What is “All Things”?

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” Phil 4:13

I’m studying Greek as a part of furthering my education for usefulness in the translation and consultant world. Greek is a beautifully complex language and I love the new light my studies are shedding on Scripture. This morning I read a blog by my instructor, Bill Mounce, on this verse, and it really resonated with me.

I have often felt uncomfortable with the random quoting of this verse in the most peculiar of situations, as if “all things” in this verse literally means everything conceivable. It tends towards a carte blanche endorsement of any endeavor. (I can fly if I believe Christ gives me the strength for it.)  I have also cringed upon hearing this verse used to approve of what I call “Christian Buddhism” which promotes of a constant state of emotional equilibrium based on “Christ who strengthens me.”

The Greek uses “all” as a substantive adjective in this verse, meaning, “things” is not to be found–all stands in as a noun. Literally it says, “I can do all…” And the “all” is in a tense and gender that suggests it is referring to previously mentioned “things.”

The previously mentioned things in Philippians 4 are contentment in adverse circumstances, joy in Christ, living without material comfort, and thankfulness for provision through Christ’s body.  Paul is affirming, “I can do all these things because Christ gives me strength.”

That is the crux of the issue. Christ gives us strength to find our security, our comfort, our joy in Him.  My circumstances may continue to be adverse. And I cannot necessarily “do” anything to change them–physically speaking.  Nor can I ignore them. The difficulty is real. The pain is constant. And the end is not within my line of sight. If “all things” is to be taken literally, this verse only serves to condemn me. But when I see Paul’s intended message, I am both encouraged and challenged.  Christ’s strength is in me, and because of that, I can be thankful, I can find joy, I can be secure in Him.

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