The Rhema Barb and Its Poison: The Rhema vs. Logos Controversy

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By Spencer D Gear

John Dawson, as Director of Youth with a Mission, wrote Taking Our Cities for God, in which he stated: “There is always the release of God’s power when we declare out loud His word.  The Greek word rhema is the biblical term for the specific personal communication of God with His children here and now.  This is different from the logos, which refers to the already revealed word recorded in Scripture.” [2]   Is this really the case?

Kenneth E Hagin (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

The name, rhema, is particularly associated with the ministry of the late Kenneth Hagin Sr. (died 2003). The doctrine of “rhema,” as proclaimed by the Hyper-Faith Movement, claims that “you can have what you say” or “how to write your own ticket with God” (the language of Kenneth Hagin Sr.) [3]  if you will only confess it.  So, health, wealth and many other outcomes are based on a confession of the “rhema” in one’s life.  “Name It and Claim It” theology is based on this understanding of “rhema.”  Can this distinction of rhema be sustained by a study of the New Testament? 

These statements have developed a doctrine of the spoken word, known as, “rhematology,” or “positive confession.”  It stresses the power of one’s thoughts and words in affecting reality in a person’s life. 

It is common, particularly in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, to try to distinguish between the two Greek words that are translated, “Word, ” in the New Testament – rhema and logos. The point made is that rhema is “often a word spoken for a particular occasion.”  It is God’s word for you in your present situation. 

This is seen at the popular level in Dr. Paul Choo’s article on the Spirit-filled life and victorious faith: “Logos refers to the whole revelation of God (e.g.. John 17:17). Rhema (which is found in Rom. 10:17) refers to a part of God’s Word, i.e. a specific promise.” [4] A search on the www revealed that this was a common theme: “‘Rhema’ means ‘spoken word’, and ‘Logos’ means ‘written word.'” [5]

It is claimed that “the logos is universal while rhema is particular.  The logos is objective, while the rhema is subjective.  The logos is eternal, while the rhema is contemporary.” [6]   However, when we examine the biblical evidence, the differences between rhema and logos cannot be sustained.

Both rhema and logos for spoken word

Both rhema and logos are used in situations where the “spoken word” is indicated.  In Luke 5:5, Peter’s words to Jesus were, “But at your word [rhema] I will let down the nets” (ESV). [7]   On the other hand, it is said of the nobleman whose son was healed by Jesus, that “the man believed the word [logos] that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (John 4:50).

Some want to conclude that rhema is never applied to the person of Christ.  In Matt. 4:4, Jesus stated, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that comes from the mouth of God.”  Another example is the use of rhema in verses such as Matt. 27:14, where Jesus was on trial before his crucifixion: “But he gave him no answer [rhema], not even to a single charge”

When Peter denied the Lord, he “remembered the saying [rhema] of Jesus.”  As already indicated, Luke 5:5 says, “But at your word [rhema] I will let down the nets.”  Luke 7:1 is a telling example: Speaking of Jesus, it states:  “After he had finished all his sayings [rhemata, the plural of rhema] in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.”  Therefore, the honest interpreter of the New Testament must conclude that it is incorrect to say that rhema is never applied to the person of Christ.

Peter, in his epistle, used both rhema and logos without thinking that there was any difference in meaning.  He said that we are born again “through the living and abiding word [logos] of God” (I Peter 1:23).  Two verses later, Peter writes that “the word [rhema] of the Lord remains forever” (v. 25).

Korean Pentecostal leader, Paul Yonggi Cho, maintained that we as Christians “can link our spirit’s fourth dimension to the fourth dimension of the Holy Father—the Creator of the universe—we can have all the more dominion over circumstances.”  The Holy Spirit causes this through dreams, visions, and visualisation.  By the latter we “incubate our future” and “hatch the results.”  This happens through our speaking that rhema word that “releases Christ.”   How does one receive this rhema?  According to Cho, it is a “specific word to a specific person in a specific situation” and is attained by “waiting upon the Lord.” [8]

“If rhema is supposed to be a spoken word and logos the written word, Paul [the apostle] apparently did not recognize that distinction.  When talking about the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of  knowledge, he used logos rather than rhema (1 Corinthians 12:8).  It seems that rhema would have been more appropriate if the distinction which some make is valid.” [9]

Logos and rhema are synonymous words in Greek

Two passages that seem to be referring to the same action, use rhema and logos interchangeably.  Jesus said, “Already you are clean because of the word [logos] that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).  When Paul spoke about Christ sanctifying and cleansing the church, he indicated that Christ “might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [rhema]” (Eph. 5:26).

This is further illustrated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX), the translation which was completed about 250 BC.  The first two verses of Jeremiah read: “The word [rhema] of God which came to Jeremiah” (v. 1) and “the word [logos] of God which came to him” (v. 2). [10] It is clear that even as far back as the third century before Christ, rhema and logos were used interchangeably.

For NT Greek buffs, this technical information confirms that rhema and logos are synonyms.  If we examine the Greek verb forms of these two words we find:

“In the present tense, the verb form of logos is lego.  But other tenses for this verb contain the stem used in rhema (ero, eireka, eiremai, errethen).  It is an irregular Greek verb.  The present tense (I say) and the logos use the same stem, but most other tenses use the stem from which rhema is derived.” [11]

The Englishman’s Greek-English Concordance [12] lists every mention of the words, rhema and logos in the New Testament.  An examination of these will clearly show that the contemporary distinctions between rhema and logos do not hold up under careful investigation.

