One of the Greek words for “word” in the New Testament is logos another is rhema. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words says that rhema (as distinct from logos) is not the whole of the Bible but individual scripture that the Spirit brings to our remembrance. I have been reading ‘Post Charismatic?’ - an excellent critique of some of the excesses in the charismatic movement. In this book Rob McAlpine describes rhema like this:
Many Christians are familiar with the concept of a ‘rhema word’ from Scripture, even if they have not used that term to describe it. From across the denominational spectrum, stories are told of reading a well known passage of Scripture, when suddenly, a certain verse or phrase seems to jump off the page, and the reader knows without doubt that the Holy Spirit is speaking through that verse or phrase. It is a ‘now’ (rhema) word that is found in the ‘written’ (logos) word of God.
McAlpine then goes on to show how rhema has been used by the Word of Faith movement to mean words spoken in faith that call things into existence. He then explains the dangers of this idea of positive confession and shows how this is not what the Bible teaches. But in doing so he also argues that this distinction between logos and rhema is inappropriate and that these two words are used almost interchangeably in the Bible.
In arguing that the common distinction between logos and rhema does not do justice to the Biblical text he quotes from an Assemblies of God Position Paper on Positive Confession. Here is McAlpine’s quote in bold which I have set in context to show more of the Biblical justification in the paper.
A distinction is generally made… between the words logos and rhema. The first, it is claimed, refers to the written word. The second, to that which is presently spoken…. [However] …the distinction is not justified by usage either in the Greek New Testament or in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament). The words are used synonymously in both.
In the case of the Septuagint both rhema and logos are used to translate the one Hebrew word dabar which is used in various ways relative to communication. For instance, the word dabar (translated, word of God) is used in both Jeremiah 1:1 and 2. Yet in the Septuagint it is translated rhema in verse 1 and logos in verse 2.
In the New Testament the words rhema and logos are also used interchangeably. This can be seen in passages such as 1 Peter 1:23 and 25. In verse 23, it is “the logos of God which . . . abideth for ever.” In verse 25, “the rhema of the Lord endureth for ever.” Again in Ephesians 5:26 believers are cleansed “with the washing of water by the rhema.” In John 15:3 believers are “clean through the logos.”
The distinctions between logos and rhema cannot be sustained by Biblical evidence. The Word of God, whether referred to as logos or rhema, is inspired, eternal, dynamic, and miraculous. Whether the Word is written or spoken does not alter its essential character. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
I left Assemblies of God 25 years ago. A quick look at some of their other position papers reminds me that I wouldn’t agree with everything they say. But looking at the verses here this argument sounds sensible.
As this appears to refute such a popular idea I just wondered if anyone out there had any thoughts on this and what the implications might be.
Update: I've recently added a review of 'Post Charismatic?' on my new blog CharisMissional here. I would highly recommend buying this book.