Next Paul offers what I call, perhaps not originally, a prayer-wish: "grace to you, and peace, from God our Father" (Colossians 1:2b). Paul's letters glitter with a number of such prayer-wishes, which are not straight-up addresses to God (prayers), but are perhaps a species of benediction. Paul implicitly calls on God to grant spiritual graces to the Colossian believers.
Another facet is saving grace. We see this in many passages, chief among them being Romans 3:24 and Ephesians 2:8-9.
...being declared righteous as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24)In a way, however, saving grace is not strictly "free." Oh, it is free to us. We contribute absolutely nothing to it except the sin from which we need to be saved, plus suicidal attitudes ranging from total disinterest to violent hostility — until this grace begins to work in our hearts to transform us and give us life. Free to us... but not free. Every last bit of it was paid for in full. The one who paid for it was the Lord Jesus Christ, living a perfectly righteous and holy life, and dying as a penal, substitutionary sacrifice for sinners.
For by grace do you stand saved through faith — and this does not originate from you, the gift is God's; not originating from works, that one might not boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Maybe the best imperfect analogy to this is the way a father might give his kids money with which to buy Mom a Mother's Day or birthday present.
Paul accepted their professions of faith as genuine, so he is not wishing saving grace to them. Rather, he is prayer-wishing them grace from God to endure, stand fast, serve and grow.
(For an instructive/corrective post dealing with misrepresentations of grace, see Grace: eighteen affirmations and denials.)
Second, Paul pray-wishes them peace. Note Isaiah 48:22; 57:21
"There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked." (48:22 ESV)We must remind ourselves that "wicked" describes all mankind — us! — by nature. We must recall that we are not born either loving God, or neutral to God. We are born God-averse; we are born His enemies. So "peace" is not the legacy of all men without exception; it is in fact the legacy of no natural son of Adam, without exception.
"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." (57:21 ESV)
According, something drastic must be done to make peaceful relations possible, to call off the war in a way that satisfies God's holiness as well as His mercy.
There are multiple aspects to the peace that God accomplishes and gives. First, there is peace with God. This is fundamental. Without it, nothing but warfare and wrath follows. We find this peace referenced, for instance, in Romans 5:1 and Colossians 1:20. Men are reconciled to God through Christ due to His work on the Cross. For believers, hostilities have ceased, and we are entitled to good relations with Him.
Second, there is the peace of God (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 6-7). We enjoy the full benefit of good relations with God, with the peace of mind and confidence that accompany being in good with God. This is the peace that Paul pray-wishes the Colossians.
Note Paul's specificity. God is not the Father of all men without exception (unless all you mean by that is that He is their Creator and Judge). Here is how God becomes men's Father:
- By conversion (John 1:12)
- By regeneration (John 1:13)
- By legal adoption (Ephesians 1:5)
The issue, then, is this: is God our heavenly Father, on His terms?
[Note: except as noted, all translations in this article are mine]