The more that I read the Bible and discuss what it says, the more I am against highlighting and focusing on verses out of context. The problem with taking verses out of context and then discussing what they mean should be self-evident. When we do such a thing, we’re relying upon our understanding and memory of what we think a verse tells us instead of reading the Scripture to ensure that we understand it correctly.

This is why it’s essential to open up the Bible and read what it says if there’s ever a difference in understanding of Scripture. For example, Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV). There are many misinterpretations of this verse, and I’ve written about it before. However, I recently had reason to revisit this verse to discuss its application.

After a short conversation with a brother of mine regarding the application and interpretation of Philippians 4:13, the Lord brought it to my attention that during our discussion, we never opened up our Bibles to read the verse in context. Sure, the context was discussed, but that was all. In failing to review the context by reading it in the Bible, we relied upon our understanding of the text. In doing so, we were in error.

Let’s examine Philippians 4:13 within the context of Philippians 4.

Philippians 4 is the closing appeal to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In verses 1-3, Paul encourages the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord” and to work together in unity. In verses 4-9, Paul admonishes them to rejoice in the Lord and to focus their attention only on those things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. Paul also encourages them to “put into practice” what they’ve seen him do or say. Verse 10 is where the context for verse 13 “starts,” so let’s look at verses 10-16.

10 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. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

Philippians 4:10-16 (NIV)

Let’s look at this text through the lens of a word cloud.

The most prominent words in these verses are “need,” “plenty,” and “content.” Therefore, we can deduce that this is what Paul is talking about.

When we examine the text, we see in verse 10 that Paul is addressing the Philippians’ concern regarding him and their ability to aid him. In verses 11-12, Paul states that he knows what it’s like to be in need and to have plenty. He also says that he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” This is where verse 13 comes in.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Paul goes on to speak of how the Philippians shared in his troubles and mentioned how they provided him aid when he was in Thessalonica in verses 14-16.

We can then say that Philippians 4:13 is about being content by relying upon Jesus in all circumstances. Paul can not only endure hardship and suffering through the strength of Christ, but he can also be content in hardship and suffering. This is how we interpret this verse within the context of Philippians 4. Paul was thankful for the aid that the Philippians wanted to give him, but nothing Paul could do on his own, or any support supplied by other people, could make up for the strength God gave him. The strength to be content no matter what.

How we apply Philippians 4:13 is dependent on the context of Scripture and God’s character. Still, there is only one interpretation of this verse. Therefore, when we apply it, if we go against the context of Scripture or the character of God, our application is in error.