Question: Some Protestants believe in predestination. How do you know if you are one of the elect (chosen ones) to go to heaven?
Answer: There are considerable differences among Christians on this doctrine, mostly because people are reluctant to accept all that the Scripture has to say on God’s sovereignty and our moral responsibility. Following the apostle Paul and St Augustine [link], historic Protestantism affirms the doctrine of predestination.
Predestination is clearly taught in the Word of God, as can be seen from the following scriptures:
If you believe that the Bible is God's Word, you too should believe in predestination. From eternity past God has determined and ordained the destiny of his chosen people to salvation and glory. Christians humbly acknowledge that we are “the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23).
Now, to answer your question, “How do I know whether I'm chosen or not?” You can know if you’re beloved of God from his mighty work in you. When God's eternal purpose is fulfilled in us, the results are unmistakable. The apostle Paul says:
The ‘predestined’ are the same who, having heard the Gospel, ‘trusted in Christ.’ They were not predestined because they believed; on the contrary, they trusted in Christ because they had been predestinated for that purpose. So, I can know that I am predestined by God if I manifest genuine faith in Christ. Needless to say, trust in Christ is manifest in love to God and neighbor, personal holiness, and obedience to God’s Word.
The apostle Peter speaks in a similar way: ‘Now to you who believe, this stone (Jesus) is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for’ (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Some believe in Jesus; others do not, and they will be destroyed. According to the apostle Peter, what is the cause of their destruction? Peter gives two reasons: (1) their disobedience to the gospel (‘they disobey the message’); and (2) God’s plan (‘they were destined for’).
The first speaks of human responsibility and culpability. They willingly disobey, and because of their unbelief and hardness of heart, Christ will destroy them. The second speaks of God planning everything that happens in the universe -- of God who is indeed in control of his creation.
Though we may find this hard to accept, the Bible says that some people are destined for stumbling. That does not mean that it is not their fault. They have no-one to blame but themselves! They are the ones who disobeyed; God does not force them to do wrong; they do it voluntarily. On the other hand, their disobedience does not surprise God. Indeed by their sinful actions they fulfill God's eternal plan. And in all this, God is perfectly just.
We should keep both truths before us. We are responsible for our choices; God predestines some to life and others are destined to perish, to receive the deserved penalty for their voluntary, sinful choices. We might find it hard to reconcile both truths in our minds – human responsibility and Divine sovereignty -- but they are true nonetheless for God’s Word teaches both.
If you do not believe in Jesus for your salvation, you are in danger of eternal condemnation in hell. Do not try to excuse your sin saying that you cannot change God’s plan. No indeed you cannot, but your responsibility today is to repent and believe in Christ. If you linger in sin and unbelief until death, then in hell you will acknowledge that God’s decree is just and your condemnation deserved.
If you sincerely believe in Christ, let your heart rest assured that your salvation is rooted in eternity in the mind and heart of God. Before you chose Christ, God had chosen you!
© Dr Joseph Mizzi