Release of the Spirit

Watchman Nee
Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Psa. 62:5 π Lk. 1:46 π Lk. 21:19 π Jn. 4:23-24 π Jn. 12:24; 2nd π Rom. 1:9 π Rom. 7:6 π Rom. 7:22 π Rom. 8:4-8 π 1 Cor. 2:11-14 π 2 Cor. 3:6 π 2 Cor. 4:16 π Gal. 5:16 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Gal. 5:25 π Eph. 3:16 π Heb. 4:12-13 π 1 Pet. 1:9 π 1 Pet. 1:22



In reading this manuscript we have been impressed that it is a vital message needing to be shared and known by all the Lord's seeking ones who long to be a channel for His Life. One cannot read very far before sensing Watchman Nee's longing and prayer is that the Church may know the Lord in the fullest way, that God's people may be increasingly fruitful unto Him, that He may find a minimum of hindrance in us, and that He may be fully released through our quickened and controlled spirit.

Surely this is the hour when the battleground is in the soul. While the Lord is seeking to work through the quickened spirit, Satan is seeking to work through the natural soulish life which has not been brought under the control of the Spirit.

In his many years of laboring with fellow workers, Brother Nee has clearly seen the absolute necessity of brokenness. It is almost as if he were personally here upon the religious scene in America sensing the great need for brokenness among Christian workers. There may be some who are unprepared for such a bitter dose of spiritual medicine, yet we believe anyone with discernment and hunger will agree that the breaking of the soul-powers is imperative if the human spirit is to express the Life of the Lord Jesus.

Beloved, we are convinced that this matter of true brokenness before the Lord is the great need of this closing hour. One has well said that the Lord uses for His glory those servants who are most perfectly broken. Is not this what Isaiah meant when he exclaimed: "the lame that take the prey!" Surely when the beautiful alabaster box has received the breaking blow, the fragrance of the perfume is released to fill the house with refreshing and quickening.

It is with great rejoicing then, that we see this message go forth. We trust it shall reach every part of the Body of Christ and accomplish a release of His Life through the many channels who have been waiting for this very word to meet their need. May it be so for His eternal glory, praise and honor!

Dean Baker

Jn. 12:24
Heb. 4:12-13
Jn. 4:23-24
1 Cor. 2:11-14
2 Cor. 3:6
Rom. 1:9 ; 7:6 ; 8:4-8
Gal. 5:16 , 22-23 , 25; top


For the reader to properly appreciate these lessons, perhaps a few preparatory statements will be helpful:

Firstly, we must become accustomed to the terminology which Brother Nee uses. He has chosen to call man's spirit the inner man; he calls man's soul the outer man and for the body he uses the term, the outermost man. In the diagram we have pictured this. It will also help to realize that in designing man originally, God intended for man's spirit to be His home or dwelling place. So the Holy Spirit making a union with the human spirit was to govern the soul, and the spirit and soul would use the body as the means of expression.

Secondly, when Watchman Nee speaks of destroying the soul, it may seem he is using too strong a word as though to imply annihilation. Actually the whole substance of his message clearly points out that the soul, instead of functioning independently, must become like the organ or vessel for the spirit. So it is the independent action of the soul that must be destroyed. T.A. Sparks has wisely pointed out:

"We must be careful that, in recognizing the fact that the soul has been seduced, led captive, darkened and poisoned with a self-interest, we do not regard it as something to be annihilated and destroyed in this life. This would be asceticism, a form of Buddhism. The result of any such behavior is usually only another form of soulishness in an exaggerated degree; perhaps occultism. Our whole human nature is in our souls, and if nature is suppressed in one direction she will take revenge in another. This is just what is the trouble with a great many people if only they knew it. There is a difference between a life of suppression and a life of service. Submission, subjection and servanthood in Christ's case, as to the Father, was not a life of soul-destruction, but of rest and delight. Slavery in its bad sense is the lot of those who live wholly in their own souls. We need to revise our ideas about service, for it is becoming more and more common to think that service is bondage and slavery; when really it is a Divine thing. Spirituality is not a life of suppression. That is negative. Spirituality is positive; it is a new and extra life, not the old one striving to get the mastery of itself."

