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


As soon as our outer man is bound, our spirit becomes bound as well. The spirit cannot bypass the outer man to operate in others. God never bypasses man’s spirit when His Spirit works in man. Nor does God allow our spirit to bypass our outer man when it operates in others. This is a very important principle, and we must be clear about it. The Holy Spirit never works on man apart from man, and our spirit can never work on man apart from our outer man. Our spirit must pass through our outer man before it can operate in others. Whenever our outer man is occupied by "things in the hands" and has exhausted its strength, we cannot participate in God’s work. If our spirit does not have a way to go on, the Holy Spirit does not have a way to go on either. The outer man can block the way of the inner man. The outer man can frustrate the inner man and prevent it from coming out. This is the reason that we repeatedly emphasize the breaking of the outer man.

Once the outer man has things in its hands, the inner man has no way to break out, and God’s work is frustrated. Things in the hands refer to things which are present before God’s work comes into view. In other words, things in the hands are things that are unrelated to God. These things are perpetuated without God’s command, power, or ordination. They are not under God’s hand; rather, they are independent entities.

God has to break the outer man before He can use the inner man. He has to break our love before He can use our love to love the brothers. If the outer man is not broken, we are still doing our own things, taking our own way, and loving our own preferences. God must first break our outer man before He can use our "broken" love to love the brothers and before our love can be expanded. Once the outer man is broken, the inner man is released. The inner man must love, but it must love through the outer man. If the outer man has things in its hands, the inner man will have nothing to work through.

Our will is strong. It is not only strong; it is also stubborn. When our inner man needs the will, it cannot find it, because our will has been moving too independently and has too many things in its hands. God has to give us a heavy blow; He has to smash our will and humble us so much that we are forced to say, with our face in the dust, "Lord, I dare not think. I dare not ask. I dare not decide. I need You in everything." We must be so smitten that our will can no longer act independently. Only then can the inner man take hold of the will and use it.

If the outer man is not available, the inner man will be unemployed. Can we preach God’s word if we do not have a physical body? How can we preach without a mouth? It is true that one needs the spirit to preach. But preaching also requires one’s mouth. What can a person do if he only has a spirit but not a mouth? At Pentecost there was the work of the Holy Spirit. But at Pentecost there was also the dispensing of the gift of speaking. Without utterance one does not have the word to release and explain God’s word. If man does not speak, God has no speaking. Man’s word certainly is not God’s word, but God’s word is conveyed through man’s word. If man does not speak, there will be no word of God. There must be man’s word before there can be God’s word.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)