He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality;
Romans 2:6-7 HCSB
The passage goes on to describe what is in store for those whose actions do not get categorized as good, but you hear the message, right? It seems Paul needs to be informed of how Jesus will be heading out keys to the pearly gates, because this directly contradicts that the only thing I have to give an answer for is whether or not I believed in Jesus. What Paul says here shakes the very core of the “just ask Jesus into your heart” teaching.
Sure, it’s comforting to be told that when you asked Jesus to live in your heart at 5, that sealed you and you can live however you want and you’re still God’s child. Parents of erring children find solace in words that tell them their hellian son is still heaven bound regardless of what he believes now because he prayed at VBS when he was 8 years old. But if it’s not true, if it’s not what the Bible teaches, what good is it? If a high diver finds the strength to leap off the board into the pool 20+ feet below as long as he believes there’s water; if there’s no water, will that help him?
What is Paul driving at? To state the obvious; he isn’t speaking but writing this. We need to remember that. Each word is purposeful. He has a plan, he has a goal and his words are intentional in a way that impromptu verbal speaking tends to not be. He’s sharpening the stick to a point in order to take aim and pierce the heart of his target. Many strokes of the knife are whittling away, and one of those is this topics of works/faith and justification.
Jesus teaches the same as Paul when He tells the parable of the sheep and the goats (recorded in Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep and the goats are separated, not by their statement of faith, but by their actions. Those condemned are told they are so because of what they did NOT do.
Once more, we see that faith and works are inseparable.