Rhema vs. Logos

The Problem

Popular teachings exist today in the church that claim the Greek words, “rhema,” and, “logos,” (which both translate to our English, “word”) are 2 entirely different concepts. As I understand it, such teachings see, “rhema,” as the spoken and revealed word of God, and, “logos,” as the written word of God. So this would mean that statements made in the Bible concerning the “rhema-word” would not necessarily apply to the “logos-word,” and vice versa.

After looking into this further, I have 2 problems with this teaching:

  1. It’s fundamentally not true. As shown below, “rhema,” and, “logos,” are actually used interchangeably.
  2. It can lead to dangerous conclusions. Namely, it has the potential of leading people to demote the place God set for His objective, written word (Scripture) and, instead, promote the place of subjective, personal revelation/prophecy/interpretation/etc. beyond where God sets that (see Deut. 13:1-5; Jer. 23; Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:8; 1 Cor. 14:29-38; 1 Thes. 5:19-21; etc. for examples of God’s objective word trumping subjective interpretations and “revelations”). Tragically, accepting that subjective revelations/interpretations are on par (or greater than) the objective, written word is how all cults start. To be clear, I don’t think adherents or applications of the rhema-logos teaching inevitably come to these conclusions. But I do fear that it can lead there, thus I wanted to write to warn the church.

Rhema and Logos Defined

According to stepbible.org:

  • ῥῆμα (rēma) is a Greek word meaning: ‘declaration‘ (G4487) word, saying; matter; thing. It occurs about ~69 times in the New Testament.
  • λόγος (logos) is a Greek word meaning: ‘word‘ (G3056) word, spoken or written, often with a focus on the content of a communication (note the many contextual translations in NIV); matter, thing. “The Word” is a title of Christ (Jn 1:1), emphasizing his own deity and communication of who God is and what he is like. It occurs about ~330 times in the New Testament.

You’ll notice that logos is defined as a spoken or written word, and is used for Christ Himself (see John 1:1). Thus, any claim that logos is confined to the written word only is already off base.

Rhema and Logos in the Bible

  • Matt. 12:32-37: “And whoever speaks a word [logos] against the Son of Man will be forgiven…on the day of judgment people will give account [logos] for every careless word [rhema] they speak, for by your words [logos] you will be justified, and by your words [logos] you will be condemned.”
  • Where Matt (26:75) says, “Peter remembered the saying [rhema] of Jesus,” Luke (22:61) says, “Peter remembered the saying [logos] of the Lord”
  • Acts 10:44: “While Peter was still saying these things [rhema], the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word [logos].”
  • John 12:48: “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words [rhema] has a judge; the word [logos] that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
  • Heb. 12:19: “the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words [rhema] made the hearers beg that no further messages [logos] be spoken to them.”

And this is just a sampling. But I hope it’s enough to show that the Bible does not see such a distinction between rhema and logos. These words are very freely used interchangeably.

Further, as indicated above, there are lots of times where logos refers to something other than the written word of God. Consider 1 Cor. 12:8 where we read, “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance [logos] of wisdom, and to another the utterance [logos] of knowledge.” Or 1 Cor. 14:19: “I would rather speak five words [logos] with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words [logos] in a tongue.” Clearly, these are spoken (and revealed) words, yet logos is used.

Now it should be noted that the converse is not also true, that is, rhema is not used for the written word. So this shows a probable, subtle distinction that logos is more broad than rhema. So we might say all rhema is also logos, but all logos is not necessarily always rhema, if that makes sense. But by no means does this indicate that statements made about rhema do not equally apply to logos. The above clearly demonstrates otherwise.

In all this, it should be clear that God’s word via Scripture safely retains the promises applied to rhema AND logos, and is the pre-eminent revelation and word of God by which we judge all other “revelations” and “words.”

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