8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
1901 ASV Translation:
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world.
There is only one variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26: they have different words for the word translated "for" in the phrase "for you all". The Textus Receptus has a word that typically has 'overtones of benefit' in it so that when it is used the actions of one person are seen to bring benefit to some other person(s). The Nestle/Aland 26, on the other hand, uses a word that generally only points to another person(s). The Textus Receptus's word is more 'potent' than the word used by the Nestle/Aland 26. The two words are completely different in spelling and appearance, so there isn't any way to explain the difference by reason of some kind of visual glitch by the copyist. As far as the textual scholars who produced the Nestle/Aland 26 are concerned, the textual evidence for the reading of the Textus Receptus is so slight that they do not even give it any credence at all. This is the first variation between the texts of Romans that has any significance in terms of meaning at all. And, as far as the debate over whether there is an "inspired" translation, this is a non-significant textual variation because both translations use "for" so that an English reader wouldn't even know there was a problem in the background.
1. Paragraph Overview:
a. In verses 8-10 Paul emphasizes the fact that he regularly prays for the Romans with gratitude and asks to be able to go to Rome.
b. In verses 11-12 he explains his desire to visit them.
c. In verse 13 he emphasizes how often he has tried to accomplish this desire without success.
d. Major thesis: Paul's intense interest in the Romans.
2. The meaning in this text.
a. The word translated "first" has an untranslated word immediately following it that is used in Greek in order to emphasize the use of the word with which it is associated. It is often not translated, but when it is, the translators often use "indeed" to create the sense of emphasis. Thus, by both the word "first" and the untranslated word, it is clear that Paul wanted to make sure that the Romans didn't overlook the signficance of what he was going to say in this paragraph.
b. Then, this "first" issue is the matter of Paul's gratitude to God because of the impact of the believers in Rome. There are several things involved in this matter of Paul's gratitude.
1) Gratitude, as a matter of course, indicates the very positive attitude of the person who is thankful. This means that the impact the body of believers in Rome was having "in all the world" has moved Paul to a very positive attitude. In other words, the believers in Rome needed to know that the impact they were making was causing Paul's attitude to be positive and upbeat.
2) Then, gratitude, as a matter of definition, is typically the expression of a sense of having had a benefit extended to us that we did not deserve. The word was originally coined to refer to the extension of grace. Then it came to refer to a person's positive appreciation of that grace. People do not typically "thank" those who do what they are supposed to do. No thanks is due on the basis of a meritorious relationship. If I hire you and pay you to do a job for me, you are obligated to do the job for the money you have been paid and there is no thanks due you for simply fulfilling your obligation. But, if you do a thing I wanted/needed to be done without any kind of reciprocal arrangement, you have acted in grace toward me and thanks is due to you from me. Thus, when Paul expressed his gratitude to God for the impact the Roman believers were making, he was telling the Romans that God had done a gracious thing to him by raising up the church in Rome. This is easily explained when we look back to God's assignment of an apostleship to the nations to Paul. Once a person has been "assigned" a task by God, he becomes responsible for the accomplishment of that assignment. This assignment required that Paul get the message of the Gospel out to the nations. The faith of the Romans, according to this verse, was going out into all the world. To the degree to which that "faith" went somewhere in the gentile world, to that degree Paul's "assignment" was being fulfilled. Thus, God, by spreading the Gospel through others, was making Paul's job easier: hence, his extraordinary gratitude. The God of the assignment has now become the God of the fulfillment of the assignment by grace. Thus, being "graced", Paul responds with joy and gratitude.
a) How shall we take the phrase "in all the world"?
i. If we assume "the world" to be the entire planet earth, we must assume a legitimate use of hyperbole by the apostle. Hyperbole is a legitimate use of language in the domain of emphasis.
ii. If we assume "the world" to be 'the organization of humanity under Roman dominion', we can assume that something is being said of the faith of the Roman believers in all of the parts of that domain.
iii. In no case can we conceive of "the whole world" as a matter of "saturation" because that is pretty much never an historical reality in any case. The idea is simply that the testimony of the Roman believers is being taken into a great many places.
b) The implication of "all the world" in Paul's frame of reference probably has the same meaning as was included in his commission by Jesus Christ since he considers it a matter of gratitude.
3) Third, gratitude, as a result of another's 'impact' gives those 'others' a sense of comradeship with the grateful one. Any time a person is made grateful because of the impact of another(s), there is an automatic union between the grateful one and the ones for which he is grateful. Then, if those others are told of the reality of this union that has developed, there is a strong predisposition in them to reciprocate the union. It is natural to like those who like you. It is natural to be disposed to be friendly toward those who think you are special. This is a key matter for Paul. He wants to help the Romans understand the faith better than they do. But, for them to give him a hearing, they must be predisposed to do that. They might have such a predisposition simply if they find out he is an apostle of God. But, it is far more likely that they will have that predisposition if they think that he genuinely cares for them...that he "likes" them. Thus, this expression of gratitude, as a "first of all thing" is Paul's honest way of attempting to gain a sympathetic hearing from them. It is for their benefit to give that hearing, not Paul's. But, Paul is not operating on a "this is your responsibility" basis [you must listen to me because I am an apostle of God]; rather, he is operating on an honest relational basis that has been generated by the gracious God. The Romans have Paul's heart in their hands.
4) Fourth, gratitude, as an expression toward God is, by Paul's statement, to be done in light of the statement "through Jesus Christ". It is absolutely imperative for all believers to understand that the grace in which we stand is in the person of Jesus Christ and outside of Him there is only wrath under the justice of God. This is a tension that we must grasp. On the one hand, a view of God as the Judge puts us "under the Law" and excites the Law of Sin in our members to produce all manner of evil. On the other hand, a view of God as Gracious puts us "under Grace" and excites the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ in our members to produce the fruit of the Spirit. It is a great danger to think of God as Gracious outside of Christ; and, it is an equal danger to think of God as Judge upon those in Christ. We must never lose our focus upon the Person Who brings us to this Grace in which we stand.