Thirdly, we must see how the soul has to be smitten a fatal blow by the death of Christ as to its self-strength and government. As with Jacob's thigh, after God had touched it he went to the end of his life with a limp. This would illustrate clearly that forever there must be registered in the soul the fact that it cannot and must not act out from itself as the source. Again T.A. Sparks writes:

"As an instrument the soul has to be won, mastered and ruled in relation to the higher and different ways of God. It is spoken of so frequently in the Scriptures as being some thing over which we have to gain and exercise authority. For instance:

"In your patience you shall win your souls." ( Lk. 21:19 )

"You have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth." ( 1 Pet. 1:22 )

"The end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." ( 1 Pet. 1:9; top )

Finally, in these lessons we must see why Watchman Nee insists that the soul (outer man) be broken, be mastered and be renewed for the spirit to use. T.A. Sparks has said:

"Whether we are able yet to accept it or not, the fact is that if we are going on with God fully, all the soul's energies and abilities for knowing, understand, sensing and doing will come to an end, and we shall - on that side - stand bewildered, dazed, numbed and impotent. Then, only a new, other and Divine understanding, constraint, and energy will send us forward or keep us going. At such times we shall have to say to our souls, 'My soul, be silent unto God' ( Psa. 62:5 ): and 'My soul, come with me to follow the Lord.' But what joy and strength there is when, the soul having been constrained to yield to the spirit, the higher wisdom and glory is perceived in its vindication. Then it is that 'My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." ( Lk. 1:46; top ) The spirit HAS, the soul DOES - note the tenses.

So that unto fullness of joy the soul is essential and it MUST be brought through the darkness and death of its own ability to learn the higher and deeper realities for which the spirit is the first organ and faculty." [1]

As we approach the end of these lessons we shall have found the secret of fruitful living unto HIM. Do not fall into the snare, as so many have, of trying to suppress your soul or of despising it; but be strong in spirit, so that your soul may be won, saved and made to serve His fullest joy. The Lord Jesus has planned that we should find rest unto our souls, and this, He says, comes by way of His yoke - the symbol of union and service. We shall then appreciate how the soul finds its greatest value in service, not in ruling. True, until broken, the soul wants to be master. Through the Cross it can become a very useful servant.

1. The Importance of Brokenness

Anyone who serves God will discover sooner or later that the great hindrance to his work is not others but himself. He will discover that his outward man and his inward man are not in harmony, for both are tending toward opposite directions. He will also sense the inability of his outward man to submit to the spirit's control, thus rendering him incapable of obeying God's highest commands. He will quickly detect that the greatest difficulty lies in his outward man, for it hinders him from using his spirit.

Many of God's servants are not able to do even the most elementary works. Ordinarily they should be enabled by the exercise of their spirit to know God's Word, to discern the spiritual condition of another, to send forth God's messages under anointing and to receive God's revelations. Yet due to the distractions of the outward man, their spirit does not seem to function properly. It is basically because their outward man has never been dealt with. For this reason revival, zeal, pleading and activity are but a waste of time. As we shall see, there is just one basic dealing which can enable man to be useful before God: brokenness.

