From a passing glance of these verses (Romans 8:1-8), the first thing that is easily noticed is the difference in the length of the passage. The formal equivalent was the shortest while the paraphrase was longest. Secondly, something else that was fairly obvious was the readability of each style the ESV was the most challenging to read, while still being readable; the NIV fell in the middle being a little easier to comprehend; now the NLT was the easiest to digest. Something else that stands out between these different versions is the sentence structure; the ESV has longer sentences with bigger words; while the NLT has shorter sentences with smaller easier to understand words.
There is one glaring difference that stands out in verse three where the ESV has translated sarx as flesh, both the NIV and the NLT have translated it as sinful nature. Douglas J. Moo gives an rather lengthy treatment of this area in his NIVAC on Romans. He says that it was a challenging, because “most English readers think of the term flesh either as the meat on our bones or sexual sin. Neither is close to what Paul intends.” There are two possible meanings behind what Paul is referring to either the physical body, or to human kind as a whole. Now an area that was confusing is when the ESV actually uses the term “likeness of sinful flesh”, the NIV uses “likeness of sinful man”; the NLT “ bodies we sinners have.” As you read through the three progressions you notice as Mounce says that the interpreters have added commentary to try and make the material more accessible to the reader.
Some of the advantages and disadvantages of this passage may not be as obvious to some as they are to others. One of the advantages of having a translation like the NLT is you can easily understand what the author is trying to say about a given topic, because they are assuming a certain level of biblical illiteracy. While as a new believer it may be more acceptable to use a paraphrase when you are first reading the Bible it is not something you want to rely heavily upon as you mature. It is as the writer of Hebrews spoke of “going form milk to meat.” (Hebrews 5:12-13) Another disadvantage is that a paraphrase or functional equivalent is doing more of your thinking for you in their translating taking away your ability to discern what that text is trying to say.