I can do all things

Tuesday, January 31, 2023 @ 8:13 PM

How many times have you heard someone who is struggling say, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me? This is often said without understanding what Paul, who wrote these words actually meant. Paul had just written of blessings he received as well as the adversity he had faced in the work he did in the proclamation of the gospel of his Lord Jesus Christ. One commentator states, "(Paul) makes it perfectly clear that this contentment did not arise from his own inherent or innate resources. Quite the reverse. His self-sufficiency was entirely due to the sufficiency of Another, and so it was very different from that of the Stoic. The preposition ἐν has been taken in an instrumental sense to denote personal agency (= ‘through [him who strengthens me]’), but, while this is possible, it is probably better to understand the phrase in an incorporative sense, that is, ‘in vital union with the one who strengthens me’, with the implication that the One who so strengthens Paul is Christ. Later scribes inserted the word Χριστῷ and so made explicit the apostle’s intention. ἐνδυναμόω (‘to strengthen’) is employed elsewhere in the Pauline corpus to describe the mighty work of the exalted Christ in the lives of individual believers. 1

Most cherry-pick this verse while missing the meat of the chapter. In verse 14 Paul says, while the above is true, "I thank you for standing with me in my trouble. Here the commentator states, "Paul turns from his discussion of learning to be content (4:11–13) and returns to the important theme of partnership.2

You see this is the meat of the chapter. We are not in the work of sharing the gospel on our own. We belong to a congregation of brothers and sisters who share in this work. Earlier in Philippians Paul tells us, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. (2:4) We are called to be shoulders to lean on for those who are suffering, and struggling with the tribulation of this world. It is also important for those who are struggling to reach out for aid and not try in pride to be a lone ranger proclaiming "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" in an attempt to be stoic.

2. Hansen, G. W. (2009). The Letter to the Philippians (p. 315). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

1. O’Brien, P. T. (1991). The Epistle to the Philippians: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 526–527). Eerdmans.