Q: “If we are ‘chosen’ by God, some argue that there is not much hope for heaven unless you are ‘chosen.’ How does one answer this?”
A: As long as one hears the Gospel, which tells of the unconditional love of God toward all sinners in sending Christ to pay for all sins, there is always hope for heaven. There is no salvation, there is no election or predestination apart from hearing the Gospel as God presents it to hearts of sinners in Word and Sacrament. Faith in Christ, which is absolutely necessary for one to have eternal life, is always worked in an individual only through Baptism and the message of God’s Word. This is how the forgiveness of sins won by Christ is brought to the unconverted soul, enabling the Holy Spirit to do his work. For this reason, no one in this world should ever be regarded as beyond help, provided that the Gospel is able to reached them and possibly work conversion. In Ephesians 1, one of the most important sections of the doctrine of election, the Apostle Paul states: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”
You and I cannot tell exactly who the chosen and elect are, for we are unable to read people’s hearts. That is something only God can do. Nevertheless, it is possible for a person to know with certainty that he or she is of the elect by trusting in the promise of God: “…whoever believes in him (Christ) shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God will not or cannot ever go back on his Word.
It is sad that many today have followed Calvin’s view on election. Many souls have been terrified, even while listening to the beautiful gospel, simply because they have been “scared” by Calvin’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in predestination, which has (to a greater or lesser degree) detached it from the Gospel promises in Scripture. From this has also come the despicable teaching of “double predestination,” which asserts that God not only has chosen some for eternal life but that he also has chosen many for eternal death. This flies completely in the face of what Paul told Timothy: “(God) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
With Luther, we believe that the grace of God and not his sovereign power is the pinnacle of all that is recorded in Scripture. One cannot talk about the doctrine of election unless God’s grace in Christ and the means through which he conveys that grace are brought to the forefront. This is the only way that the Christian takes comfort in this mysterious teaching.