledge that the two words might not be exact synonyms, that is a small admission compared to the stream of rejection that there is any difference that the rest of your article proclaims. It would be good, if you are going to discuss a language issue, to have some citations from reputable sources, rather than simply innumdating us with a concordance of usage, closing with a statement that is mostly a description of what the two words don't mean, rather than what they do mean, adn why they are seldom, if ever, used interchangeably in the same. discussion

William Dicks said...

Panoplia (Delwyn?),

I could consider coming back to this post one day, but then I will need a lot of time. The scale of doing research on a subject as this is not a trivial matter.

Currently I do not have the time, so the post will have to remain as is.

Anyway, when I wrote this post it was never intended to be as long as it is, and it was not intended as a lengthy thesis.

It kind of just grew to this point.

Ryan said...

One quick question for you, but first some background.

My current understanding of the difference (in general) between logos and rhema "Word" is that logos generally represents the entire Word of God, regardless of its form, written or spoken. Rhema generally refers to a specific, "Word", or subset of the logos that God wants to speak right now, to a specific subset of people. Therefore, when God spoke and created the universe, that would simply mean that God Spoke and settled the entirety of his Word to mankind then and there, at the point of Creation. From then on God revealed his Word (logos) through different writers, be they apostles, prophets, or whomever.

From the time God began revealing his Word (logos), he spoke specific things (rhema) to each person in scripture. For example, God told Moses to go to Egypt. Another example is when David committed adultery and murder. Nathan the prophet then came to David with a specific Word that applied to him, then and there.

Another thing: Logos and Rhema never disagree. Paul said, "if a man or an angel comes to you preaching another Gospel from the one you have received from me, let him be cursed" (I paraphrased that. I can't remember the specific scripture reference and I'm short on time). If someone claims to have a "Word from God", it had better match up with the entire word of God.

I was reading today in Psalms 19 and the psalmist uses two words that stood out to me: statutes and commandments. Without intensive research on the subject, I think that one way of reading that verse might be "the logos (statutes) of the Lord is right, rejoicing the heart. The rhema (commandments) of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." I’m not sure what the underlying language is “really” saying, but that seems a neat way to say it, and it makes sense to me.

The statutes, the entire Word of God is right, it’s forever settled in Heaven. If you want to find out what’s right and what’s wrong, go to the statutes of God. God has legislated right and wrong, and it's a comfort to know he will stand by his promises.

The commandments, the specific pieces of God’s Word that God chooses to impress upon you at specific times, are pure. They instruct us in how to walk, right now. They “enlighten” our eyes to see the path directly ahead.

It’s just another way of saying, “they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth”. You can have understanding of the entire Word of God; you can even have it memorized. But if you don’t apply it to your life in specific ways, it doesn’t do anything for you. Likewise, if you spend all your time trying to hear the "Rhema" word without consulting the logos, you'll go off the deep end. The two are inextricably linked.

Anyway, I was just wondering if my background above made sense to you and how you reconcile it with your assertion that Logos and Rhema are synonyms and thus interchangeable. Sorry if it’s a bit disjointed, but I didn’t have much time to put it together. I am speaking as a lay-person and not as a scholar, but I'm pretty certain the general concepts above are correct. However, I recognize that using the words "Rhema" and "Logos" may be linguistically inaccurate. I also realize that preachers sometimes use the wrong scripture to make a biblical point. Their point is accurate and biblical, but they use the wrong scripture to back it up.

Cheers,
Ryan

William Dicks said...

Hi Ryan,

I will come back to your questions as soon as I can. I am rather snowed under at the moment, having to appear on South African TV on the issue of abortion and a host of other things that are keeping me busy at the moment.

Please be patient.

Blessings!

Sylvia said...

I do not believe that God speaks outside the Word that has been once for all delivered to the saints. The canon is closed. I agree with Lucas and his assessment of the charismatic abuses of scripture. The problem with many , if not most charismatics is, they spiritualize and allegorize the scriptures out of their context to say what ever they wish them to say. Their is no sound system of hermenuetics. Also, their is a bit of mysticism thrown in and "feelings" and "impressions are often trusted as being on par with the Word itself! God has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness and we do not need a "the Lord told me to tell you" ect. If backed into a corner and asked the question "is this word that God spoke to you equal to scripture?" Strangely there is great hesitation to be that bold as to affirm their "word from God" as equal with scripture. Why? Did it come from God? Every Word from God is scripture, and the canon is closed.