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What can we conclude?  The evidence does not point to any kind of difference of  meaning between rhema and logos.  They “are very close synonyms, and we must not force on them a distinction in meaning.  Often a change is made from one word to the other simply to give literary variety.” [13]

David Watson gave a helpful summary of the evidence for rhema vs. logos. [14]  His conclusion supports the evidence above:

“In no New Testament dictionary or Greek lexicon of any substance can the claimed distinction between the two words be found….  The massive weight of evidence shows that there is no clear distinction to be made between logos and rhema in the Scriptures.  Thus the two far-reaching inferences mentioned above are based on a false premise.” [15]

I endorse Anthony Palma’s practical conclusion:

“This matter is of more than academic significance.  Among some who promote this distinction in meaning, a danger exists that the so-called spoken or contemporary word will be esteemed more highly than the Scriptures.  But the principle given in 1 Corinthians 14:29 is that all messages must be evaluated, and the only sure basis for evaluation is the written Word of God.”[16]

This wrong-headed doctrine of rhema has had some materialistic and threatening outworking in ministries such as that of Paula White on a Benny Hinn Telethon, LeSEA Network, April 16, 2004.  In her promotion of the alleged meaning of rhema, she proclaimed, “Now, get up and go to the phone!  When God begins to speak to you dial that number on your screen.  Don’t you miss this moment!  If you miss your moment you miss your miracle!….  He’s [God’s] giving you a Rhema Word right now….  The God that I serve is speaking to you right now!”  She proclaimed that “God is looking for somebody to believe that this is a Rhema Word.”[17]

The contemporary confusion in understanding of rhema and logos is “a reminder that a little ‘knowledge’ is a dangerous thing.” [18]  How many more people are going to be hurt and misled by the false rhema doctrine of a “special word for an occasion” that comes with a barb like that of Paula White, in this same Benny Hinn Telethon.  She gave this threatening message: “You will die!  You will die unless you go to the phone and do what God says to do.” [19]


What difference does it make?  When preachers with a high public profile or ordinary believers proclaim that sickness can be healed when a person experiences God’s rhema [special word for the occasion], and it doesn’t happen, some people are left disillusioned with the Christian faith because their God has not met His obligations.  One other alternative is that these people are accused of not having enough faith or having the wrong kind of faith.  For the ill, this is a particularly cruel accusation — their God did not come to the party OR their faith is sub-standard.  These are the people who need God’s encouragement and not condemnation. 

The real issue does not amount to a wrong kind of faith but it is the promotion of a theology of health and wealth that is a false doctrine.  These preachers and teachers need to be exposed for what they are – false teachers!

Based on an examination of the biblical material, we can conclude that the differences between rhema and logos promoted by some prominent preachers in the charismatic movement, cannot be sustained.

They promote a false distinction between rhema and logos and are thus false teachers.


[2]  John Dawson 1989, Taking Our Cities for God, Word Publishing, Milton Keynes, England, p. 197.

[3] Hagin Sr., K. E. 1979. How to Write Your Own Ticket with God, Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK.

[4]  Pastor Dr. Paul Choo, preached at Gospel Light Christian Church, Singapore, 10 December 2000,”The Spirit-Filled Life I – Faith Is the Victory,”available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[5]  From Arthur Chiang, “The Power of Words”, 17 September 2004, Free Community Church, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].  Jason Clark wrote of “logos being the entirety, like a full-sized sword; and rhema, a small portion” in “What Do You Think About Preaching?”, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[6]  For a critique of this popular view, see Anthony D. Palma, “Word…Word,” Advance, May 1977, p. 27.  Palma alerted me to the distinction between rhema and logos in this article from this  Assemblies of God (USA) magazine, Advance.  Much of the following information is based on Palma’s article.

[7]  Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version 2001, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois.

[8]  Paul Yonggi Cho 1979, The Fourth Dimension: The Key to Putting Your Faith to Work for a Successful Life, Logos, Plainfield, NJ, pp. 41, 44, 81,91, 97-100.  For an assessment of Cho’s theology of the Holy Spirit, see Simon K.H. Chan 2004, “The Pneumatology of Paul Yonggi Cho,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies (7:1), pp. 79-99, available from: [Accessed 4 May 2005].

[9]  Palma, p. 27.

[10]  Please note that these are literal translations from the Septuagint and are not following modern English translations of Jeremiah1:1-2, such as the ESV.

[11]  Palma, p. 27.

[12]  For example, Jay P. Green, Sr. 1976, The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, Associated Publishers & Authors, Wilmington, Delaware, p. 4483.

[13]  Palma, p. 27.
[14]  David Watson 1982, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship, Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois,
pp. 110-112.

[15]  Watson, p. 111.[16]  Palma, p. 27.
[17]  Cited in “Paula White,” available from: [4 May 2004].
[18]  Watson, p. 112.

[19]  Paula White, Forgotten Word Ministries, available from: [12 January 2007].

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 November 2018.