The apostle's conventional salutation wonderfully expresses the theology of his Gentile mission. Grace to you was a common greeting between people living in the Roman world. In Paul's vocabulary of God's salvation, however, it underscores the stark contrast between God's saving grace and the secular forms of salvation offered by the ruling elites of the Roman world. Every event Paul recites in the story of God's salvation—beginning with God's election of a people for salvation (3:11-12), climaxing with God's sending of Jesus as Son (1:15-20) in order to lead that people on a new exodus from sin (1:13-14), and concluding with God's call of Paul as apostle (1:24—2:5) in order to lead Gentiles into God's final triumph over evil in Christ (1:21-23)—is understood as the work of God's grace. That is, grace empowers a holy and faithful life from which death and sin are absent (see Rom 6:4). Unlike the Roman offer of secular salvation, often repressive and always conditional, God's salvation is offered as a free gift, even to those without social merit or political power.
The second critical word of Paul's salutation, peace, has a biblical background, reflecting the prophetic catchword shalom. The prophets of the Old Testament speak of shalom when describing the fulfillment of God's promise to restore all things to their created order: peace is the word that summarizes a "new world," transformed from its fallen state into the form of life intended by the Creator God. More than a reference to internal and spiritual contentment, then, the biblical idea of peace embraces every dimension of human existence—past, present and future. Certainly in Colossian Christianity, God's victory in Christ is celebrated and confessed as a cosmic event: the exalted Christ now mediates God's rule over the natural order as well as over the spiritual order (1:15-20). As a result, peace is more than a good feeling or mystical experience; it presumes a universal condition, in which all of human life is brought into conformity with the Creator's intentions for all things (3:5—4:6). The glib distinction that pundits and preachers often allow between a "public morality," typically secular, and a "private morality," typically religious, is frankly unbiblical. The lordship of the Risen Christ demands complete consistency in the norms and values that characterize those gathered in Christ, and the same when scattered "in Colosse."
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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