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


When the outer man is broken, all outward activities are confined to the outward realm while the inner man continues to enjoy God’s presence. The problem with many people is that their outer man and inner man are entangled together. Whatever affects the outer man affects the inner man. Strictly speaking, the outward things can only affect the outer man; but the outer man, in turn, affects the inner man. With those who are not yet broken, their outer man can affect their inner man. With those who are broken, their outer man cannot affect their inner man. If God is merciful to us and if our outer man is broken, it will be separated from our inner man, and outward things will only affect the outer man; they will not affect the inner man. When the outer man is separated from the inner man, all distractions are confined to the outer realm; they cannot enter the inner realm. A man can converse with others with his outer man while his inner man is still fellowshipping with God. The outer man can be conscious of the "shuffling of the plates," while the inner man continues to live before God. He can work and labor with his outer man, interact with the myriads of things in the outer world, yet confine all the activities to just that realm. His inner man is not affected, and he can continue to live before God. He has never left; therefore, he never needs to return. Suppose a brother is building a road. If his outer man is separated from his inner man, outward things will not affect his inner being. He can work with his outer man while his inner man is turned to God continually. Some parents can laugh and play with their children according to their outer man, but when the occasion calls for them to take up spiritual work, they can exercise their inner man immediately. Their inner man has never left God. The separation of our outer man from our inner man is very much related to our work and our life. This is the only way we can continue in our work without the need to come back to God all the time.

Some people live as one person, one entity. Others live as two persons. With some people, the outer man and the inner man are one person, one entity. With others, the two are separate. What happens to those who are one person in themselves? When they attend to their affairs, their whole being is involved in the work, and they move away from God. When they pray, they have to drop what they are doing and turn their whole being back to God. They need to apply their whole being to their work, and they need to apply their whole being to pray to God. Such ones move away all the time and need to turn back all the time. Their outer man has not yet been broken. Those who are broken by the Lord will find that their outer man no longer influences their inner man. They can take care of outward things with their outer man, while at the same time continue to abide in God and in His presence. Whenever the need arises for them to demonstrate their inner man before men, they can do so with ease; they are not cut off from the presence of God. The issue, therefore, is whether we are one person or two. In other words, is our outer man separated from our inner man? This difference is very great.

If God is merciful to us and we have such an experience of separation, we will conduct business and move around in our outer man, but our inner man will be unmoved. One person moves around, while the other person is still before God. The outer man will only mind the outward things, and the outward things will stop with the outer man; they will not get to the inner man. Those who know God apply the outer man to outward affairs while their inner man remains in God. The two men do not mix. They are like Brother Lawrence, who was busy with outward affairs, yet who had another person within him who lived before God. God’s presence never went away in him. This can save us much time in our work. Many people do not have this separation of the outer man from the inner man. As a result, their whole being moves away at one time, and then they move their whole being back later. Many people face difficulties with their work because their inner man tags along with their outer man. If the inner man is separated from the outer man and remains untouched while the outer man is involved in business, many outward things will be properly handled. This kind of exercise will isolate us from the influence of the flesh through outward things; they will no longer touch our inner being.

Simply put, whether or not man’s spirit can be useful to God depends on two kinds of work of the Lord. One work is the breaking of our outer man. The other work is the separating of our spirit from our soul or the dividing of our inner man from our outer man. God must accomplish these two things in us before we can put our spirit to use. The breaking of the outer man is accomplished through the discipline of the Holy Spirit, and the separation of the outer man from the inner man is through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)