For Paul, “the word of the Lord” is now that which is spoken by (or about) the Lord Jesus. Indeed, it seems most likely that in the first passage here (1:8), where the phrase is articular, Paul intends it to stand for the gospel; that is, it is the “word” about the Lord. The second passage (4:15), however, is most likely a reflection of the usage in the Septuagint, and thus it refers to a word that Christ himself has spoken (either, most likely, in the Jesus tradition that has come down to Paul, or as a prophetic word that Paul has received from Christ). 
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Fee vs. Pahl on “The word of the Lord”
Gordon Fee in his massive tome, Pauline Christology, [reviewed by Tilling] suggests that the complex phrase “the word of the Lord” (1 Thess 1:8 and 4:15) refers in 1:8 to the gospel and in 4:15 to “that which is spoken by (or about) the Lord Jesus.” Fee writes:
Fee does not elaborate further on the reasons for his decision, which is a pity, because Michael Pahl has offered substantive reasons for taking 4:15 as reference to the gospel. See his the making of a dissertation. Fee only references Hurtado’s treatment in Lord Jesus Christ. Hurtado does not develop his view that this is “a saying of the exalted Jesus, probably delivered initially through a Christian prophet.” But merely points back to the treatment of E. Best in his commentary on Thessalonians. Thus, it will be fascinating to see how Michael’s dissertation, now defended, is received by scholarship.
I for one am particularly sympathetic and open to Pahl’s detailed analysis, and wish to read more of his argument. Especially on Pauline epistemology. But that’s for another day…
 G. Fee, Pauline Christology, pg. 45
 L. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 150-1 as well as Donfried, Shorter Pauline Letters, pgs 39-40 who thinks that this refers to a prophetic oracle.
 Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, pg. 189-194.