The New Testament includes two Greek words often translated "word" in English. Logos often refers to the actual writings of Scripture or to Christ Himself. It is the Greek word used in John 1:1, Luke 8:11, Hebrews 4:12, and many other passages. Rhema is also often translated as "word" and refers to spoken words or a saying. This is the word used in Luke 5:5 when Simon Peter answered Jesus, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word [rhema] I will let down the nets."
The rhema word – What is it?
In modern times, many charismatic Christians have used the idea of the rhema word of God as a way to express God speaking to them through the Holy Spirit. A person may claim to have heard the "rhema word of God" when he or she feels God has led them to do something in service to Him.
Though God certainly speaks to believers through His Spirit, the use of the word rhema to validate or explain these leadings of God is both unnecessary and grammatically inaccurate. First, it is unnecessary to use the word rhema to explain the Spirit's leading in a person's life because the idea can easily be explained without using the term. In fact, using the word rhema to explain something God has led a person to do is actually often more confusing since most people do not know what the "rhema word" means.
Second, to claim that the Holy Spirit's leading in one's life is the "rhema word" is not grammatically accurate. The word rhema as used in the Greek language could be used of any saying by any person. It was not limited to Jesus or to an inward spiritual message. Using the word rhema in this way is technically not an accurate use of the word when used only in reference to the Spirit's leading in a person's life.
Theologically, a more balanced understanding of God's "word" would include testing what a person believes he or she has been led to do by God's Spirit by the teachings of God's Word. God's Spirit will not lead a person to do something that would be in contradiction with His teachings in Scripture. For example, a person will not be "led" by God to cheat on his or her spouse since this is a teaching that violates biblical principles. However, in other areas, such as where to move or which job to take, a combination of prayer, Bible study, research, and consulting with other believers can all be utilized to help make a God-honoring decision.
If a person claims to have a "rhema word" from God, the first step to verify whether this is true is to compare this claim with the teachings of Scripture. This practice can help discern whether a person is truly hearing from God's Spirit and protect against unwise choices.
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