The Word and the Words of God. There are two words used for “word” in the New Testament. The first is logos and the second is rhema. Both are common Greek words that can be a little difficult for English minds to understand. Logos is the full revelation of a mind. A person has a mind, and that mind has thoughts in it. In order to communicate those thoughts they must formulate them into words, and then speak those words. Logos is the formulation and communication of thought. Logos can be translated “word” and “words”. Rhema is the actual utterance itself; the thing that is spoken. The logos is therefore the deeper, fuller revelation of God, and rhema is that which He communicates.
The Personal Word (Logos). The Person of the Son is called in John 1 “the Logos”. He, as a divine Person, is the full communication of all that God is to man. The same Person is also called the “express image” (Heb. 1:3) and the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Of the three Persons of the Trinity, the Son is always the agent by which God communicates.
- John 1:1, 14. The Son is the revealer of the Father, so He is called the Word. In John 1 it is especially connected with His first coming, and the divine character of love revealed.
- Rev. 19:13. The Son is the revealer of God, so He is called the Word of God. In Rev. 19 it is His second coming, and it is more the character of light revealed. He will come in a judgmental character, no longer presented to man’s responsibility. This does not rise up to the full revelation as in John 1; judgment is a limited revelation.
- 1 John 1:1. The Son is also the revealer of Eternal Life, because He is the Eternal Life, so He is called the Word of Life. If you want to see eternal life manifested or declared perfectly, it must be seen in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spoken Words (Rhema). The actual words that God expressed are the “rhema”. See John 3:34; John 6:63, 68; John 8:47; John 12:47, 48; John 14:10; John 17:8; Matt. 4:4; Eph. 6:17; Matt. 26:75; Luke 5:5; Rom. 10:8, 17; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 6:5; Heb. 11:3; 1 Peter 1:25. In John 17:8 the Lord Jesus said, “the words [‘rhema’] which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received them”, and again “He whom God has sent speaks the words [‘rhema’] of God, for God gives not the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). Here we find that Jesus spoke words that had been given to Him by the Father, and it was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He spoke. Not only were the words of Jesus “of God” but the Old Testament scriptures are as well, and so are the New Testament epistles. These are all the “sayings” of God. Someone asked J.N. Darby, “Is the Bible the rhema?” He answered, “It is the rhema written down.” To support this he cited John 5:47 where Jesus compared His teachings (“my rhema”) to Moses’ writings. The Bible is composed of those utterances which God has chosen to record. And “every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30:5). But it is more than that!
The Written Word (Logos). The Bible does not merely contain the utterances of God, it also contains the thoughts along with those utterances. Not only is the word “logos” applied to the Son of God, but also to the verbal revelation of God. See Matt. 13:19; Mark 14:39; Mark 7:13; Mark 16:20; Luke 1:2; John 5:24, 38; John 8:31, 37, 43, 51, 52, 55; John 10:35; John 14:23, 24; John 15:3, 20; John 17:6, 14, 17; Acts 4:31; 6:4; Rom. 9:6; Heb. 4:12; Heb. 6:1; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23. When the Jews asked Jesus, “Who art thou?”, He replied “Altogether that which I also say to you.” (John 8:25). Every word that He spoke (His rhema) was the expression of Himself (the Logos). What a comfort to know that while the Personal Logos has returned to heaven, we can still know Him through the Written Logos!
The Bible. Therefore, the text of the Bible is the words (or, rhema) of God, and the book as a whole is the Word (or, logos) of God. “Every saying of God is pure”, and so rejection of the sayings is a rejection of the Word; “He that rejects me and does not receive my words [‘rhema’], has him who judges him: the word [‘logos’] which I have spoken, that shall judge him in the last day.”(John 12:48).
The Phraseology of God (Lalia). There is another word that occurs more infrequently, that even more specific than rhema. It is the verb “to talk”, “to utter a sound”, or “to phrase”. See Matt. 26:73, John 4:42 John 8:43, Matt. 9:33; Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; Acts 18:9. It really has to do with a person’s speech or phraseology. For example, Peter’s Galilean accent betrayed him in the hall of the high priest. In John 8:34 we have ‘logos’ and ‘lalia’ brought together to establish a very important principle of Bible interpretation. “Why do ye not know my speech [‘lalia’]? Because ye cannot hear my word [‘logos’].” They did not understand His terminology (lalia), because they did not take in His thought (logos). In divine things one does not learn the definitions of words, and then the things; rather one learns the things, and then the definitions. For example, a person who does not know the meaning of new birth cannot understand the Lord’s terminology in the Gospel of John. This is why the Holy Spirit is the only true revealer and interpreter of scripture (1 Cor. 2:10), because He alone can reveal the thought to the soul, and then the terminology will make sense. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly [or, stupidity] to him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
The Word Abiding in Us. Young men are addressed in 1 John 2:14, “I have written to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word [‘logos’] of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” To have God’s Word abiding in us is to have the whole revelation of God in us by being familiar with the whole bible. In what way does this help us to overcome the Devil? In Eph. 6:17 we are told to equip ourselves against his attacks with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [‘rhema’]of God.” Since the word is really ‘rhema’, a better rendering would be, “the sayings of God.” This would suggest that the “sword” is the word for the occasion. We get an example of this when our Lord met and overcame Satan by presenting a scripture suited to the moment, and gave the principle “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word [‘rhema’] of God” (Luke 4:4). But if we do not have the “logos abiding in us” we will not have a “rhema for the time”. We need to be well-acquainted with the written logos, and then we will have a rhema when the time comes. And what is “the word of Christ”? “Let the word [‘logos’] of the Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another, etc.” (Col. 3:16). Edward Dennett suggested that the word of Christ is “the sum of His communications to His people… the revelation of Himself.”1 This would include not only the gospels, but what Christ gave from His new exalted position as a glorified man; i.e. including the New Testament epistles.