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Rhema, Logos, and “Words from the Lord”

From time to time I feel it is important to address the use of the Greek terms “Logos” and “Rhema” which are often translated in our English Bibles as “Word.”  In many charismatic circles, the “logos” is used for the Bible but the “rhema” is used for a “personal word from the Lord” or sometimes its where the Holy Spirit makes the Bible “a personal word.”  Often I have found this doctrine is taught by those in the Word-Faith movement but that is not always the case and many godly charismatics have fallen prey to the teaching.

The teaching often goes like this:  The Bible is important and it is the Word of God (logos).  But God wants to speak to us personally and give us a “rhema” word where He reveals His heart to us.  Sometimes this “rhema” word will come while reading the Bible (logos) but sometimes God will send His “rhema” word to our spirit.  The “rhema” word is a “now word from heaven.”

What happens is that this doctrine undermines the authority of Scripture.  It also undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.  But it also misuses the Greek words.  For example, the word “logos” is most notably used in John 1:1 where Jesus is called the Word of God.  Oneness Pentecostals jump on the term “logos” as meaning “the thought of God” so that they can deny the eternality of the Son.  Oneness Pentecostals teach that only God the Father (whom they name Jesus) is eternal but Jesus the Son is only eternal in the sense that He was in the mind of God the Father.  The context does not allow for this (John 1:1, 14, 18).  The word “logos” certainly is used here for Jesus but the word “logos” can also just mean “a word” such as in Matthew 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7.  “Logos” can mean a saying or discourses or conversation such as in Matthew 12:37; 15:12; 19:22; 22:15; 26:1; John 4:39; Acts 5:24.  “Logos” can mean a report or rumor (Matthew 28:15; Luke 5:15; 7:17).  It can mean a common saying or proverb (John 4:37).  “Logos” can also mean the Word of God whether the law or the gospel (Matthew 13:19-23; Mark 2:2; 7:13; 16:20; Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2).  It can mean “the ability to speak, utterance” as in Ephesians 6:19.

The word “rhema” is used in many ways interchangeably with “logos.”  For example, Jesus (who is the logos of God in John 1:1) says in John 3:34, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words (rhema) of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” And again Jesus says in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My word (logos)” and then our Lord says in John 8:47, “He who is of God hears the words (rhema) of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Notice in the above texts that the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus, uses the words interchangeably.  In context, rhema is not a subjective, personal word from God but is the Lord Jesus speaking to us.  The Bible is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and reveals the words of God to us.

In 1 Peter 1:23-25 we read (NASB):

23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word (logos) of God. 24 For,

“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,

25 But the word (rhema) of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.

If “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the personal word from God, why does the Holy Spirit use them both here referring to the same thing?  Again, it is because the New Testament writers use the Greek terms interchangeable at times.  We must examine the context.

What is clear from 1 Peter 1:23-25 is that Peter has the Scriptures in mind.  He is not pointing us to a subjective personal word.  He is pointing us to the sufficient, inerrant, infallible Word of God and he quotes from Isaiah 40:6.

In conclusion, the teaching that the “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the subjective personal word is not found in the Bible.  If you want to hear from God, open your Bible and read it.  The Bible is all you need to hear from God.  The Bible is breathed out from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is useful for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).  This “word” is what we are to preach (2 Timothy 4:2).  We need no other.  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that we have the sure foundation if we heed the Word of God.  Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

In order for people to accept “words from God” apart from Scripture, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is attacked.  People are taught that the Bible is a “dead book” but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6 misused).  Other “holy” books such as the Quran or the Book of Mormon will attack the Bible itself and mock it.  In the end, if you want to hear from God read the Bible for the Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is sufficient.  Open it up, read it, and you are hearing from God.

Arminius on the Interpretation of Scripture

DISPUTATION IX

ON THE MEANINGS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

I. The legitimate and genuine sense of the holy Scriptures is, that which the Holy Ghost, the author of them, intended, and which is collected from the words themselves, whether they be received in their proper or in their figurative signification; that is, it is the grammatical sense, as it is called.

II. From this sense, alone, efficacious arguments may be sought for the proof of doctrines.

III. But, on account of the analogical similitude of corporeal, carnal, natural, and earthly things, and those belonging to the present life, to things spiritual, heavenly, future and eternal, it happens that a double meaning, each of them certain and intended by the author, lies under the very same words in the Scriptures, of which the one is called “the typical,” the other “the meaning prefigured in the type” or “the allegorical.” To this allegorical meaning, we also refer the analogical, as opposed in a similar manner to that which is typical.

IV. From these meanings, that which is called “the ethiological” and “the tropological” do not differ, since the former of them renders the cause of the grammatical sense, and the latter contains an accommodation of it to the circumstances of persons, place, time, etc..

V. The interpretation of Scripture has respect both to its words and to its sense or meaning.

VI. The interpretation of its words is either that of single words, or of many words combined; and both of these methods constitute either a translation of the words into another language, or an explanation [or paraphrase] through other words of the same language.

VII. Let translation be so restricted, that, if the original word has any ambiguity, the word into which it is translated may retain it: or, if that cannot be done, let it have something equivalent by being noted in the margin.

VIII. In the explanation [or paraphrase] which shall be made by other words, endeavours must be used that explanatory words be sought from the Scriptures themselves. For this purpose, attention to the synonym and phraseology will be exceedingly useful.

IX. In the interpretation of the meanings of the words, it must be sedulously attempted both to make the sense agree with the rule or “form of sound words,” and to accommodate it to the scope or intention of the author in that passage. To this end, in addition to a clear conception of the words, a comparison of other passages of Scripture, whether they be similar, is conducive, as is likewise a diligent search or institution into its context. In this labour, the occasion [of the words] and their end, the connection of those things which precede and which follow, and the circumstances, also, of persons, times and places, will be principally observed.

X. As “the Scriptures are not of private or peculiar explanation,” an interpreter of them will strive to “have his senses exercised” in them; that the interpretation of the Scriptures, which, in those sacred writings, comes under the denomination of “prophecy,” may proceed from the same Spirit as that which primarily inspired the prophecy of the Scriptures.

XI. But the authority of no one is so great, whether it be that of an individual or of a church, as to be able to obtrude his own interpretation on the people as the authentic one. From this affirmation however, by way of eminence, we except the prophets and the apostles. For such interpretation is always subjected to the judgment of him to whom it is proposed, to this extent — that he is bound to receive it, only so far as it is confirmed by strength of arguments.

XII. For this reason, neither the agreement of the fathers, which can, with difficulty, be demonstrated, nor the authority of the Roman pontiff, ought to be received as the rule of interpretation.

XIII. We do not wish to introduce unbounded license, by which it may be allowable to any person, whether a public interpreter of Scripture or a private individual, to reject, without cause, any interpretations whatsoever, whether made by one prophet, or by more; but we desire the liberty of prophesying [or public expounding] to be preserved entire and unimpaired in the church. This liberty, itself, however, we subject to the judgment of God, as possessing the power of life and death, and to that of the church, or of her prelates who are endowed with the power of binding and loosing.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/26/2012 at 2:28 PM

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