Romans 2:6 NASB
“who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:”
The great day of judgement is not something I think we can fathom and fully understand. It will be the greatest day of all mourning and weeping for damnation for many, as well as many who will rejoice for salvation. All peoples of all history will stand before God and give an account of their deeds. The problem is that all fall short. Paul is not contradicting himself in this passage, this passage is clarifying that all will stand before God (who shows no partiality) and all their deeds will be examined and judged by God. We are not saved by our deeds, we are judged by them. Only by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ are we saved. Out of that salvation brings forth good works which we will still be judged by, but we stand justified before God not on account of our deeds but by the work that Jesus did on the cross.
This passage Paul is quoting is from Psalm 62:12 which is a long believed truth that God renders to mankind according to their deeds. God is just, and He will judge all of us according to what we have done on this earth. For those who have rebelled against God and lived in unbelief towards Jesus they will be judged according to their wickedness and receive their due penalty. For those who have faith in Jesus and live according to His commandments will receive judgement not according to their deeds but according to the deeds and righteousness of Jesus Christ. What a terrible things to fall into the hands of an angry God and to stand condemned before Him.
“This, then, is our reward if we will confess Him by whom we have been saved. But in what way will we confess Him? We confess Him by doing what He says, not transgressing His commandments, and by honoring Him not only with our lips, but with all our heart and all our mind…Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He says, ‘Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will be saved, but he that works righteousness.’ For that reason, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another.” Second Clement (c. 150), 7.518.
What Clement so eloquently said, is so true to God’s character. Though our salvation is not of anything we do, or don’t do, it is in fact manifested like a tree bears fruit. If an apple tree is alive and well, it will produce apples. But if it is dead, it only awaits to be chopped up for firewood. We could not possibly hope to attain salvation by good works. God judging our works based on salvation would mean our demise. But God judging us based off of justification of Jesus’ righteousness in us provides us not only with right standing with God but also the ability and the mandate to do good works out of that salvation.