Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Is There Really No Condemnation for All Who Claim to Follow Christ? (Rom 8:1)

Paul can sometimes make broad statements that are open to misunderstanding, especially when read out of context. In some of these cases, we see later scribes trying to qualify what he said so as to clarify -- in their minds -- what Paul means. Enter the wonderful world of textual criticism.

In Romans 7, Paul admits his struggle with sin (one interpretation of the chapter) and cries out in v 24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He immediately answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

In 8:1, he then summarizes the result of his divine deliverance. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” “therefore now” being an especially emphatic conclusion (ἄρα νῦν). Paul may also be thinking all the way back to 5:12–21. V 2 summarizes (γάρ) how he was delivered. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Apparently, to some scribes, v 1 sounded too unguarded. Does Paul really mean to say that there is literally no condemnation for all people? The Majority text adds the qualifier, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (KJV). Other manuscripts simply have, “who do not walk according to the flesh.”

This is one of those situations in which a text-critical decision is easy, and all modern translations go with the shorter reading. There is no reason to have dropped the phrase, and its inclusion based on v 4 makes sense. UBS gives its omission an A rating. In fact, it is so obviously a later addition that I did not include it on my website,, but I think I will add it in now.

Having said that, the thrust of the addition is important. Those who have truly been delivered by the work of the Spirit will be walking according to the Spirit. Ongoing obedience is one of the assurances of our salvation and that we do not stand under condemnation. To the degree that a person is not walking by the Spirit, to the same degree they cannot be confident of their salvation. The person who raised their hand at camp and then lived apart from the Spirit for the next fifty years can have no assurance of their salvation.


Good evening, Dr. Mounce. There is another verse which I have been meaning to ask you about for some time now. This verse is Rom. 12:11, and many English translations (I checked the NASB, your translation, ESV, KJV, NIV, WEB, among others) translate the last part of the verse as “serving [or serve] the Lord”. However, the original Koine Greek word is δουλεύοντες, which obviously means “to serve as a slave”. But my problem is that everywhere else in the NT when the author just simply wants to use the word “serve”, διακονέω or a similar word is used (for instance, in Luke 10:40 when Martha is upset that Mary is not helping her with serving the guests). It seems that Paul was specific in his use of δουλεύοντες and wanted to show that we serve Jesus as slaves under a master, not as equals. But all the English translations omit this detail. Is there an explanation for this? Cordially, Eleazar

Brother Bill, I'm slightly baffled as to why you think it is so obvious that "who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit" is an addition. Why might Paul want to say it? Because, of course, he doesn't want someone to get the impression that they can be in Christ Jesus in spite of the fact that they live according to the flesh. Why would someone want to drop the words (if it was done intentionally, which is less likely than otherwise)? Because they want to assure people that you are not condemned if you are (supposedly) in Christ, no matter how you live. If manuscripts are given priority based on greater age, then does not this logic equally require that if an early church father quotes a verse, his quotation carries the weight of age of his era? If we have quotations of Romans 8:1 the reflect the Majority text from Victorinus (4th century) Ambrosiaster (4th century) Ephraim of Syria (4th century) John Chrysostom (4th century) and Origen (3rd century), and these writers are contemporary with or prior to the earliest manuscripts with the shorter reading, does this not imply that the Majority Text reading is likely to be the original? Thanks, Philip Hess