“[The Marcionites] say, ‘But God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants.’ Now those who allege such difficulties do not read in the Gospel the passage where the Lord replied to the disciples, when they asked Him, ‘Why do you speak in parables?’ He replied: ‘Because it is given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. However, I speak to them in parables so that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not hear.’…so God knows the number of those who will not believe, since He foreknows all things. So He has given them over to unbelief and turned His face away from men of this character, leaving them in the darkness that they have chosen for themselves. So what is baffling if He gave Pharaoh and those who were with him over to their unbelief? FOR THEY WOULD NEVER HAVE BELIEVED.” (Irenaeus, c. 180, E/W, 1.502; from “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” by editor David W. Bercot, page 286).
Pharaoh is one of the persons marshaled as evidence of Calvinism in Scripture. Not only do Calvinists use Pharaoh: they even use him to argue that God selects certain people for salvation and damns others for reprobation!
According to Irenaeus, God knows ALL THINGS, including those who will believe in Him and those who will not. Because “they would never have believed,” God gives them over to their own choice—a life without Him.
Does this match the words of Scripture? You bet. Let’s read Romans 1:
18 For God's wrath (AH) is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, (AI) 19 since what can be known [o] about God is evident among them, (AJ) because God has shown it to them. 20 From the creation of the world (AK) His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. (AL) As a result, people [p] are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds [q] were darkened. (AM) 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools (AN) 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. (AO)
24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts (AP) to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, (AQ) and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. (AR) Amen.
From Idolatry to Depravity
26 This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. (AS) For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse [r] for what is unnatural. 27 The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse [s] with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males (AT) and received in their own persons [t] the appropriate penalty for their perversion. [u]
28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. 29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, [v] evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, (AU) 30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, (AV) inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, (AW) 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, (AX) [w] and unmerciful. 32 Although they know full well God's just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die (AY) [x] —they not only do them, but even applaud (AZ) [y] others who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32, Holman Christian Standard Bible)
a. Romans 1:1 Or Jesus, a called apostle
b. Romans 1:3 Lit was of the seed of David
c. Romans 1:4 Or the spirit of holiness, or the Holy Spirit
d. Romans 1:5 Lit Him into, or Him for
e. Romans 1:5 Or the obedience that is faith, or the faithful obedience, or the obedience that comes from faith
f. Romans 1:5 Or Gentiles
g. Romans 1:7 1Co1:2-4
h. Romans 1:8 Or because your faith
i. Romans 1:13 Lit I don't want you to be unaware
j. Romans 1:13 Lit have some fruit
k. Romans 1:14 Or non-Greeks
l. Romans 1:16 Other mss add of Christ
m. Romans 1:17 Or revealed out of faith into faith
n. Romans 1:17 Or The one who is righteous by faith will live
o. Romans 1:19 Or what is known
p. Romans 1:20 Lit they
q. Romans 1:21 Lit hearts
r. Romans 1:26 Lit natural use
s. Romans 1:27 Lit natural use
t. Romans 1:27 Or in themselves
u. Romans 1:27 Or error
v. Romans 1:29 Other mss add sexual immorality
w. Romans 1:31 Other mss add unforgiving
x. Romans 1:32 Lit things are worthy of death
y. Romans 1:32 Lit even take pleasure in
Here we find that the subjects in question are those who knew God, who knew that He deserved to be praised, but yet, refused to do so. Instead of praising Him and worshipping Him as God, they gave in to their own desires, committing idolatry with images of the creation rather than the Creator. And because they refused to use their knowledge to do that which is right (worship God), God gave them over to defiled, depraved minds, to do what their flesh wanted to do. In other words, God complied with their wishes: they wanted to be without Him, so He allowed them to experience what life was like apart from Him!
Their depravation is what Nebuchadnezzar himself experienced when he refused to give God the glory due His name:
29 At the end of 12 months, as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, 30 the king exclaimed, "Is this not Babylon the Great that I have built by my vast power to be a royal residence and to display my majestic glory?" (AJ)
31 While the words were still in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared that the kingdom has departed from you. (AK) 32 You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He wants."
33 At that moment the sentence against Nebuchadnezzar was executed. He was driven away from people. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky, until his hair grew like eagles' [feathers] and his nails like birds' [claws]. (AL)
34 But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever: (AM)
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and His kingdom is from generation to generation. (AN)
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing,
and He does what He wants (AO) with the army of heaven
and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can hold back His hand
or say to Him, "What have You done?" (AP)
36 At that time my sanity returned to me, and my majesty and splendor returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and my nobles sought me out, I was reestablished over my kingdom, and even more greatness came to me. (AQ) 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all His works are true and His ways are just. (AR) And He is able to humble (AS) those who walk in
pride. (AT) (Daniel 4:29-37, HCSB)
As you can see, when Nebuchadnezzar, like those of the Gentile world (Rom. 1) refused to give thanks to God or glorify His name, Nebuchadnezzar became as an animal. Nebuchadnezzar was an animal without God, JUST AS WE ALL ARE! Without God, we are nothing more that instinctual beings who live and thrive in all sorts of ungodliness. We are depraved and deprived when we are outside of or away from God. But, like Nebuchadnezzar, when we turn to God and worship Him and lift up His name, then “our sanity” returns and, suddenly, we begin to do what we were created to do—GLORIFY GOD!
I will get started on Pharaoh in Part II. Stay tuned...