Since our readership has rapidly expanded over the past few years, and especially during the past few months, we want to take some time this summer to draw attention to earlier articles for those who may have missed them. Today's article was among those from our first few months and was published on Recovering Grace in September of 2011
A common critique of Mr. Gothard is how he handles interpretation of Scripture. One major aspect of his interpretational methods can be found in his teachings on rhemas. But do his teachings on rhemas even have a sound basis in Scripture? For your enjoyment I offer the following quiz.
1. T/F: All words in Scripture have precise Biblical meanings. “In the New Testament, the Greek words logos and rhema are both translated word. However, they are not synonyms for the same idea, but each have precise Biblical meanings, as do all words in Scripture.”1
False. No language is that precise. This idea that Koine Greek was an exceptionally precise language and thus perfectly suited for the New Testament to be written in is a myth spread by some pastors and teachers. You could confirm the fallacious nature of Mr. Gothard’s claim with any linguist or Greek scholar, but in the meantime lets just refer to a scholar that Mr. Gothard himself cites in his article–Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Google this book and look up the definition given for logos. You will find that, instead of one precise meaning, Vine’s gives the word logos at least four different meanings.
Rhema and logos are, in fact, synonyms and used interchangeably throughout the New Testament.
2. T/F: Logos is generally used to refer to the totality of the Word of God as well as the person of Jesus Christ. For example: “The seed is the Word [logos] of God” (Luke 8:11). “Holding forth the word [logos] of life” (Philippians 2:16). “Rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). “For the word [logos] of God is quick, and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word [logos] of God” (I Peter 1:23). “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word [logikos, from logos], that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).
Note first of all that Mr. Gothard seems to have backed off from his claim that logos has “one precise meaning.” Instead he gives two possible meanings and implies that there are possible other meanings as well. After all, if a word has one precise meaning in Scripture, it does not “generally refer to” a meaning–it must always refer to that meaning. So much for the idea that all words in Scripture have a precise meaning, much less logos.
But the answer to the question is: False. Scripture doesn’t even “generally refer to” the meanings Mr. Gothard asserts. By my (very generous) count, of the 330 times logos appears, only about 105 times does it refer to the totality of the Word of God or the person of Jesus. So instead of it “generally” referring to the meanings Mr. Gothard gives, it does so only about a third of the times it appears.
3. T/F: In Scripture rhema generally “refer[s] to the spoken word given by a living voice and is used to describe particular messages that were given to individuals for their personal application.” For example, “Peter remembered the word [rhema] of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:75).
Again, notice that Mr. Gothard doesn’t say that rhema always means “the spoken word given by a living voice, etc.,” only that it generally does. Whatever happened to his claim of “one precise meaning”? But that glaring inconsistency aside, does it really “generally” mean what Gothard asserts? Well, of the 70 times rhema appears, there are at least 10 times where it clearly doesn’t mean “the spoken word given by a living voice and is used to describe particular messages that were given to individuals for their personal application,”2 and another 20 times where such a definition doesn’t fit without a considerable amount of forcing. The exceptions are too frequent and pronounced to make the answer to this question a “False”.
Most interesting are the times where rhema takes on the meaning Mr. Gothard ascribes to logos and vice versa. For example, in Revelation 17:17, rhema is used to refer to the whole of God’s Word. Then notice how Mr. Gothard uses Matthew 26:75 to support his claimed definition of rhema and compare this to Luke 22:61,62 where logos is used instead. The story and wording are close to identical, but logos is used in one case and rhema in the other. In other words, a clear demonstration that logos and rhema are synonyms:
And Peter remembered the word (rhema) of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Mt 26:75)
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word (logos) of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61,62)
4. T/F: In Scripture the Gospel is referred to as rhema. “The word [rhema] is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word [rhema] of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved…. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema] of God” (Romans 10:8–9, 17).
False. In Scripture the Gospel is referred to using both logos and rhema. For example: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word (logos), and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).3 Since rhema and logos are synonyms this presents no difficulty. It’s Mr. Gothard’s effort to create unique and distinct definitions that leads to all sorts of inconsistencies.
5. T/F Since every word of God is inspired, and “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16), it is the Holy Spirit Who illuminates particular Scriptures for application in a daily walk with the Lord. For example, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), and “The words [rhema] that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
True. However, this is a case of Mr. Gothard mixing a little truth with a lot of falsehood and coming to some very problematic conclusions. What Mr. Gothard does is to create a distinction between rhema and logos. To him, logos is the basic meaning of a passage. Rhema on the other hand is seen as a hidden meaning which needs to be specially revealed by the Holy Spirit–the meaning behind the meaning so to speak. But, as we have seen, this is a false distinction–rhema and logos are synonyms and are used interchangeably throughout the NT.
So, while it is true that the Holy Spirit illuminates Scriptures for application, it is not true that He does so in “rhemas” (vs. logos). For example, the Holy Spirit will illuminate what it truly and practically means to “love your neighbor as yourself,” but there is no scriptural reason to believe that illumination leads to some rhema insight that differs from or is hidden behind the contextual meaning of a passage.
Now try this last question:
Jesus is talking to the rich young ruler who wishes to know how to inherit eternal life and has told him to follow the 10 commandments. “The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matt 19:20-22)
In the Greek the underlined word is either logos or rhema. Since the statement Christ makes is clearly not “the whole of Scripture” but is instead a “spoken word given by a living voice and used to describe particular messages that is given to an individual for their personal application,” which would have to be the proper word used in verse 22 according to Mr. Gothard? Remember, according to him all words have one precise meaning, and rhema and logos can’t be synonyms.
Hint: The correct answer is not what Mr. Gothard would lead you to believe.
1 All the content of the quiz is quoted or paraphrased from
2 Matt 5:11; 12:36; 18:16; Luke 1:37; Acts 5:32; 6:11,13; Heb 1:3; 11:13; 12:19
3 Some other examples: Joh 5:24, Joh 5:38, Joh 8:31, Joh 8:51, Joh 14:23, Acts 2:41, Acts 2:41, Acts 16:31.