Faith, Hope, and Love: Paul’s Message to the Church at Thessalonica -- By: Mark A. Seifrid

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 03:3 (Fall 1999)
Article: Faith, Hope, and Love: Paul’s Message to the Church at Thessalonica
Author: Mark A. Seifrid

Faith, Hope, and Love:
Paul’s Message to the Church at Thessalonica

Mark A. Seifrid

Mark A. Seifrid is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1992. Dr. Seifrid received the Ph.D. in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. His dissertation on justification was published by Brill and he has a forthcoming work on justification titled Christ, Our Righteousness: The Justification of the Ungodly as the Theology of Paul (Eerdmans).

The Background of Paul’s Letters to Thessalonica

In interpreting the distinct message of the Thessalonian correspondence, it is sufficient for us to recognize that Paul always addressed the particular needs and problems of his churches. As a “missionary theologian” he applied the Gospel with which he had been entrusted to the varying circumstances he found within his congregations. We need not suppose that these letters represent an early stage of Paul’s thought. By the time he wrote the Thessalonian correspondence, Paul had engaged in mission to the Gentiles for at least fifteen years (see 2 Cor 1 1:30–33; Gal 1:17; Acts 9:30, 1 1:25–26). His mission in Thessalonica, and the evidence of the Gospel which he preached there as we find it in his letters show that his theology is already mature. This judgment applies to Paul’s eschatology as it appears in the Thessalonian correspondence. His obvious anticipation that the day of the Lord might come within his lifetime is balanced by his reckoning with the possibility of delay. He speaks of himself not only as among those who might be “remain alive” until the coming of the Lord, but also among those who might “sleep” before then (1 Thess 4:15, 5:10). He appeals to the expectation of the appearance of “the lawless one” in order to correct the confused claim that the day of the Lord had already arrived—the end shall be delayed until the restraint against evil is removed—but thereby provides no basis for the calculation of the end (2 Thess 2:3–12). Some six or seven years later when he wrote Romans, his thought on this matter had not changed: “It is already the hour for you to rise from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom 13:11). As was the case earlier in his ministry, the end was imminent, but incalculable for Paul (cf. Rom 14:8). He judged its proximity not in terms of the regular marking of...

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