The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


In John 12:24 the Lord Jesus said, "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Life is in the grain. However, there is a shell outside of the grain, a very powerful shell. As long as this shell does not break open, the grain cannot grow. "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies." What is this death? It is the action of the temperature and moisture of the earth upon the grain which results in the breaking of the shell. When the shell breaks, the grain grows. Therefore, it is not a matter of whether or not the grain has life, but whether the outer shell is broken. The very next verse says, "He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life" (v. 25). According to the Lord the outer shell is our own life, and the inner life is the eternal life that He dispenses. In order for the inner life to be released, the outer life must suffer loss. If that which is outward is not broken, that which is inward cannot be released.

Among all the people in the world, some have the Lord’s life within them. Among those who have the Lord’s life, we find two different kinds of conditions. With the first, the life is bound, surrounded, and locked up. With the second, the Lord has opened up a way and the life can be released. The problem with us today is not how we can have life, but how we can allow this life to flow out of us. When we say that the Lord has to break us, this is not a figure of speech or a doctrine. Our very being has to be broken by the Lord. The Lord’s life is well able to spread over the whole earth. However, it is locked up within us! The Lord is well able to bless the church, yet His life is imprisoned, contained, and blocked in us! If the outer man is not broken, we can never become a blessing to the church, nor can we expect the world to receive God’s grace through us!


The Bible speaks of ointment of pure nard (John 12:3). God’s Word purposely uses the adjective pure. It is ointment of pure nard, something truly spiritual. Unless the alabaster flask is broken, however, the ointment of pure nard cannot be released. It is strange that many people appreciate the alabaster flask. They think that the flask is more precious than the ointment. Many people think that their outer man is more precious than their inner man. This is the problem facing the church today. We may treasure our own wisdom and think that we are quite superior. Another person may treasure his emotions and also think that he is quite outstanding. Many people treasure themselves; they think that they are much better than others. They think their eloquence, their ability, their discernment, and their judgment are better. But we are not antique collectors; we are not admirers of alabaster flasks. We are those who are after the aroma of the ointment. If the outer part is not broken, the inner part will not be released. We will have no way to go on, and the church will have no way to go on. We no longer should be so protective of ourselves.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)