Philippians 4:10-13

One of the things about the conviction to study the Scripture properly is that sometimes you know that a scripture reference is being quoted out of context in public setting and there is nothing you can do about it. Or sometimes these references are quoted out of context in other settings and people just take it because it sounds so right at the time of quoting. One of my favourite of such cases must belong to Philippians 4:13. In most versions, it is translated as "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." And of course, because of this verse, Christians can do all things... including flying and walking on water...

And of course, because of this verse, Christians can overcome the stress of examination and go into the examination hall to score big on the exam even though they have no idea what the lecturers taught.

Because of this verse, Christians can go into the marketplace and perform all kinds of miracles, because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

After all, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. All things means all things, right?

Let's take a relook into this verse:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)
One of the cardinal rules in interpreting Scripture is looking at a verse in context. Philippians 4:10-13 belongs to the one chunk.  So in order to understand the verse, we need to look at it in context. From this chunk of passage, we notice a few repeated words: "concern", "content", "in need", "plenty". So in Philippians 4:10-12, we see that Paul was talking about himself having learned how to be content in circumstances. So, when we look at the relationship of the verses, I can almost certainly say that Philippians 4:13 most likely do not address the situations of the students in examination (so them quoting it during examination is probably not the most accurate application of the verse) and it definitely does not address the fact that Christians can go out and do all things for Christ. According to Gordon Fee, the famed NT scholar, Paul's point is that he has learned to live in either want or plenty through the enabling of Christ and being in Christ, not just being self-sufficient, has rendered both want and weal of little or no significance. In actual fact, in one stroke, Paul used Philippians 4:13 to turn his readers' attention to the fact that his contentment comes from Christ, not from his external circumstances.

So I really think that preachers sometimes need to stop using this verse to convince people that God will go out and serve because this is not what this verse is meant for.

Just saying.


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