Question: "What does it mean that there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1)?"
Answer: One of the wonderful truths of Scripture is found in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
In his letter to the Romans, Paul presents the importance of the good news of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16–17). We need this good news because all people, in their sin, are under condemnation (Romans 1:18—3:20). Paul then explains the gospel (Romans 3:21—4:25) and what it means to no longer be under condemnation, describing the implications of being declared righteous by God (Romans 5—8). He concludes this section of the epistle by affirming the eternality of the righteousness given by God and asserts that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Paul adds an example of the trustworthiness of God (Romans 9—11) and challenges believers in Christ to behave in a manner consistent with their new position of righteousness in Christ (Romans 12—16).
The need for salvation is universal because of our connection to Adam and his sin. Adam fell, his nature became sinful, and all humanity bears his image and likeness (Genesis 5). All people born of Adam are naturally under condemnation and separated from God like Adam was (Romans 5:12–15). But Paul explains that those who have believed in Christ are now positionally in Christ. They are justified, or declared righteous, by grace through the redemption in Christ (Romans 3:24), and they are now alive in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). They have eternal life (Romans 6:23). Elsewhere, Paul emphasizes that the one believing in Jesus now has a new identity in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). Where there was once condemnation by God, there is now justification by God. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The believer’s new position, received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), cannot be taken away. Once God declares someone righteous, no one can correctly accuse that person or justly condemn him (Romans 8:31–34). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our condemnation upon Himself; He took the punishment that was due us all (1 Peter 3:18). All who believe in Him have eternal life (John 6:47) and are no longer condemned by God.
It is worth noting that the KJV and some other translations contain an added clause in Romans 8:1: “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, KJV). In the context, Paul explains that those who believe in Christ are those who walk by the Spirit, and the evidence of that is that they have the Spirit of God in them (Romans 8:9). Even if the added words in the KJV are not original to verse 1, the same truth (that we walk in the Spirit) is communicated in Romans 8:4 and Romans 8:9. Those who “walk after the Spirit” are those who are “in Christ”; these are two ways of describing the same thing. In other words, the statement of Romans 8:1 that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus is not conditional. Once someone has believed in Christ, he is in Christ and can never be separated from the love of Christ, as Paul explains in Romans 8:38–39. No created thing (including an individual) can separate anyone from the love of God that is in Christ. When Paul affirms that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), we can be confident of our secure position in Christ.