Sylvia said...

Sorry for all the misspelled words! I look illiterate!lol!

Prizm said...

Custom Logo Design services are based on philosophy that an effective business logo design is more functional than a creative one; it must be polished, unique, and recallable to your customers and it should reflect the reality of your business and a logo design that spells a corporate image of your business.

ade244d6-be27-11e0-852a-000bcdcb5194 said...

Sylvia,

While I agree that the canon is closed and that there have been abuses of the rhema-logos teaching, the scripture allows for the Holy spirit to speak to us directly. It even says that He will.

For instance, the scriptures do not tell you whom to marry, what job to take or what car to buy. If you're honest with yourself, have you ever looked in life's rear-view mirror and decided that God must have worked a situation out or that circumstances where ordered by Him? If so, you are just as "guilty" of seeing God communicate "outside" of scripture as those who refer to the logos-rhema distinction--except you use circumstance as God's way of communicating.

I always got a kick out of people who say God never speaks outside of scripture and that the canon is closed but then proceed to point to circumstances that God used to communicate to them.

God will never lead us in contradiction to His Word. But He can certainly speak to each one of us in particular about situations in our life. This aspect is allowed for by the scripture.

This is one area that non-charismatics have never seemingly thought through.

Pshdsa said...

Throwing out what man says, and just looking up every occurrence of rhema and logos as they occur in the Bible, I cannot find a distinguishable difference in them.

The Devil would like to cause people to lose faith in the Words of God if there is no Rhema experience with it. If he can get us to split God's words into general and specific, then the specific will begin to shrink until the words of God are to no effect. This is the danger of splitting Rhema and Logos definitively when God's use of those words do not distinguish them. God hates divorce. That is true whether you believe that is rhema-ed to you or just plain old logos to you. God will not put up with that silliness. Adultery will be punished. Period. In other words, God's Words are His Words whether Rhema or Logos.

Cindy said...

I hope that in every word we speak we do it. It is hard to pretend if our hearts says no. But trust in God and He will guide you the right path.
digital agency | digital strategy | digital marketing agency

Cindy said...

I believe in the saying that Man should not live with the bread alone, but instead work hard and you will reap the blessings in life. Just be thankful of what you have.
Internet Marketing Agency
diamonds for sale

brother Michael said...

Hi William,
Great Blog! I too came to realize that what was being presented to the church as a distinction between Logos & Rhema was false. During my studies of the subject I even found what I believe to be simple but infallible proof that the Greek words are in fact synonyms and therefore interchangeable. Luke 22:61; … And Peter remembered the word (LOGOS) of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Then take a look at this parallel verse in Mat. 26:75; And Peter remembered the word (RHEMA) of Jesus, which said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
I also see many other instances in scripture that this is made abundantly clear; but I think this one proves the point most assuredly. Upon finding this I decided to search the web to see if anyone else was saw this, when I found your site. Of course, we don’t want to divide the church over this issue or others like it; yet we certainly want to know the truth. We also believe that God quicken his written word to us in these days, weather by study or utterance; yet it always must line up. Keep up the good work brother.

William Dicks said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Michael!

colt Axton said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.ipad or tablet |
free joomla templates 1.6

Izie You said...

Thanks for this read mate. Well, this is my first visit to your blog! But I admire the precious time and effort you put into it, especially into interesting articles you share here! Dog Training Tips |
Dog Training

Diony said...

One interesting thing to note is that in John 1, Apostle John identifies Jesus as the Logos that became flesh. And in the Book of Revelation, the same Apostle John writes (Rev 19:13) ,"And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The WORD(Logos G3056) of God,". I think that although both words like the author of this article writes, are synonymous but have some sort of distinction, I believe that one big difference between the Logos and the Rhema, is that Jesus is identified as the Logos, while the Rhema is not identified as Jesus. Logos is a name of Jesus where as Rhema is not.

Pat O'Leary said...

