"Punctuation is used to mark off units of grammar and clarify a writer's meaning. In speech, emphasis and pauses are used to help get the spoken message across. In written English, punctuation has to serve the same purpose … Lack of punctuation or incorrect punctuation often causes ambiguity and misunderstanding," (Bloomsbury Grammar Guide).
" ... Generations of readers who have passed through the British school systems without being able to say quite what a verb, or a preposition, or a clause, is. Those generations now extend - unbelievably perhaps - to include a generation of schoolteachers of English.” (Gordon Jasrvine.)
In this short writing, W. P. Clarke shows the importance of correct punctuation as he comments on Romans 8: 17, (A. V.) and (R. V.).
Not being inspired, the work of the translator (including his punctuation) may not be correct, and as a matter of fact the various translations differ materially in their punctuation from one another. We are at liberty therefore, without presumption, to question the punctuation of any particular verse of Scripture, and reverently apply our own judgment. To take one verse, Romans 8: 17 as an example. Without any punctuation it reads: "And if children then heirs - heirs of God - and joint heirs with Christ if so be that we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified with Him." In the Authorised and Revised Versions a colon or semicolon is placed after "if children then heirs"; and a similar punctuation point after "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." This would mean that the concluding paragraph, "if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him" qualifies both "heirship of God" and "joint-heirship with Christ." If this be so, then logically we cannot be "children of God" unless we suffer with Christ. Suffering with Christ would then be necessary for salvation; but this no evangelical reader of the Scriptures would believe or assert. Alas! how few children of God do suffer with Christ. The sole qualification for becoming "children of God" is belief in, and receiving or accepting, Christ as Saviour (John 1: 12). "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16: 31). This being so, manifestly "the suffering with Christ," qualifies the preceding paragraph "joint heirs with Christ,"* and this agrees with other scripture. "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2: 12) - no suffering, no crown - and again, "He that overcometh" - and only the overcomer - "I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne" (Rev. 3: 21). And again, "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations and he shall rule them ... " (Rev. 2: 26, 27).
(* The Greek enforces the distinction: "Heirs on the one hand of God, joint heirs on the other of Christ, since we suffer with [Him] in order also that we may be glorified with [Him].")
Seeing the importance of correct punctuation (in any sentence) to reveal the thoughts of the Writer, Percy W. Heward writes:-
"Romans 8: 17 should be rendered and punctuated thus: 'But if children, also heirs, heirs on the one hand of God; but heirs together with Christ if indeed we are suffering together, that we may also have been glorified together.' If we are children, if we have been quickened by the Holy Spirit, there is no question about our position as heirs. This is unconditional. The contrast between being an heir of God, and a joint-heir of Christ, is not brought out in the Authorised Version. 'And' would imply the blessings are almost one: 'but' is the word Divinely used. Furthermore, the structure of the sentences rather involves this punctuation. Thereby each of the two 'ifs' of the passage has its appropriate accompaniment. But if our position as joint-heirs of Christ is conditional on our suffering together, what shall we say of those who bear the Name of the Lord and who avoid this suffering?"
2Timothy 2: 12 adds its testimony to this privilege: "If we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us: if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." Let us earnestly seek that it may be ours!"