Home Media Destroying the Bible verse by verse. . Superman in a Christ Suit.

. Superman in a Christ Suit.

1. Superman in a Christ Suit.


The following verse is well known to all, and I guess one of the few verses that most Christians can quote from memory.

Philippians 4:13 (ESV) 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

This verse again appears in promise boxes, on coffee mugs and on bumper stickers. It is often displayed in some kind of art form and is one of the verses that mostly makes its way onto walls in offices and homes. It is the kinda verse that I cannot live without, and in a sense it is true.

This verse is one of the most grossly distorted verses as far as its original intentions are concerned. It is one of those typical verses that is used to imply that Christians have a lot of power and are able to do supernatural kind of stuff. With Christ we can achieve the insurmountable. In a sense this verse as it is often quoted makes us kind of invincible. I have often heard this verse preached and quoted alongside verses like Psalm 18:29 (ESV) 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” I remember watching a church service on TBN years ago and this church in America had the pastor read this verse and then they were chanting: “We’ve got the power, we’ve got the power…” It is on the basis of this verse that I have seen Christians embark on irresponsible business venture, because they can do all things through Christ. The following graphic which you can buy in poster forM illustrates where the emphasis lies.

My family and I drove past Rhema Bible Church in Randburg a few years ago, and they had posted on a big bill board outside their church the following statement in exactly the format I am typing it now. ‘I CAN with a little help from God.’ Phil 4:13.

Now, whatever their intention was, this was on a billboard outside their property, and the public are left to interpret for themselves. I just imagined Superman in a Christ suit.

I have heard sermon after sermon on this for more than 50 years and not once have I ever heard this verse preached in context of the surrounding verses or Paul’s intentions in this statement. The ‘superman’ rendering of this verse is all too typically Western and it does not sit well in a struggling rural community. It is based on an assumption that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, perhaps with a little help from above and a little luck. Generally Christians love to attach this verse to their dreams, goals, agendas and problems and getting God to assist them with it. An emphasis is placed on the words “all things”: I can do all things.  All things” easily becomes synonymous with whatever I want or have my heart set on. Literally, these two words become interchangeable with anything and everything. Seen this way, the verse is used to proclaim an assurance of future success in a job, athletics, career, ventures, adventures, relationship, or any other desire of one’s life.  Philippians 4:13 is reduced to a meaning that says any dream or desire is possible with God’s strength.


One example is seen in this graphic below, where a sports team's chearleaders claim victory on the basis of Romans 8:31. It brings us to a kinda 'God is on my side, no matter how many Christians are on the other side.' While this verse does not bring about victory, the question needs to be asked. What happens to their theology when they lose.



Now, I am not saying that there are not pastors preaching this in context. Sure, there are thousands. But here is the test once again. Somebody is bound to quote this verse to you and if you were to ask them what the preceding verses are about, they possible will not know. We, might even be guilty of it ourselves. Let’s be honest, all of us easily become slaves to the Promise Box mentality.


Now, this is a great and powerful verse, if understood in context. It might even become your favourite verse but for the right reasons. It is definitely one of mine.


Here is the verse in context.


Philippians 4:10-14 (ESV) 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”

Now, if you look at verse 10, then Paul is thanking the Philippian church for reviving their concern for him. Now, some believe that Paul is referring to the money that they sent him. Others have other views, but what is clear is that they showed him in a tangible way that they are concerned about him. In actual fact according to verse 10, Paul acknowledges that they have always been concerned for him, but did not have an opportunity show their concern. So, he is thanking them for sharing in his needs, and if you jump over verse 11-13, and go to verse 14 Paul ends where he started namely for their sharing in his needs.

Now from verse 11, Paul sets a record straight. Basically he is saying. Hey guys, thanks for taking care of my needs, but I want you to know this, I have never been desperate. Why? Because ‘I have learned (some translations says ‘learned the secret’) to be content in every circumstance.  Now the circumstances he refers to is when he lacks or abounds, or had plenty or is hungry, or has abundance or need. So what is the secret? The secret is contentment in all circumstances on the back of the fact that Christ gives him strength to handle whatever life throws at him. So, in short, ‘thanks for your support, much appreciated, but you need to know I would have survived without it, because whether you are there for me or not, Christ is there for me, but hey, I am not ungrateful. It was really kind of you to share in my trouble.

Remember that at the time in which Paul is writing this letter he had finally reached Rome. On the journey there he was taken prisoner, shipwrecked, and placed on house arrest chained to a Roman soldier. Further he was facing potential execution, and was mentally preparing himself for the not too distant reality that He would be leaving this world. Paul is not saying here that through the strengthening of Jesus Christ we can overcome all obstacles or succeed in all things. What Paul is saying is that through the strengthening of Christ we can press forward and endure through all hardships, even death. This verse does not infer that by having faith in Christ we will achieve or prosper in all we aspire to, but rather in Christ we find the sufficient comfort and support to carry on through all adversity.

In short, what Paul is saying to all of us is that we can enjoy the good times in the presence of Christ who gives us strength, and we can endure the bad times in the presence of Christ who gives us strength. We can bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any evil, and meet all the temptations incident to any condition of prosperity or adversity. His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he now expresses the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. In Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm that was able to uphold him he confidently relied. It was in the strength of Christ that Paul was able to bear cold, fatigue, and hunger. It was by the strength of Christ that he met temptations and persecutions; and it was by the strength of Christ that he engaged in the performance of his arduous duties.

In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can uphold us. Let the eye and the affections of the heart be fixed on him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when a crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into the soul: and we shall be safe. And when it goes well, thank Him, for by His strength alone can you say ‘it is well.’