1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (NRSV)
Paul’s greeting seems very typical of all of his other letters, except for the final benediction. In virtually every other letter he calls for grace and peace from God our father “and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The only exception is 1 Thessalonians, where Paul leaves off who the grace and peace is from altogether. There he just says, “Grace to you and peace” (1 Thess. 1.1). It is not clear that the missing “and the Lord Jesus Christ” in Colossians 1.2 has any significance, especially since Christ is mentioned in two other places in the greeting.
The greeting, of course, states Paul’s apostleship, and that his calling to this role is according to God’s will. We also learn that Paul is with Timothy.
Given that the occasion of Paul’s letter is a kind of heresy that has arisen in portions of the Colossian church (see 2.8-23), it is striking that he calls them “saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.” His affirmation here sets the tone for his corrective teaching later. He is not calling them to a complete about-face; rather, he is just calling them to greater maturity in their faith. Verses 1.10 (he wants them to be “…fully pleasing…” to God) and 1.28-2.1 further suggest this goal.
Paul’s affirmation here is a model of how God deals with his beloved, redeemed, yet stubbornly sinful people. If someone is a follower of Christ then God calls her a saint and a faithful one. The truth is, though, that even the most holy Christian continues to be un-saintly and unfaithful throughout her earthly life. Thus, the words “saint” and “faithful” apply to us only in light of God’s forgiveness and grace. God attributes them to us for Christ’s sake, despite the fact that they are not strictly accurate accounts of who and what we now are. In calling us saints and faithful ones, God gently calls us to maturity and to the standards of faithfulness that we will one day attain in glory. Thus, these words both mark our heavenly future and call us to faithful lives here and now.