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


Breaking and separation are our two different needs. Yet there is a strong relationship between the two, and it is impossible to disassociate the two altogether. The outer man needs to be broken before the spirit can be released. But when the spirit is released, it must not be mixed with the sentiments and characteristics of the outer man. It must not carry any element that comes from man. This is not merely a matter of the release of the spirit, but a matter of the purity and quality of the spirit. Many times when a brother stands up to speak, on the one hand, we feel the spirit and the presence of God. However, on the other hand, we touch his self in his words; we touch his conspicuous spot. His spirit is not pure. He can give us a cause for praise, yet at the same time be a source of pain. The issue is not whether the spirit is released, but whether the spirit is pure.

If a man has never been enlightened by God or judged by Him in a deep way, thereby gaining a knowledge of his outer man, the release of his spirit naturally will be accompanied by his outer man. When many people speak, we can sense the release of their very person. They release God, but the release of their spirit is accompanied by their own uncondemned self because many things in them have never passed through judgment. When we contact others, they are primarily touched by our most conspicuous and outstanding elements. If our outer man is not condemned, what will be exposed as soon as we come in contact with others will be the most conspicuous element of the outer man. No one can hide this. Many people who are not even spiritual in their own room expect to be spiritual when they stand on the platform. This is impossible. Many people lose their spirituality as soon as their memory fails to remind them. Their spirituality is sustained by their memory. But this is an impossible proposition. We should not think, "I will remember to muzzle myself today because I have to give a message; I have to work." Our memory is not our salvation. We cannot be saved by our memory. Whatever kind of person we are will be exposed as soon as we open our mouth. No matter how hard a person tries to pretend, act, or cover up himself, his spirit comes out as soon as he opens his mouth. Whatever kind of spirit we have and whatever mixture there is in our spirit will be obvious to everyone as soon as we open our mouth. In spiritual matters, there is no way to pretend.

If we want to experience deliverance from God, this deliverance must be fundamental, not fragmentary. God has to work in us to deal with our strong point, and He has to break it. Only then will our spirit be released without mixture being imparted to others. If we have never been touched by God in a fundamental way, we may act somewhat spiritual when we remember to do it, but we will manifest the self once our memory slips. Actually, in both cases, whether we remember or we forget, the spirit that we release is the same, and the things that are carried by the spirit are the same.

The problem of mixture is the biggest problem among workers. We often touch life in the brothers, but also touch death. We touch God in the brothers, but also touch their self. We touch a spirit of meekness, but also touch a stubborn self. We find the Holy Spirit in them, but also find the flesh in them. When they stand up to speak, others sense a mixed spirit, an impure spirit. If God intends for us to serve Him in the ministry of the word and if we have to speak for God, we have to ask for grace. We have to say, "God, work in me. Break my outer man, tear it down, and separate it from the inner man." If we have not experienced this deliverance, we will express our outer man subconsciously every time we open our mouth. There is no way for us to hide it. As soon as the word goes out, the spirit goes out as well. We are the kind of person we are; we cannot pretend. If we want to be used by God, our spirit must be released, and this spirit must be pure. In order for us to be pure, our outer man must be destroyed. If our outer man is not destroyed, we will carry our own cargo with us when we serve as ministers of the word. The Lord’s name will suffer loss, not on account of our lack of life, but on account of our mixture. The Lord’s name will suffer, and the church will suffer as well.

We have spoken of the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Now we would like to speak on the revelation of the Holy Spirit. It is possible for the discipline of the Spirit to come before the revelation of the Spirit, and it is possible for the order to be reversed. We can make a distinction in sequence, but when the Holy Spirit works, He does not necessarily do one thing first and then the other. In our experience there is no set order of events. Some people experience discipline first. Other people experience revelation first. Everyone’s experience is different. Some receive the discipline of the Spirit first, then the revelation of the Spirit, and then more discipline. Others receive the revelation of the Spirit first, then discipline, and then more revelation. However, among God’s children there is always more discipline of the Holy Spirit than revelation of the Holy Spirit. Here we are speaking about experience, not doctrine. With many people, discipline occurs more often than revelation. In short, the soul and the spirit have to be separated. The inner man must be separated from the outer man. The outer man must be broken, pulverized, and completely separated from the inner man. Only then will our spirit be free and pure.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)