Hi
Great study and I have to agree that the now popular Logos-Rhema distinction is misleading. However, equally (if not more) misleading is the popular, almost universal equation of "the Bible" with "the Word of God". The two are not entirely co-terminous. Jesus taught us to live by " every word" that proceeds from the mouth of God and He was in constant communication with the Father. Many places in the Gospels and Acts God spoke through His Holy Spirit, by visions, dreams or other revelations. These were vital to what God was doing at the time. Keeping open to what God wants to say to us today remains vital.

David J said...

Great study, thanks for undertaking it. I suspect I have gone through a similar journey as yourself. I was in the process of writing a response to someone who couldnt understand why they couldnt understand the bible even though they have read it twice and after praying, I felt the Lord leading me to tell them you cannot understand the scripture without believing in Jesus. But coming from a charismatic background as yourself, I remembered the old Rhema and Logos teaching and began to search for verses that differentiated the two. Thats how I came across your post. It was very enlightening. Thanks and God Bless you.

William Dicks said...

You are welcome David J!

Karl Clark said...

Copying something from my Facebook page, which explains the difference between the two...

In the KJV new testament, there are two Greek expressions translated into English as "word", --"rhema" and "logos". What's the difference? Rhema can mean written words or utterance/speech. Let me illustrate from Scripture: "every idle Rhema (word or utterance) that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36.) Brought before Pilate to answer accusations: "Jesus answered him to never a Rhema (word or utterance;) insomuch that the governor marveled greatly" (Matthew 27:14.) In II Corinthians 12:4, Paul describes "How he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable Rhema, (words or utterance,) which is not lawful for a man to utter." John 8:20: "These Rhema (words or utterance,) spake Jesus in the treasury as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on Him for His hour was not yet come."

Logos is an expression of thought: a concept, an idea, the reasoning behind the Rhema. Galatians 5:14 says: "For all the Law is fulfilled in one Logos (concept, thought,) even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." In John 5:24 Jesus says, "Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth my Logos, (concept or thought,) and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. And in John 8:43, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my Logos (concept or thought.)"

The tenth chapter of Acts really clarifies the difference between the two... To grasp the full impact I would ask you to read the entire chapter, but for the sake of brevity, I'll jump straight to the key verse (Acts 10:44)... And "While Peter yet spake these Rhema, (words or utterance,) the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Logos (concept or thought.)" They all heard his speech, his Rhema, the spoken words, but only those who caught the Logos, the concept or idea behind what he had said, received the Holy Ghost.

With this clarification between the rhema and logos, its now clear why Christ is always linked to the logos. Christ is not the rhema word of God (bible), but represents the full expression, concept or manifestation of God (spiritual revelation of what the bible says).

My hope and prayer is that everyone reading this post will embrace that it is only the logos of God's word that has the creative power of salvation, to bring about eternal change in our lives. So when you read and meditate on the rhema, ask your heavenly Father for logos understanding. Christ is God's LOGOS!!! We need Him!!!

DJC said...

It is amazing that a theology can be built on something so debated. IT is dangerous to base a theology on a controversial topic.

I agree that the words are synonyms. The irregular verb of logos uses the roots of rhema.

Pastor Paul said...

Thanks William. Even 8 years later this article offers insight.

As a person who has a Charismatic legacy, the force of differentiation between these words was used, at times and not by all, to create a new Gnosticism. The rhema-focused ministries touted a supremacy over classical orthodoxy. It was almost the birth of a mystery religion for some.

Thank God He watches over His Word, because we would screw it up in a heart beat. Thanks again.

Chikchapkwer said...

Good afternoon, thank you very much for sharing with us this article/hard work from your end, I am especially thankful for this part of the conclusion: "One thing I have found is that rhema is never used to point to a quotation in the OT in the same way that logos is used" because I'm looking for what has been so far said on the nuances of rhemata and logous that both appear as translations of haddevarim (or divrey) in Exo. 34:27,28. I'll visit your page again in case you'll have a reply to this comment of mine -- or was there already something said on this among the comments :) ? I did not look closely :) As for now I'm content with the understanding that they're synonyms (even their lexical/dictionary definitions don't have much differences) but I'd definitely get a better feel of the shades had I read really lots of Greek classics (of which I have none at all) or had I been at home with the ancient Greek worldview. Also, I see that the English "commandments" found in these verses should have come from mitzvah/entoley, not from davar/logos --- it seems to me like some sort of a doctrinal-interpretation-insistence kind of translation (an idea similar to which you have touched above, too).... Thanks lots again!

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin