Rhema: I Need a Word

Word of the Week

June 15, 2024

Rhēma: I Need a Word


Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4 NASB

When was the last time you got thoroughly disoriented as you tried to drive to an unfamiliar destination?  You were hurrying to attend your daughter’s rugby game, but you were getting nowhere.

A generation ago, you would stop at a gas station and ask for directions.  Now you wait for that familiar voice from your GPS saying, “Return to the route, then turn left.”

The experience reminds you of an ancient promise from the book of Isaiah: “And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21).

We all travel through life in the same way, uncertain what to do next, wishing that somebody would tell us what to do.

Who knows the answer?  God does!

We need a word from the Lord, and there is a Greek term that aptly describes the word that we want.

Most people who are familiar with the New Testament have heard that the Greek term for “word” is logos.  It is a crucial word in the gospel message.  It’s even a title for Jesus (John 1:1).

However, there is another word that gets lost in the lustre of logos.  This second word is rhēma [RAY-mah], an important word that occurs almost 70 times in the New Testament.

Both words are often translated as “word,” but there’s more to the story.  Logos is a more general term, while rhēma gets down to the specific words in a message.  As one scholar explains, “Whereas logos often designates the Christian proclamation as a whole, rhēma usually relates to individual words and utterances.”1

Let’s get better acquainted with rhēma:

  1. It usually means a verbal message about something important.  It can be translated not only as “word,” but also as “statement, pronouncement, declaration.” 

People have said many things about the word, so I decided to look at all 70 references to see if they were right.

Some sources say that it refers to spoken messages, in contrast to written ones. This idea holds up rather well.  It referred to spoken words in at least 56 verses.  It makes sense, especially when you’re talking about a message from God, because much of the Bible did not exist yet in written form.  Jesus taught verbally, not using written notes.

Other sources point out that rhema refers to a specific statement rather than the overall teaching of the Bible.  This also seems to be true.  About half of the time, the word can refer to an individual word, a sentence or a short paragraph.

      • On trial before Pilate, Jesus “answered him not one word [rhema], so that the governor marveled greatly (Matthew 27:14 NKJV).
      • The Lord warned that “every idle word [rhema] that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36 KJV).
    1. In a few passages, it means an event that you can talk about, something remarkable or noteworthy.
      • The shepherds told each other, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem, then, and see this thing [rhema] that has happened” (Luke 2:15).
      • When John the Baptist’s father regained his speech, the neighbors were amazed, and “all these matters [rhema] were being talked about in the entire hill country of Judea (Luke 1:65).

God’s rhema is important.  As Jesus said, “Man lives by every rhema that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  And when Paul catalogued the Christian’s armor, he finished with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the rhema of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

What do I learn from this fascinating Greek word?

When I stand at a crossroads wondering which direction to go, I can always look for a word from my Guide.  Logos reminds me that He has given us the gospel, the unified message of His Word.  Once we know the broad teaching of Scripture, we can look at the options and make wise, informed decisions.  It’s like the GPS map that previews the overall route.  Rhēma reminds me that I will often discover specific statements in Scripture that turn my thoughts in the right direction – like the GPS voice that announces the next turn in the route.

The combination of God’s logos and God’s rhema will steer you right.

Coming Up

What’s the difference between a dabbler and a devoted follower of Jesus?  Next week we will look at a word that pens a portrait of dedication.

©Ezra Project 2024

3 Responses

  1. Thank you Dr. Bechtle. Good as usual. I finished my MABS at LBU so I am not in those classes any more. Thank you for your classroom leadership and great instruction. I am in a post graduate program at another school. Thank you for the encouragement along the way. Alan Hart (a former student of yours.)

  2. The spoken word rhema brought the world into existence. I’m on the right path. Amen and Amen 🙏🏾

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