What is Philippians 4:13 talking about?
by Tony Vance
I really get a little upset when people say, “proof texting” when discussing a subject. By this they mean picking and choosing verses to make a point. Now, I do think that it is wrong to find verses that will agree with your preconceived notions or an opinion. Often Christians (even non-believers) will find a verse out of context that makes a point the verse was never meant to make. But, sadly it has got to the point that I am often in debates and the person who doesn’t like my reference and will say, “Don’t proof text me.” I am here to tell you the ‘proof’ is in the ‘text’ and we need to realize this. In other words, taken in its proper context, as the writer intended (as best as we can determine), and used in the context that applies we can “proof-text.”
There are many verses I see lambasted as ‘life’ verses of Christians, seen as platitudes that are meant to soothe the weak minded and weaker Christian. These ‘coffee cup’ slogans are often taken out of context and meant to be a ‘catch all’ ‘be all’ verse. These are often verses that are taken completely out of context and applied to everyone, or meant to be used by everyone in every circumstance. I understand those who don’t like ‘proof-texting’ like that, it is un-biblical and is of no value. Paul said this, 2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
This brings me to a verse often used as a ‘proof text’ to say things Paul didn’t say (by implication the Holy Spirit didn’t inspire him to imply, either). Our verse is, Philippians 4:13 (KJV) “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” This verse is often used, and thought to mean, we can do ANYTHING…anything we choose to put our mind to, as long as it is “in Christ.” Sadly, the verse that comes to my mind often is, James 4:3 (HCSB) “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.” If it is about ‘you’ it is probably not of the Lord. To put it bluntly, if it is winning a football game, getting that new sports car, or about getting something in your life that is selfish in nature, well, Christ ain’t gonna give you that!
What is the point of Philippians 4:13, if not what is often thought of to mean? Any scripture must be carefully examined in its setting, the context of what’s being said, and the clear meaning of the words used…
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