He will render to each one according to his works: (ESV)
There are passages of Scripture that if read without reading the rest of Scripture can hinder a proper understanding. This is one of those verses. Many will read that verse and suggest that we are made right with God by our works. In fact, they will look at their own collection of works and feel confident that they will be made right God.
Is Paul really suggesting salvation is by works? We know that in Ephesians 2:8-9 the Apostle Paul tells the church at Ephesus, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." If we look at both of these passages together we cannot come up with an understanding that we are saved by works.
The one who has been saved by the grace of God understands that their own works did not save them. But there is something else that happens in the life of one who has been saved by grace. They will do works! Let's look at one more verse of Scripture. James says in James 2:18, I will show you my faith by my works."
The one who has been saved by grace will evidence the genuineness of their faith by what they do. It is not their work that saved them. But they are saved unto good works. Works are the evidence that grace has done its work in a person's life. Until we are born again we are unable to do any works that are pleasing to God. After we have come to new life in Christ we are set free to do good works.
We know that we are all condemned without the atoning work of Christ on our behalf. The works of the unrighteous condemn them. The works of the righteous give evidence to saving faith. Which works are yours?