The Inward Man and the Outward Man

Notice how the Bible divides man into two parts: "for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." ( Rom. 7:22 ) Our inward man delights in the Law of God. "...To be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man." ( Eph. 3:16 ) And Paul also tells us, "But if indeed our outward man is consumed, yet the inward is renewed day by day." ( 2 Cor. 4:16; top )

When God comes to indwell us, by His Spirit, Life and power, He comes into our spirit which we are calling the inward man. Outside of this inward man is the soul wherein functions our thoughts, emotions and will. The outermost man is our physical body. Thus we will speak of the inward man as the spirit, the outer man as the soul and the outermost man as the body. We must never forget that our inward man is the human spirit where God dwells, where His Spirit mingles with our spirit. Just as we are dressed in clothes, so our inward man "wears" an outward man: the spirit "wears" the soul. And similarly the spirit and soul "wear" the body. It is quite evident that men are generally more conscious of the outer and outermost man, and they hardly recognize or understand their spirit at all.

We must know that he who can work for God is the one whose inward man can be released. The basic difficulty of a servant of God lies in the failure of the inward man to break through the outward man. Therefore we must recognize before God that the first difficulty to our work is not in others but in ourselves. Our spirit seems to be wrapped in a covering so that it cannot easily break forth. If we have never learned how to release our inward man by breaking through the outward man, we are not able to serve. Nothing can hinder us as this outward man. Whether our works are fruitful or not depends upon whether our outward man has been broken by the Lord so that the inward man can pass through that brokenness and come forth. This is the basic problem. The Lord wants to break our outward man in order that the inward man may have a way out. When the inward man is released, both unbelievers and Christians will be blessed.

Nature Has Its Way of Breaking

The Lord Jesus tells us in Jn. 12:24 , "Except the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit." (top) Life is in the grain of wheat, but there is a shell, a very hard shell on the outside. As long as that shell is not split open, the wheat cannot grow. "Except the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies..." What is this death? It is the cracking open of the shell through the working together of temperature, humidity, etc., in the soil. Once the shell is split open, the wheat begins to grow. So the question here is not whether there is Life within, but whether the outside shell is cracked open.

The Scripture continues by saying, "He that loves his Life shall lose it, and he that hates his Life in this world shall keep it to Life eternal." The Lord shows us here that the outer shell is our own Life, (our soul Life) while the Life within is the eternal Life which He has given to us. To allow the inner Life to come forth, it is imperative that the outward Life be lost. Should the outward remain unbroken, the inward would never be able to come forth.

It is necessary (in this writing) that we direct ourselves to that group of people who have the Lord's Life. Among those who possess the Life of the Lord can be found two distinct conditions:

one includes those in whom Life is confined, restricted, imprisoned and unable to come forth;

the other includes those in whom the Lord has forged a way and Life is thus released from them.

The question thus is not how to obtain Life, but rather how to allow this Life to come forth. When we say we need the Lord to break us, this is not merely a way of speaking, nor is it only a doctrine. It is vital that we be broken by the Lord. It is not that the Life of the Lord cannot cover the earth, but rather that His Life is imprisoned by us. It is not that the Lord cannot bless the Church, but that the Lord's Life is so confined within us that there is no flowing forth. If the outward man remains unbroken, we can never be a blessing to His Church, and we cannot expect the Word to be blessed by God through us!

The Alabaster Box Must Be Broken

The Bible tells of the pure spikenard. God purposely used this term "pure" in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure spikenard will not flow forth. Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes the problem in the Church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself as an important person; others highly regard themselves, feeling they are better than others, their eloquence surpasses that of others, their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth. However, we are not antique collectors; we are not vase admirers; we are those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Without the breaking of the outward, the inward will not come forth. Thus individually we have no flowing out, but even the Church does not have living way. Why then should we hold ourselves as so precious, if our outward contains instead of releases the fragrance?

The Holy Spirit has not ceased working. One event after another, one thing after another, comes to us. Each disciplinary working of the Holy Spirit has but one purpose: to break our outward man so that our inward man may come through. Yet here is our difficulty: we fret over trifles, we murmur at small losses. The Lord is preparing a way to use us, yet scarcely has His hand touched us when we feel unhappy, even to the extent of quarreling with God and becoming negative in our attitude. Since being saved, we have been touched many times in various ways by the Lord, all with the purpose of breaking our outward man. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the aim of the Lord is to destroy this outward man.

