I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
I. THERE ARE TWO MAIN ERRORS BY WHICH MEN ARE DECEIVED. The first is the fancy that they can do all things that they wish and try to do of themselves. The second is that they cannot and need not do anything. These have been the sources of two of the most mischievous heresies, the one undermining all spiritual, the other all practical religion; the first is Pelagianism, the other Antinomianism.
II. THE END OF THESE ERRORS IS TO KEEP MEN IN SIN. Pride says it will pay off the debt it owes to God when it has grown bigger. "Why should I do that today," it cries, "which I can do any day whenever I please?" Meanwhile sloth alleges that it is a bankrupt and demands as such to be let off all manner of payment, for getting that a negligent and fraudulent bankrupt has no claim to favour. Pride says it can obey God and does not. Sloth says it cannot and need not.
III. THESE ERRORS, IRRECONCILABLE THOUGH THEY MAY SEEM, ARE OFTEN FOUND SIDE BY SIDE. They are Satan's right and left hand in which he tosses our souls from one to the other. The proud man, although he makes himself believe that he can obey God by himself, must be often warned by his conscience that he has not done so. At such times he will try to stifle his qualms by saying that he has done his best, and that Christ's merits will be sufficient to make up. The slothful man, too, who has drugged his conscience with the notion that as his best works cannot earn heaven, so it matters not what his works are, must be startled now and then by scriptural exhortations to holiness; but when so startled he whispers to himself that let the worst come to the worst he will reform by and by.
IV. BOTH THESE ERRORS ARE ANSWERED BY THE TEXT, which picks out the truth involved in each and separates it from the false. When an error is long-lived it is by means of some truth mixed up with it.
1. As the pride of man says, "I can do all things," so does Paul; only pride stops short here, whereas Paul adds, "through Christ," etc. Pride forgets the Fall, and also that what it calls its own strength is really God's gift.
2. The sluggard is also bereft of his only excuse. God never demands of us what we cannot do; and Paul tells us that there is no limit to our power; he poor, weak, frail as he was, could do all things when strengthened by Christ.
V. WHAT DOES PAUL MEAN BY THIS.
1. Certainly not in the same sense that God can do all things — make a world, arrest the sun, etc.; but —
2. In accordance with the previous verse. These things, however, seem to some hardly sufficient to bear the lofty declaration of the text, and would rather have expected to hear of some great victory gained or miracle wrought. Yet it is in these things that our hardest trials lie, for they are the things that the natural man cannot do of himself. He may brave dangers and accomplish many wonderful works, but he does not know how to be abased and how to abound. A cup knows how to be full and how to be empty, and stands equally straight in either case. But man's hand cannot lift the full cup and will not lift the empty one. It is only through Christ that whether the Lord giveth or taketh away we can say, "Blessed be His name."
3. The true children of God can do all things that they can ever desire to do, viz., the will of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.