A Question I Was Asked:

Are You Worried About the Charismatic Approach Toward that Biblical Word, 'Rhema' – Are There Dangers Here?”

My Reply:

I'll say I'm worried! Let me fill in a few things in for those who may be unaware of this problem:

Rhema (ρημα) is the ancient Greek word that describes the act of speaking. It can be found in the following New Testament passages:

Matthew 12:36; Matthew 26:75; Matthew 27:14; Luke 1:37-38; John 3.34: 'For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit'

Some Pentecostal/charismatic ministries (especially 'Word-faith' ones) separate the Greek New Testament words 'logos' (λόγος) – actually meaning 'the spoken word' – including the thoughts and reasoning behind it, from 'rhema' (speaking). Traditional evangelicals had not been too interested in separating the meaning of these words, but some newer preachers incorrectly equate logos with the written word and rhema with personal revelation to the individual and, it is claimed, this personal revelation could come in any way at all, including:

  1. Reading a Scripture (the context of the Scripture does not matter according to these people since the dynamic rhema is in operation; but traditional evangelicals would say: never lift a Scripture out of context!)

  2. A sermon (perhaps just a sentence within it, and quite likely out of context!).

  3. The words of a friend or anybody else.

Okay. These people respect the written word within the Bible (which they often associate with logos, although questions could be asked about that), but they feel that you and I should be looking for the dynamic rhema (living, dynamic, revelatory word) and this is how God will lead us and we should all expect such continual dynamic revelations. Some charismatics (and here is one of the dangers) say that rhema must then be seen as overriding Scripture since Scripture – ultimately – was primarily directed to people of another age and another time. Of course, right here most of us get shivers running up our spines because we can see a doorway into terrible excesses and abuses and we see a demotion of the authority of Holy Scripture.

The example which has been given is of expecting guidance from God about starting a business: the traditional Christian evangelical would say, look for any guidelines within the Bible. This would mean that a business must be an honest business and that certain forms of business would be unacceptable for a Christian (a brothel is an obvious example). Beyond that we would say seek wisdom and much wise and experienced counsel and perhaps set aside a month or so to pray over the matter.... but then God leaves the decision to the individual.

But some of the newer Pentecostals/charismatics would say that this is unacceptable, rather, look for the more precise dynamic rhema from God whether it should come by strong inner impulse or by 'a revelation'. The huge danger here is that feelings, emotions, the careless words of friends, maybe even a word overheard while walking down the street can be mistaken for a divine word to the individual and can lead to a major decision being taken which is later deeply regretted; moreover - things such as setting aside a month for prayer and 'waiting upon God' about any forthcoming decision (which is much more of the older evangelical approach) are often neglected by such people – there are often indications of an unwise haste about the approach of these people, showing the influence, perhaps, of modern life.

But - biblically - rhema is always tied in with the speaking of the Word of God, it is not a thing which can ever be separate from (and especially not something which can ever be seen as overriding) the Word of God. Also the view of 'logos' of these people is flawed since the meaning of logos is not static but dynamic within itself including the full meaning behind such spoken or written words – to confine 'logos' to the written word and to suggest that 'rhema' is more dynamic shows a lamentable understanding of New Testament Greek – in fact, it is 'logos' which is the more dynamic word.
Robin A. Brace, 2005.


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