As a Latter-day Saint, there was a time when the letter to the Romans in the New Testament seemed like a theological maze. Whenever I spoke with non-LDS, they would point to verses in it to support their claim that "Grace only" or "Believe and Confess" were the theological underpinnings.
I took up Romans as my own special project, to try to get my arms around it. After many years of study, I have reached several conclusions which I think are helpful to people of all faiths.
1. The letter to the Romans was primarily written to the Jews of the Church at Rome. Romans 2:17, 4:1, 7:1-2. There are parts written to everyone, but Paul repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament and illuminates what the proper understanding of the role of "works" are in salvation.
2. "Works" are almost always meant to be understood as works or deeds of the Law of Moses. There was an article from Biblical Archeology Review in Nov/Dec 1994 which demonstrated that Paul is almost always using the phrase "works/deeds of the Law" as a technical defined term closely corresponding to writings by the same name in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
3. Paul requires obedience as a fundamental condition of faith. Romans 10:16 literally defines it as such.
4. Works differ from obedience and walking or living in Christ because of the intent. Paul talks about works as a way of earning salvation, without a requirement of exercising faith. Obedience not only expresses our faith, but grows it as well.
5. Probably the most fascinating point in Paul's writings, and continuously ignored by those who advocate a "Grace Only" salvation scheme, is Paul's central teachings that through Jesus Christ, ALL people are already saved and justified in the sight of God (Romans 5:18; 7:9); that they retain this state of salvation only by refraining from sin and walking in faith (Rom 6:15-18; 8:1,4) , and failure to do so results in damnation (Rom 8:5-6).
Paul teaches that God is no respector (2:11) of people, and that all have sinned(3:23). He elaborates on this in Romans 5 by pointing out that through Adam, sin entered the world to all people(5:12). He points out, though, that Christ's atonement covers all of mankind's sins, not just those of the believers(5:18). The gift of the Atonement is on all mankind for justification unto life. This becomes the foundational teaching for why we must obey, because the only thing which differentiates believers from non-believers is their attempt to follow Christ and be led by the Spirit. Otherwise they are worthy of damnation, just as the unfaithful are (1:32).
6. Paul's teachings on Election and predestination are exclusively about God's selection of Israel as the channel to deliver prophets and ultimately Christ. This an area of Paul's teachings where he heavily draws on Old Testament verses (Isa 29:16; Jer 18:6) to show it is the corporate body of the children of Israel which God had chosen, and now he had chosen the New Testament Church as the same vehicle for dispensing salvation.
7. Romans 10:9 about confessing and believing is about being taught the Gospel by authorized preachers (10:15) and upon exercising faith, we must be obedient (10:16). Romans 10:13 is from Joel 3:5, and was quoted by Peter at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). When asked by those listening what they needed to do, as they felt the Spirit testify their preaching was true (Acts 2:37), since they already BELIEVED in Jesus, they were told to "repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost...Save yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:38-40)
Paul teaches in Romans that it is through water baptism that one puts on Jesus Christ and becomes the New Man (Romans 6:3-5). Living our life in obedience is our confession of who we are, that is, we are Christ's (Rom 7:4, 12:5).
8. Lastly, Romans 8 is teaching that mankind can become like God. The phraseology Paul uses, calling those who are saved the "children of God", "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ", to be glorified (vss17-18), of which receipt of the Spirit is just the beginning of the gifts we are to receive(vs 23), but he notes that what we are now, even with the Spirit, not even a glimmer of what we will become (vss 19-21). Again, this is consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament that man's destiny was to rule over all the creations of God (Rom 4:13, Ps 8:6).
Paul begins and ends the letter to the Romans by mentioning obedience (1:5; 16:19,26), and he laces it 10 more times directly in the letter, then uses language such as "do" (48 times), walk (6 times), follow (3 times), keep(twice) to emphasize our part in our salvation.
'Faith' in Romans results in obedience, and obedience results in our continuing salvation. It is possible to have Faith without obedience. The lack of obedience leads us to death. Thus James and Paul completely agree that Faith without works is dead, being alone.