Col 1:1-2 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There has been much speculation over the years as to why Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and by whom. However, if we look closely at Acts, we will find that Saul’s name was not actually changed: “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him… (Act 13:9). According to scholars, it was common for Jews who were born Roman citizens to have a name that related to their Jewish heritage (like being named after King Saul) and one that reflected their Roman citizenry (like Paul).
Jesus still referred to him as Saul when He struck him down on the road to Damascus (Act 9:4). Ananias referred to him as “Brother Saul” when he visited him at the home of Judas (Act 9:17). The Holy Spirit told the church at Antioch to “… Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them (Act 13:2).”
Based on certain historical events, Saul was likely struck down on the road to Damascus around A.D. 34. He went to Jerusalem and preached (Act 9:26-29), and then returned to his hometown of Tarsus around A.D. 37-38. Barnabas went to Tarsus, found Saul and brought him to Antioch around A.D. 47. Barnabas and Saul took provisions to Jerusalem to strengthen the saints there during the famine (Act 11:30), then returned from Jerusalem (Act 12:25) and were sent out by the Holy Ghost to do the work they had been called to do.
The dates given here are estimations, based on the idea that Jesus’ birth actually took place in what we refer to as 3-4 B.C. instead of A.D. 1. If you prefer to calculate from A.D. 1, then Saul’s Damascus Road experience took place around A.D. 37. He would have gone back to Tarsus A.D. 40 and returned to Antioch with Barnabas around A.D. 50. Regardless of which timeline you prefer, for approximately thirteen years after his experience on the road to Damascus, he was still known by his Jewish name of Saul.
Saul began to be referred to by his non-Jewish name, Paul, about the time that he began to preach more and more to the Gentiles, finally acknowledging his ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 13:46. The city of Colosse was inhabited by mostly Gentiles at the time of Paul’s letter. The switch from using Saul to using his other name, Paul, was a subtle means of showing that he was no longer bound by the demands of his Jewish brethren who were still insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Act 15:5). His message was of the assurance of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
Thus he identifies himself in this letter as Paul, an ambassador of the good news (see Strong’s definition of apostle) of Jesus Christ. This was not a path he had chosen for himself. He was made an ambassador of the blessed gospel by the active purpose (will) of God. Without boasting of ourselves, all who are called to minister to God’s people must make this same claim. We are called and sent according to the will of God, if we truly minister the good news of Jesus.
Paul did not write his letter to everyone in Colosse: the letter was addressed to saints. Strong’s defines the word translated as “saints” to mean “sacred.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English defines “sacred” as “separated from common uses and consecrated to God and His service.” Paul also indicates by the use of “and” that the saints are faithful (sure, true) brethren in Christ.
Everything that follows in this letter is addressed to those who are separated from common use and surely and truly consecrated to God. This is not done by the will of man or the purpose of man. If you feel to be separated in your desire and action from the love of the “common” (self-importance, self-indulgence, holier than thou), and dedicated to the honor and glory of God, then precious saint, fall on your face before Him and worship and praise Him for His great grace and mercy in your life. You did not attain unto this of your own accord.
To those who are separated from the common use and dedicated to God’s service, there is grace and peace. More than just the wish for grace and peace, there is an understanding of the reality of grace and peace. There is also an acknowledgement of the source of grace and peace. These come so us directly from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This should always be our greeting and our prayer for the saints of the living God.
May God continue to separate us from common use and sanctify us to Him and His service and praise!