Paul is fond of jumping ahead in his argument, and sometimes it makes us feel like we haven’t figured out the previous section. Though not as prominent as it might have been, lurking (like some of you readers) around chp 7 is that the Law activates sin and sin leads to death.
And that is why Paul suddenly jumps in a rather glorious announcement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1).
Unpacked: Israel struggled with the Torah to do it, and couldn’t get the job done. (Or, for others: everyone failed to do the Torah.) God sent Christ. Paul is thinking of death: those who are in Christ are those who have died with Christ and his death becomes their death. The condemnation that death is has been dealt with when Christ died on the cross. Now let this be said: Paul is a thanatologist. He’s a mortician. His theology is about death and life.
An alternative view of 8:1 is that perhaps Paul has in mind the obedience of Christ: Christ did the Torah perfectly. Either Paul thinks in terms of imputation of Christ’s obedience to us, or he is thinking in simpler terms of incorporation into the Christ who did fulfill the Torah.
The emphasis of this text is that Christ took care of death and the Spirit empowers the Christian to live obediently. The only expression here that gets close to imputation is 8:4, and it is not clear to me that Paul has that in mind. He might, and he might not.
More unpacking: For those in Christ, the condemnation to death from the Torah is over.
The “now” is the Age of the Spirit. It is the Age of Life.