De-mystifying the ‘Word.’

Growing up in a Pentecostal/Charismatic church, there was (as you’d expect) a lot of focus placed on the supernatural. Sadly, and strangely, this led to the written Word of God being set on a shelf. There was a sort of mystical preoccupation for things that were seen as “spiritual,” things that had no tie with the physical. (By the way, this is very Gnostic in nature.)

Growing up in a Pentecostal/Charismatic culture, there was a lot of focus placed on the supernatural. Sadly & strangely, this led to God's written Word being set on a shelf. Click To Tweet

I remember preachers and teachers saying we needed to know and understand the difference between two specific types of “words” in the Christian life. Those types were the “logos” and “rhema” words of God. 

Why? Well, the implication and even the explicit teaching at times said that the rhema word was the “better” word and that we should be all after that sort of thing.

The logos, it was taught, was a general word. This kind of word communicated God’s ability or His will on certain things. These words were found in the Scriptures, which of course anyone could access. 

Meanwhile, the rhema word was something far more unique and even personal. The rhema was a specific message, to a specific person, for a specific situation. This implied that a rhema word was special revelation and who wouldn’t want that, right?!

The problem, however, is that there’s no exegetical (explanation out of) proof for this distinction in the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, there are only eisegetical (explanation read into) attempts to confirm it.

So what I’d like to do is look at these two Greek words plus six others, which are all used throughout the New Testament. I believe that when we understand all of these terms in their context, we will arrive at a much more balanced understanding. In many ways, we will have demystified a part of our communion with God. 

Logos

The first word we’ll look at is logos. As I’ve quipped in the past, words do not have meaning; authors mean things by their words. So what I’d like to do is look at logos in a particular context to gain the author’s meaning. 

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:8‬, “But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

We don’t even have to get more than one verse in before we have a problem. Matthew 8:8 is what most Charismatics purport to be a rhema word, yet the term is logos. This was not just a “general principle,” the Centurion asked for. It surely wasn’t someone merely quoting a Bible verse as it hadn’t even taken that form yet. Instead, the Centurion was appealing to King Jesus for a specific word for a specific situation. It would seem that the logos word is very supernatural.

Rhema

Next, we have the rhema. Our example comes from Matthew 4:4.

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”

This is one of the key passages that Charismatics use when communicating the extra spirituality of the rhema word of God. The term here is rhema, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. Where do we find out about the rhema word of God? Answer: the written word of God. All too often, people divorce these two. The truth is that ALL scripture is God-breathed. What does that mean? It means that it all proceeded from the mouth of God. 
  2. The distinction being made here is between food and God’s word, not between types of God’s word. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word of God. It does not say a man cannot live by a logos word and that everyone really needs a rhema word. Not only does it not say this, but as we learned from looking at logos, this is not even a proper distinction between these two terms.
  3. It would appear that if there is any distinction between a rhema word and logos, it is that the rhema is the umbrella under which all other words exist. Again we live on every word that comes from God. God clearly wants us to desire everything He says.

Houtos

Next, we have houtos, and we look to John 18:1,

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.”

The word houtos is where we derive the word auto. The words being referenced in John 18:1 are Jesus’s (auto) “High Priestly Prayer” from John 17. So this term references the very prayers of King Jesus Himself. If you wanted to make a term hyper-spiritual, I think we should all want to have a houtos word.

Polylogia

Next up is polylogia, which is merely many logos. ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:7‬ reads,‬‬

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

This in no way belittles the term logos. Instead, the problem is in believing that we will be heard for our many logos. Also, consider that our prayers are identified in terms of logos prayers. Seems pretty spiritual to me.

Apangello

This is simply a message. It’s connected to terms such as evangelism and angel (messenger). ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:10‬ is a great example.

“Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Quite a spiritual message as this is Jesus telling his disciples to go and wait for His resurrected visit. 

Stoma

‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:22‬ ‭uses a very basic term stoma, which connotes pronouncement or personal judgment. 

“He *said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?”

Alaletos

This next one is a big one. Alaletos may be one of the most non-spiritual words for word in all of scripture. In Romans 8:26 Paul said,

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakess; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;”

Notice here who is praying. I love showing this to people because it is so often misread and then misquoted. Paul said that the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Paul did not say the Spirit himself intercedes through us with groanings too deep for words. 

But what I want to point out, as of great importance for our discussion, is that there are times when our words, regardless of the term, simply will not do. And so the Spirit of God helps us.

Logomachia

Finally, a pertinent word for this discussion. Let’s look at a text first, and then we’ll unpack it. ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:4‬ reads, 

“he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,”

This very passage describes what so many have experienced within the Pentecostal/Charismatic culture. A division from those seeking a rhema word as opposed to a logos word (as if such a distinction exists). 

This division creates exactly what Paul warned Timothy about. Disputes about words that provoke envy, strife, abusive language, and all manner of evil suspicion. I hope you can see truth through these contextual definitions even though there’s way more to understand about the words for “word.”

Final Instruction

Please be careful that in your search for some special unique word from God, you don’t overlook the very Scripture itself. God is shouting to us from the pages of his word, and all too often, we’re waiting for a voice in the wind instead of the words on the page.

Be careful that you don't overlook Scripture in your quest for a special word. God is shouting to us from his word, but all too often, we're waiting for a voice in the wind instead of words on the page. Click To Tweet

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