Paul looks around in his day, perhaps Elijah-like, and what does he see? Messiah has come and the people of Israel, almost en masse, have rejected him. And he relates that to Elijah’s story. Romans 11:1: “Has God rejected his people?” He answers, “By no means!” And then he reaches back to the despairing words of Elijah in Romans 11:3, “I alone am left.”
And then Paul puts God’s sovereign words over against Elijah’s despairing words, quoting 1 Kings 19:18 in Romans 11:4: “But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’” I have kept them.
Paul is drawing on the main point of this story: “I have kept them. I have kept my people. I have not abandoned my people. I’ll never abandon my people. I can’t lose my people. I turn hearts. People are not sovereign. I’m sovereign.” Romans 11:5, “So too at the present time” — just like in Elijah’s day — “there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”
Do you see how he’s thinking? The main point of Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 19 is, “God, make them know that if anybody is coming to God, if anybody has experienced repentance, if anybody is experiencing a turn in their whole mind and framework, you are at work. You are doing it. This is what you do.” And he says that this is true in every generation — Jew and Gentile. That’s everybody in London.