THE CLEANSING OF THE CHURCH
BY THE WASHING OF THE WATER IN THE WORD
We must notice this phrase "by the washing of the water in the word." In the New Testament two Greek words are used to denote word. One is logos, referring to the word in a general sense; the other is rhema, which although translated as word in Scripture, means something quite different from logos. Logos refers both to things which have been eternally determined and to things used in an objective way. This is word, as we generally use it, and word, as it is generally known in Christianity. But rhema refers to words which are spoken. This is more subjective than logos. Let us look at several passages in the New Testament where rhema is used.
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.’" In this verse "word" is rhema, not logos. When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, the "word" is logos, not rhema. Can we say that man shall not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God recorded in the Bible? No. We are not saying that the written Word of God is of no use, but that logos—the Word of God recorded in the Bible—is of no use to us by itself. One day a messenger came to tell a mother that her son had been run over by a car and was at the point of death. The mother immediately opened the Bible and happened to turn to John 11:4: "This sickness is not unto death..." Because of this verse she felt peaceful and even began to rejoice, but when she arrived at the scene of the accident, she found that her son had already died. Did this mean that what is recorded in the Gospel of John is not the Word of God? It is the Word of God, but it is logos, not rhema. The word she grasped was not the word which God spoke to her at that specific instance. Both logos and rhema are the Word of God, but the former is God’s Word objectively recorded in the Bible, while the latter is the word of God spoken to us at a specific occasion.
Romans 10:17 says, "So faith comes out of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." In this verse rhema, not logos, is again used. This means that we can believe when Christ first speaks within us.
John 3:16 is a verse many of us can quote from memory. Perhaps we have known it for ten or twenty years. Is this verse the Word of God? Certainly it is the Word of God, but it is logos. There comes a day, however, when we read this verse and it is entirely different to us than it ever was before. "For God so loved the world..." Now, God does not just love the world, He loves me. "...that He gave His only begotten Son..." God did not give His Son just to the world, but to me. "...that every one who believes into Him..." It is not that someone believes into Him, but that I believe into Him. "...would not perish, but would have eternal life." It is I who will not perish, and it is I who even now have eternal life. This word is now rhema. God speaks the word to us, and at the same moment, we have faith. Therefore, we must ask God, "O God, if You would be gracious to me, I pray that You would always give me rhema." This does not mean that logos is of no use. Logos has its definite use, for without logos, we could never have rhema. All the rhema of God is based upon logos. We cannot deny that John 3:16 is the Word of God. But when the logos of God becomes the rhema spoken by God to us, we have faith and the whole matter is settled.
(The Glorious Church, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)