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Summary: You can sense that you are experiencing spiritual bankruptcy when you can say the right words, gain the right knowledge, and do the right things with the wrong heart.

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Warning Signs of Spiritual Bankruptcy

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Ptr. Michael Cariño

The dictionary defines the word “bankrupt” as a state of financial ruin. It is linked to terms such as impoverished, insolvency, poverty, or financial failure. It is closely related to words like destitute, deficient, devoid, barren, destitute, void, empty, or without value.

In terms of our spiritual lives, becoming “spiritually bankrupt” is like being a Christian whose life does not reflect the life of Christ. In a sense, it is a type of Christianity without Christ – devoid, empty, deficient, barren, and bankrupt. It is a Christian life that is reduced to a spirituality without the power, the presence, the character, and the reality of Christ.

The opposite of spiritual bankruptcy is “spiritual abundance” – this is the full life that Jesus promised to every believer. This is the flourishing life of believers that is rooted in the reality of Christ within them.

“So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (I Corinthians 13:3, MSG)

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, seems to suggest that the mark of spiritual abundance is not great intelligence, not excellent ministry, and not impressive skills. Rather, the mark of a flourishing life in Christ is the believer’s ability to relate well – to listen to those who hurt, to forgive those who sinned, to care for those who despair, to comfort those who are broken, to show grace to those who are hurtful, and to encourage those who are feeling down.

While the mark of spiritual abundance is a life filled with love, on the other hand, the mark of spiritual bankruptcy is giftedness without love, knowledge without love, ministry without love, and life without love.

You can sense that you are experiencing spiritual bankruptcy when you can say the right words, gain the right knowledge, and do the right things with the wrong heart.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (NLT)

During the time of the Apostle Paul, the City of Corinth, which has 400,000 inhabitants, was the chief city of Greece filled with merchants, tourists, migrants, refugees, slaves, prostitutes, priests, politicians, and philosophers. The Corinthian culture was predominantly shaped by the Greek and Roman worldviews.

The church at Corinth have many problems. It must be remembered that Corinth was one of the most wicked cities of ancient times and that the church was surrounded by pagan customs and practices. Many of the Corinthian believers were recent converts from paganism to Christianity.

In “First Corinthians”, the Apostle Paul’s letter instructs the believers to give up their sinful practices. We learn the many concerns within the Christian Church in Corinth:

(1) that there were four factions among the believers (Ch.1);

(2) that there was gross immorality in the church (Ch.5);

(3) that the believers have legal battles among themselves and they bring each other to court (Ch.6);

(4) that many matters troubled the church such as debates on marriage and celibacy (Ch.7), questions concerning food offered to idols (Ch.8), issues concerning spiritual gifts (Ch.12-14), disputes about the resurrection (Ch. 15), etc.

The Apostle Paul wrote to address all these problems within the Corinthian church.

In chapters 12-14, the Apostle Paul deals with debates regarding the issue of spiritual gifts. Many Corinthian believers were highly influenced by the Greek and Roman culture, in which eloquence, intelligence, knowledge, and giftedness are so much valued more than anything else.

In chapter 13, the Apostle Paul seems to rebuke believers about the emptiness and the bankruptcy spiritual gifts without love. He argues that spiritual gifts, such as the gift of tongues, the gift of prophesy, the gift of knowledge, the gift of doing miracles, the gift of helping others, while they are important, they are less significant compared with love. In other words, our “ability to relate well” is far greater than any spiritual gift. All these spiritual gifts are temporary, but love lasts forever. Love is the greatest of them all. Love should be your highest goal.

1. Impressive Eloquence Without Love is Nothing but Empty Noise.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT)

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