I am a charismatic, or a continuationist, as that is the more proper theological term of today. I’ve spent plenty of time writing about the Spirit’s role and gifts here at the blog.
I want to also be willing to critique some of the stuff that exists out there in the name of continuationist-charismatic theology. And there is a good bit out there that needs to be sharpened, to be redirected. And there is also stuff out there that is just outright heinous.
Here, in this post, I want to look at an issue that has been talked about for many decades within my setting. It’s not anything terrible, but it is something I believe needs some adjustment. It revolves around the contrast that many emphasize when it comes to the “logos word of God” and the “rhema word of God.” Both are big terms for charismatics!
Many times it’s argued that logos refers to the “written word of God” (i.e., the set word of God in Scripture) and rhema refers to the “Spirit word of God” (i.e., the dynamic and prophetic word of God). However, I don’t believe the great disparity offered by my charismatic friends holds much water.
I think the lack of distinction between the two Greek words can be seen in places like 1 Corinthians 12. This is where Paul lays out the gifts of the Spirit, the pneumatikon, literally the “spirituals.” In speaking of nine specific gifts, he states:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a word/message [logos] of wisdom, to another a word/message [logos] of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. . . (vs7-8)
Here, the word logos is used for both the “word [message] of knowledge” and the “word [message] of wisdom.” Logos, if you’ll remember, is usually identified as the written-word. But here, in this passage, it is connected to two Spirit-inspired gifts.
Why wasn’t rhema used here to talk about spontaneous, spiritual gifts?
Also, it gets even more interesting when we read about the living word [logos] of God, Jesus Christ, in John’s gospel. After the great Prologue introduction in John ch.1, we read later on that Christ himself spoke the words [rhemata] of God (see John 3:34). Here we see the living logos speaking the rhema.
The formula seems to break down.
Even more, the usual Greek word used for Scripture, the written word, is graphē (i.e., 2 Tim 3:16 and 23 other times), though sometimes the word logos is used to reference Scripture (i.e., John 10:35; John 12:38; etc). There seems to be two interchangeable terms for the Scriptures. Why not the same with logos and rhema?
In the end, I’d ask my charismatic-continuationist friends to hold back on proclaiming the great dichotomous distinction between logos and rhema. It may sound greatly spiritual to preach this, but I think we may be trying a little too hard. My sense is that both terms are acceptable (and biblical) designations for the word of God. Similarly, there are two Greek words used to describe the coming of Christ (parousia and epiphaneia); and two words are used to speak of God’s sending his Son (apostelló and pempo). Perhaps there is a pattern to consider.
The word of God comes in various forms. Living, spoken, written, imaginative and more! The logos is living and Spirit-breathed and the rhema is living and Spirit-breathed.
It’s a both/and case!