Romans 8:1 is widely misunderstood for two reasons: first, katakrima, the word typically translated as condemnation, does not mean that. We discussed that in Part 1 of this blog. Second, the people being described as having no katakrima are not all who believe in Christ for everlasting life, but a particular type of believer. That is the subject of this blog, Part 2.
Romans 8:1 represents what we might call a major textual variation which occurred in the copying process. Typically differences between manuscripts are very minor—differences in the spelling of a name, a difference in a letter or two, or the difference of a word or two.
In Rom 8:1 the textual difference is thirteen words in English (“who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”) or seven words in Greek (mē kata sarkaperipatousinalla kata Pneuma). The majority of Greek manuscripts, along with some of the early manuscripts as well (A, fifth century; K, ninth century; P 33, sixth century; P 88, 4th century; P 104, seventh century) include those words at the end of v 1. However, a few early manuscripts omit those words (Aleph, fourth century; B, fourth century; D, fifth century; G, ninth century).
In modern textual theory, most English translations follow the view that there are three super manuscripts: Aleph, A, and B. Those three are early and thought to be very accurate (though they differ in thousands of places). Thus, many think that if two of those three agree, as they do in Rom 8:1 (with Aleph and B in favor of omitting and A in favor of the longer reading), then that is the correct reading.
The following English translations omit the longer reading of Rom 8:1: NASB, NIV, ESV, HCSB, LEB, NET, RSV, NRSV, ASV.
Translations which include the longer reading include the KJV, NKJV, MEV, YLT, and WYC.
The exact same seven Greek words are found at the end of Rom 8:4 in all translations and all Greek manuscripts. All translators and commentators acknowledge that the words found in the longer reading are clearly found in v 4. Those who wish to omit them in v 1 think a scribe added them there. However, since the majority of manuscripts contain these words, and since they fit the context perfectly, it is reasonable to conclude that Paul, not a later scribe, included them. Paul was not speaking of all believers here, but of believers “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
As Paul goes on to explain in the verses which follow, to walk according to the Spirit refers to believers who “set their minds on…the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5). Such believers are not “carnally minded,” but are “spiritually minded” (Rom 8:6).
Those believers to whom the Holy Spirit gives victory in their Christian lives, that is, those believers for whom there is no slavery to sin [katakrima] in their experience, are believers whose minds have been renewed. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom 12:2, emphasis added).
Christianity is a battle for the mind. The legalist (Romans 7) experiences spiritual defeat because he has his mind set on the flesh, not on the Spirit. While the legalist thinks he is spiritually minded, he is misguided.
The Spiritually-minded believer has “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). That is, he has his thinking changed by the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to it. As our thinking becomes godly, our behavior follows.
Many wrongly think that if our actions improve, then our thinking will become sound as well. The truth is just the opposite. If our thinking improves, then our actions will become sound as well. Focus on your behavior, as Paul did early in his Christian life (Romans 7), and you have a carnal mindset, and you will experience spiritual defeat. Focus on Christ and fall more and more in love with Him (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 3:18; 5:14-15; 1 John 4:19), and you will be spiritually minded, and you will experience “life and peace” (Rom 8:6).
Paul says “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom 8:6). In light of the very next verse, by death he means “enmity with God.” To be carnally minded is to be out of fellowship with God. The carnally minded believer is not a friend of God. He has enmity with Him.
So, what would you prefer—life and peace, or enmity with God? It is obvious, is it not? Victory in the Christian life is found by being Spiritually minded. The goal of our ministry is to aid believers in becoming and remaining Spiritually minded. We think that is a good goal.