God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Our question was this: Is this a contradiction of being "saved by grace through faith...not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9)?
We need to give Paul some credit. He isn't into contradicting himself. Tim Keller in his study on Romans, explains.
Paul [in the above verses] is dealing with good works as the test on the day of judgment, NOT good works as the basis of salvation with God. A good way to illustrate the difference is--the apples on an apple tree prove life, but they don't provide life. The apples are the test that the tree is alive, but it is the roots which pull in nourishment. In the same way, faith in Christ alone provides new life (brings it in from God), but a changed life of righteousness is what proves we have real faith.
So how do we know if our heart is right with God or not?
Verse 7 gives tests that indicate a person is right with God: "persistence in doing good" means that doing good and living well has become a persistent pattern; "seeking glory, honor and immortality" means that these qualities that come from life with God. The person who is right with God does not do good deeds for their own sake. He or she wants to become a particular kind of person--one like God.
Verse 8 gives tests that indicate a person is not right with God: "self-seeking" is the tell-tale sign. It means to have a spirit of self-will, or self-glorification. This is something that can be pursured either through being irreligious and licentious, or through being moral and religious and upright; "rejecting the truth and follow evil" means that there is an unwillingness to be instructed and to learn from God's truth. A lack of teachability, a refusal to submit to truth outside one's own convictions and heart [shows that one is not right with God.]