Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
This is probably an oft-quoted verse among Christians. But, as in any passage of Scripture, we must understand the context and original meaning to apply it correctly.
Some translations have the phrase “through him” translated “through Christ.” However, transcribers who copied this letter probably did the insertion of the word Christ, and they may have been connecting it with Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 4:17 – “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me….” Also, the phrase “through him” might have a better rendering as “in him” (Greek en to).
The “all things” here in this particular instance refer to the economic fluctuations of life (v. 12). We need to be careful about inserting a broad definition of what Paul is teaching the Philippian believers. Does this mean that if I can jump over my house in the power of God? Does it mean that I can suddenly sit down and play a perfect rendition of Beethoven’s 9th on the piano? Does it mean that I can achieve anything I put my mind to? Not at all!
Paul teaches that Christ empowers believers to live in God’s will “through him who strengthens” them. I heard it pictured as a train on tracks. The train has the power and ability to take a person from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, Georgia, because of the tracks. If it could decide to do whatever it felt and leave the tracks in North Carolina and head to Nashville, Tennessee, it would become a wreck. No matter how hard the engineer attempted to push the train toward Nashville, it would be in ruins once it left the tracks.
Paul says that he is totally empowered (ἐνδυναμόω endunamoō, to be strengthened or empowered) to do anything that God’s will for him is. Paul had learned that whatever Christ wanted him to do, Christ empowered him to do it. It is essential to be in God’s will, and His will is determined by knowledge of the Bible. Jesus told us in John 15:7 – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” It is important to be IN God’s will to be able to claim this promise.
Paradoxically, Paul was strong when he was weak; independent only when dependent. Paul talks about this in his second letter to the Corinthian Church. In chapter 12, Paul speaks about having a thorn in the flesh. Paul prayed three times for God to remove this thorn that he felt was a hindrance in his work for God. God responded to him in verse 9 of the 12th chapter – “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB) God empowers His plan and will – not our plan or desires.
This means that we need to spend time in God’s Word. If we get the total Word of God, we get the total Will of God. “There is joy, there is satisfaction and sheer delight in being in the will of God and doing what God wants you to do.”
Such is the life of a true disciple.
More in-depth Insights
I can do all things. From Paul’s experience in the vastly different circumstances of life, he concludes that he could “do all things.” He could endure any trial, carry out any responsibility, restrain or suppress any evil inclination of his fallen nature, and deal with all the temptations from his imperfect human condition or adversity. He now communicates his well-founded belief that he would be able to accomplish anything that is asked of him. In Paul, this assertion was not some arrogant self-confidence, nor was it the sheer result of his life experience of always pulling through one difficulty after another. He knew that there was a strength that he had obtained that enabled him to “do all things,” and he confidently relied on that power that strengthened him beyond what was normal.
Through him who strengthens me; Of Christ’s strength, Paul had had ample experience; now, his entire confidence was in him. It was not in any natural ability that Paul possessed, nor was it in his body strength or intensity of mind. It was not in any power he had within himself; it was in the strength he obtained from Jesus Christ. Through his strength in Christ, he was empowered to endure cold, exhaustion, and hunger. Through the same, he dealt with temptations and persecutions. And that same power strengthened him to carry out whatever assignment God gave him. No Christian should (1) fall under any trial, for Christ can strengthen him. (2) No Christian should ever give in to temptation. Christ can enable him to endure or give him the wisdom to avoid or escape. (3) No Christian should be hounded, exasperated, and tormented with improper thoughts and immoral desires. Christ can enable him to remove and eliminate such unclean thoughts from his mind and restore his spiritual maturity. (4) No Christian should be frightened of the future and what it holds. Difficulties, enticements, hardship, wanton desires, and persecution could be a part of his future. However, he does not need to sink into despair. Christ can strengthen him and enable him to overcome every moment of his life. Therefore, what an honor it is to be a Christian. Every Christian has before them the opportunity to have Christ as their friend and strength, always helping them in the trials of life. This kind of faith should allow every Christian the opportunity to focus on their duties instead of any upcoming difficulties that may fall before them, leaning on the strength of Christ! Therefore, “we are not of those who shrink back to destruction but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Heb. 10:39) Paul also offers this sound advice. “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to the things that have been heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1) Christians should have their mind and heart fixed on Christ through prayer and taking in a deeper understanding of the Spirit-inspired Word of God.
 We do understand that Paul is speaking of Christ, but some critics will try to tell you that this is a mistake in the Bible.
 Space does not allow a discussion about this thorn. Check out a good commentary on 2 Corinthians for more about this issue.
 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, V vols. (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1983). Page 328.
 Pay Attention: (προσέχω prosechō) The sense of προσέχω prosechō is to give heed or the need to pay attention. One must hold more firmly to what they believe or what they have known to be true. Paul is telling these Hebrew Christians, who no longer have the visual aids like the temple or the Jewish high priest, you need to hold more firmly to the things that you have heard.
 Drift Away: (παραρρέω pararreō) The sense of pararreō is to disbelieve or drift away gradually or slowly from what one had formerly known to be true. It is like being carried away by the water current. Because of their daily harassment from the Jews in and around Jerusalem, these Hebrew Christians, who were living where they could see what we now call the eighth wonder of the world, the Jewish temple, was gradually giving up their belief in the truth.