God conveys his word both as ‘message’ and as ‘utterance’

‘In the beginning was the Word– the eternal Son of God, who had no beginning, ‘continued being’ (John 1:1 literal Greek). He created the temporal, material universe, so that the mass of this time-space cosmos ‘became’ or ‘came to be’ (John 1:3 Greek). He did all this by speaking: ‘God said, “Let there be … and there was …’ (see Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26). Since then he has maintained it in working order by his spoken word: ‘… the universe was created by the [spoken] word of God …’; ‘he upholds the universe by the [spoken] word of his power …’ (Hebrews 11:3 and 1:3).

In the Greek text of these verses the writers employ two quite different nouns for ‘word’ that are very rarely swapped one for the other. The Creator of all things is called in John’s Gospel ho logos (‘the Word’) – he is the expression of God’s heart – who, according to the letter to the Hebrews, brought creation into existence and maintained its functional working by his regular utterance, ho rhema (‘the word’).

The established message (logos) in Luke’s writings

Samples from the early chapters of Luke’s Gospel indicate his understanding of logos:

[] Catechism (Luke 1:4, ‘taught’ is katecheo); [] Preaching (Luke 4:31-32); [] Report (Luke 5:15);

[] Record (Luke 16:2 = ‘account [book]’); [] Message (e.g. that of the Sower, Luke 8:11,12,13,15); [] Saying or Statement (Luke 18:34); [] Teaching (Luke 5:1 in contrast to rhema in Luke 5:5, as we shall see); and in Acts as: [] Account (John 1:1, ‘book’); [] Scriptures (John 4:29,31); and [] recorded Prophecies (John 5:4-5). In Acts he mainly used logos for preaching that expounded Scripture: (see Acts 2:41 = a sermon comprising many words – [logoi, Acts 2:40]; Acts 4:4; 6:2,4,7; 8:4,14,25; 10:36,44; 11:19; 12:24; 13:5 = comprising utterances, rhemata Acts 13:42,44,46,48,49; 14:3,24; 15:7 = ‘matter’, Acts 15:32,35,36; 16:6,32; 17:11,13; 18:5,11; 19:10,20 – over thirty references in all!) 

Inspired and inspiring utterances (rhemata) in Luke’s Gospel

God’s utterances are dynamic … when we accept them, act on them, ponder them and testify of them to others‘alongside God no utterance will be impossible’, the angel assured Mary, who replied: ‘let it be according to your utterance (Luke 1:37-38 Greek). Indeed, she also ‘treasured up all the…utterancesof the shepherds, ‘pondering them in her heart,’ as ‘they made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child’ (Luke 2:17-19; 1:50-51). See also Luke 2:29; 3:2; 5:5; 7:1; 9:45a,45b; 20:26; 24:8,11. 

A recent example

While studying Luke’s use of the noun rhema I received a telephone call from a brother in Christ with whom I had not had any contact in forty years, since soon after conducting their wedding. He had felt prompted by the Lord to track me down to request prayer concerning his wife in the throes of advanced cancer. I gave him a couple of contrasting examples of rhema: Peter’s obedience in letting down the nets at his Master’s utterance despite their night-long evidence of unprofitable fishing (Luke 5:5) this time with spectacular results; and, by contrast, Simeon’s recognition of his imminent death as he held the baby Jesus in his arms, as promised in an earlier word from God (Luke 2:29). I urged him to seek God for his specific word to them. Before the week was over I got an email thanking me for my counsel and telling how God had clearly spoken Psalm 131:2 to him: ‘I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother,’ and of his wife’s peaceful passing into the presence of her Lord very soon after that.

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