Distinction of Logos and Rhema
There are two terms used in the original Greek which the translators rendered equally as “Word” that are indistinguishable when we read the Bible without the aid of a Greek lexicon. These two terms are logos and rhema. Both terms were translated as “Word” as if they were synonyms, but the Holy Spirit chose such terms to show us the tremendous difference that exists between the written Word and the living Word. Let us look at a few Biblical examples where we can find the terms logos and rhema:
Logos is the written Word. It is what God said and has been registered for our instruction. It contains what God said previously by the prophets and through the Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). We minister this written Word to others, not the word of men. We must be familiar with this Word, because the knowledge of the written words of the Bible is extremely important. Let us look at a few texts that use the term logos in its original form, and what our attitude needs to be towards the written Word.
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (logos). (John 14:23)
Remember the word that I said to you (logos). (John 15:20)
Sanctify them in the truth; your word (logos) is truth. (John 17:17)
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (logos). (Acts 6:4)
And the word (logos) of God continued to increase. (Acts 6:7)
Holding fast to the word (logos) of life. (Philippians 2:16)
Being trained in the words (logos) of the faith. (1 Timothy 4:6)
Rightly handling the word (logos) of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Preach the word (logos). (2 Timothy 4:2)
For the word (logos) of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12)
Is unskilled in the word (logos) of righteousness. (Hebrews 5:13)
But be doers of the word (logos). (James 1:22)
Let the word (logos) of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3.16)
The written Word should dwell in us richly and abundantly. We should read, meditate on, and memorize this Word. We should be among those that simply by mentioning a fact in the scriptures is enough for us to know its content (at least in general terms). That is essential, because without the knowledge of the written Word, we will never reach the experience of the living Word (Rhema). Logos is the foundation of rhema. As we have already learned, the natural comes first then the spiritual. First, we should have our mind full of logos so that the Holy Spirit can bring us the rhema.
I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God (logos) abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:14)
The characteristic of young men is their strength, not their natural strength but their spiritual strength. The young men referred to here in their struggle against evil resemble the Lord Jesus when Satan was tempting Him. The enemy cited Bible verses to Jesus, but the Lord defeated him by using the Scriptures and by affirming, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
Despite the fact that Rhema was translated as “Word” in the Bible just like logos, it has a very different meaning. While logos is the written Word spoken in the past, rhema is the Word that God is speaking to us personally; it is the word burning in our hearts. Let us look at a few passages in the New Testament where the word rhema is used.
Jesus answered: It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)
Rhema is the term used here in the original Greek. This means that the logos, the written Word, cannot feed us, only rhema can nourish our spirit. Both logos and rhema are the Word of God, but the first is the written Word (the Bible) understood in the mind, while the last is the Word of God spoken to us in and for a specific occasion and received in the spirit.
One time a brother received the news that his son had been run over by a car. He immediately opened the Bible randomly and read John 11:4: “This illness does not lead to death.” The brother then felt peace and even rejoiced. When, however, he reached the scene of the accident, he found out that his son had died instantly. Was the statement in the gospel of John true or not? It is the Word of God and it will always be true, but it was logos, not rhema.
Faith comes from hearing (literal), and hearing through the word (rhema) of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Here once again the Word is rhema and not logos. This shows us that simply reading the Bible does not generate faith, but it is to have the Word burning in our heart through the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit’s action, it is just the written word.
We all know many verses of the Bible. One day, however, a text we have already known and even memorized gives us a different angle, bringing life and color to the verse. That truth starts to warm our hearts, generating faith. God is speaking to us. We knew it generally before, but now God spoke to us individually. Every rhema is based on logos, but we cannot have logos without rhema.
The words (rhema) that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63).
Only rhema is spirit and life, and Logos itself cannot give life and it can even kill because the letter kills. The Gospel of Luke tells us about what Mary did when she found out that she would give birth to the Son of God:
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word (rhema). (Luke 1:38)
Before, Mary had the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Now she has the Word spoken specifically to her: “you shall conceive and bear a son”. It was for having received this Word that Mary conceived the child and everything was fulfilled. God spoke these same words individually to her through rhema, that were recorded back in Isaiah’s time and today in His word logos the text that was written about her and to her. Only when God spoke to her through the angel, does the Bible use the expression rhema, indicating that it was the living Word.
Finally, in the gospel of Luke, Simeon said: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (Luke 2:29). The word here is rhema. Before Jesus came, God told Simeon that he wouldn’t die before seeing Christ the Lord. However, on the day that Simeon saw the Lord Jesus, he said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word”. Simeon had the rhema of the Lord. It is vital to the cause of Christ for Christians everywhere to receive the rhema of God otherwise the Church will not hear the Lord’s dynamic instruction and battle plan and the schemes of the evil one will go unchecked.