Justification According To Paul’s Thessalonian Correspondence -- By: Paul A. Rainbow

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 19:2 (NA 2009)
Article: Justification According To Paul’s Thessalonian Correspondence
Author: Paul A. Rainbow

Justification According To Paul’s Thessalonian Correspondence

Paul A. Rainbow

Sioux Falls Seminary

Admittedly, Paul does not use the special vocabulary of justification in his Thessalonian epistles, but here he views the Christian life in the light of the coming judgment and calls on his converts to persevere and grow in faith and love to that end. This apocalyptic perspective provides a focus around which we can organize fragmentary references to the future of justification in his other epistles (Rom 2:13, 8:33–34; 1 Cor 4:3–5; Gal 2:17, 5:4–6). What Paul teaches in this connection highlights the “work of faith,” alongside Christ’s righteousness imputed to faith, as a secondary and derivative, but necessary part of the basis (ground) for a favorable verdict on the last day.

Key words: judgment, justification, Thessalonians

What can we learn from Paul’s Thessalonian correspondence about his understanding of justification?1 For this subject, statistics might direct us to

other letters.2 The Thessalonian epistles are consistently overlooked, and the reason is not far to seek. Signs of the classic statements on justification found in the major epistles are, of course, lacking here. None of the lexemes δικαιοῦν/δικαιοῦσθαι, δικαίωσις , δικαιοςύνη, δικαίωμα, or δικαιοκριςία occurs3; nor does λογίζεσθαι. Nowhere does Paul inveigh against “works of the law”; indeed, the phrase is not found.4 Though Paul commends “believing” (πιστεύειν, 8 times) and “faith” (πίστις, 13 times), never in these two letters does he contrast this activity with works. All four occurrences of the noun “work” (ἔργον, always singular) set it in a bright light.5 Many conclude that the Thessalonian letters have nothing to offer on the Pauline keynote of justification.6

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