to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; (ESV)
Who would not want eternal life? I would think something would be severely wrong with someone who does not want eternal life. As we look at this verse it would be easy for us to take a formulaic approach to understanding how to achieve eternal life. We would just need to be patient in well-doing, seeking glory and honor and immortality, and we will receive eternal life.
As always, we need to dig a little deeper. There are principles of Scripture that need to be a part of our evaluation of this verse. The first thing that comes to mind when we look at this verse is "Who are these people who are demonstrating qualities of patience, well-doing, proper seeking of glory and honor and immortality?"
Paul will make it very clear in later portions of this Book of Romans (Romans 3 in particular) that mankind is by nature evil. None of us has the character qualities that are mentioned here in today's verse. The only ones who have these qualities are the people who have already been transformed by God's wonderful grace. For a better understanding let us turn to the great Martin Luther. Here is a little wisdom from the year 1520:
"True, then, are these two sayings: "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works"; "Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works." Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person. As Christ says, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matt. vii. 18). Now it is clear that the fruit does not bear the tree, nor does the tree grow on the fruit; but, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruit, and the fruit grows on the trees."
- Martin Luther
Our substance must be good before we are able to demonstrate truly good works. So for the one seeking immortality and eternal life you must receive salvation by grace through faith. Then you will naturally demonstrate the qualities mentioned in today's verse.