I have always understood this verse, as have many others, as a promise:
Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me. NKJV
But the other day I, as is usually the case, read this verse in the KJV:
Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Other versions like the ESV and NIV say “him.”
So, which is it… Which or Who? In the end I don’t think it matters as both make a statement of truth that is at the heartbeat of the New Testament. If you read it as “Who” it is clear the our strength in times of trial comes directly from the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can stand on that promise throughout all eternity and never be wrong. But consider what it means if we read it as “which.” Think about it for a moment. If it is the all things which strengtheneth me, then perhaps it refers to what Paul wrote in the preceding verses:
Phil 4:11-12 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
It’s the challenges that Jesus sets before us that are there to strengthen us. As Paul so aptly put it… I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Or, if it’s “who strengthens me,” then perhaps he was reflecting on something he said earlier:
Phil 3:12-14 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul knew that this walk is a marathon and not a sprint. It will take a lifetime for us to even begin to achieve our goal:
Rom 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
So, in the end, it doesn’t matter because they are both one in the same. The Lord uses our challenges to give us opportunities to draw ever closer to Him in the process of becoming more like Him while at the same time He gives us the strength to face those challenges, to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
It’s just another reminder that where Jesus leads us… He always provides every thing we need!