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.”
“God turns hearts to himself by grace. God keeps hearts for himself 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.
In every people, there is a remnant chosen by grace. God turns hearts to himself by grace. God keeps hearts for himself by grace. That’s what it means for God to be God. “Make them know two things: that you are God and that you turn the heart. You are God and you turn the heart.” That’s what it means for God to be God. “Cause them to know that you are God, that you rule the hearts of men, that you rule their hearts, that you rule the family’s hearts of these men in this room.” Do you believe that? God rules your heart. God rules your children’s heart.
I have five children. Two of them are not following Jesus. I would give anything to see them with me in heaven. It is no comfort to me to think, “God’s helpless. They’re sovereign and he’s helpless.” That’s not a comfort to me. That may solve your problem. It solves no problems for me. My only hope is, “God, you rule the heart. I’ll go down on my knees seven times. I will do anything, but you rule the heart. Which means you can do it. If you have to do it by my funeral, do it. Do whatever it takes because that’s what you do. You are God.”
So I’m thinking your families, I’m thinking your spouses, I’m thinking your girlfriends, I’m thinking your buddies at the pub. I’m thinking whoever you know that you’ve done everything in your power to show them the reality of Christ, and they’re not moving. Don’t ascribe sovereignty to the human heart. It’s not a comfort.
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