Paul reminds his readers of the information God gave to Elijah when he complained to the Lord about the circumstances in Israel regarding his cause. From Elijah’s perspective, he had assumed that he was the only Israelite truly serving God at that time. Why he thought this is unclear, but it looks as if he had a tendency to isolate himself from other believers, therefore not having fellowship, and also to serve God by himself. Whatever the reason, God told him that there were still many who worshipped him.
The obvious lesson for us is that we cannot judge the extent of God’s kingdom by what we can see from our vantage point of faithfulness to him. God does not tell any of us everything that he is doing. He can keep secret from us and from the hands of opponents thousands of his people if he chooses to do so.
Another lesson is that God can save people even when the majority of reject him. In Elijah’s day, the majority turned away from God and followed Baal. In Paul’s time, the majority refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. Nevertheless in both periods the Lord had his people, just as he has today. Our eyes should not be on the beliefs of the majority, whatever the ideas are, but on the God who can save his people even when the vast majority of people reject him. At times, the percentage may fluctuate up or down, but the pattern is that there will always be sinners who experience the grace of God.
This is a great encouragement for evangelism. Paul reminds his readers that at that time there was a remnant of Jews who accepted that Jesus was the Messiah, even although the story of the gospel seemed ridiculous to most of them. The emphasis on a crucified Saviour was preposterous to most people. Even so today.We are living in a period when the gospel is ridiculed, but we should always remember what Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 when he said that the gospel was the power of salvation to Jews and to Gentiles.