You may or may not have noticed, but modern translations differ significantly from the King James Version at Romans 8:1. Modern translations, like the NASB and the NIV, say that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The KJV, however, adds the clarifying sentence, "who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
I’ve heard some Christians complain that the new versions take responsibility away from us. Like the false teachers mentioned in Jude, they turn grace into a license for sin (Jude 4), by removing the requirement to walk in the Spirit.
I don’t agree.
Don’t get me wrong. Paul makes it very clear that there is condemnation for those who claim to be in Christ Jesus but who do not walk after the Spirit. "If we live according to the flesh," he says just eleven verses later, "we will die."
Whether you believe that death is only physical (as ridiculous as that interpretation is) or whether you believe it is spiritual, Romans 8:12 proclaims judgment on those who walk after the flesh rather than after the Spirit. Galatians 6:7-9 does the same, saying that those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption from the flesh.
In both cases, our walking after the flesh is not simply forgiven or covered in the blood of Christ. Those who walk after the flesh are not among those blessed ones "to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
But Paul does not need to point that out in Romans 8:1. He already points it out in Romans 8:2!
Sometimes it’s good to make sure we understand one verse because it clarifies a whole lot of others.
Romans 8:2 says, "The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death."
Somehow, most of us (including me for many years) read that comment about the law of sin and death, and we have some general, hazy idea of "the law of sin and death" that we never really think through. We just sort of think, "Yeah, yeah; Jesus died for us." We never get around to really ruminating on the Word of God and becoming clean by doing so.
The law of sin and death is the law that Paul has just spent an entire chapter explaining. There were no chapter breaks in Paul’s original letter to the Romans. He’s still talking about what he described in Romans 7. Sin lives in us, compels us to disobedience, and then disobedience to the law of God slays us.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Paul tells us, has delivered us from Romans 7.
Romans 8:1 doesn’t need the clarifying statement “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:2 is that clarifying statement.
Paul even ties Romans 8:2 to Romans 8:1 with the Greek word gar, which basically means "because." There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has delivered them from the law of sin and death.
What is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus? Paul goes on to explain that. Romans 8:3 also begins with gar. It explains Romans 8:2. The Law of Moses couldn’t deliver us from our bondage to sin, Romans 8:3 tells us, but God could and did. He did that by sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.
Romans 8:4 then has the clarifying statement that is not needed in Romans 8:1. "The righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled in those of us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."