So the Treasure is in the earthen vessel, but if the earthen vessel is not broken, who can see the Treasure within? What is the final objective of the Lord's working in our lives? It is to break this earthen vessel, to break our alabaster box, to crack open our shell. the Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him. Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness, but it is also a path sprinkled with blood. Yes, there is blood from many wounds. When we offer ourselves to the Lord to be at His service, we cannot afford to be lenient, to spare ourselves. We must allow the Lord utterly to crack our outward man, so that He may find a way for His out working.

Each of us must find out for himself what is the mind of the Lord in his Life. It is a most lamentable fact that many do not know what is the mind or intention of the Lord for their lives. How much they need for the Lord to open their eyes, to see that everything which comes into their lives can be meaningful. The Lord has not wasted even one thing. To understand the Lord's purpose, is to see very clearly that He is aiming at a single objective: the destroying or breaking of the outward man.

However, too many, even before the Lord raises a hand, are already upset. Oh, we must realize that all the experiences, troubles and trials which the Lord sends are for our highest good. We cannot expect the Lord to give better things, for these are His best. Should one approach the Lord and pray, saying, "Oh, Lord, please let me choose the best"? I believe the Lord would tell him, "What I have given you is the best; your daily trials are for your greatest profit." So the motive behind all the orderings of God is to destroy our outward man. Once this occurs and the spirit can come forth, we begin to be able to exercise our spirit.

The Timing in Our Brokenness

The Lord employs two different ways to destroy our outward man; one is gradual, the other sudden. To some, the Lord gives a sudden destruction followed by a gradual one. With others, the Lord arranges that they have constant daily trials, until one day He brings about large-scale destruction. If it is not the sudden first and then the gradual, then it is the gradual followed by the sudden. It would seem the Lord usually spends several years upon us before He can accomplish this work of destruction.

The timing is in His hand. We cannot shorten the time, though we can certainly prolong it. In some lives the Lord is able to accomplish this work after a few years of dealing; in others it is evident that after ten or twenty years the work is still unfinished. This is most serious! Nothing is more grievous than wasting God's time. How often the Church is hindered! We can preach by using our mind, we can stir others by using our emotions, yet if we do not know how to use our spirit, the Spirit of God cannot touch people through us. The loss is great, should we needlessly prolong the time.

Therefore, if we have never before wholly and intelligently consecrated ourselves to the Lord, let us do so now, saying: "Lord, for the future of the Church, for the future of the gospel, for Your way, and also for my own Life, I offer myself without condition, without reservation, into Your hands. Lord, I delight to offer myself unto You and am willing to let You have Your full way through me."

The Meaning of the Cross

Often we hear about the cross. Perhaps we are too familiar with the term. But what is the cross after all? When we really understand the cross we shall see it means the breaking of the outward man. The cross reduces the outward man to death; it splits open the human shell. The cross must destroy all that belongs to our outward man - our opinions, our ways, our cleverness, our self-love, our all. The way is clear, in fact, crystal clear.

As soon as our outward man is destroyed, our spirit can easily come forth. Consider a brother as an example. All who know him acknowledge that he has a keen mind, a forceful will, and deep emotions. But instead of being impressed by these natural characteristics of his soul, they realize they have met his spirit. Whenever people are fellowshiping with him, they encounter a spirit, a clean spirit. Why? Because all that is of his soul has been destroyed.

Take as another example, a sister. Those who know her recognize that she is of a quick disposition - quick in thought, quick of speech, quick to confess, quick in writing letters, and quick to tear up what she has written. However, those who meet her do not meet her quickness but rather her spirit. She is one who has been utterly destroyed and has become transparent. This destruction of the outward man is such a basic matter. We should not cling to our weak, soulish characteristics, still emitting the same flavor even after five or ten years of the Lord's dealing with us. No, we must allow the Lord to forge a way in our lives.

Two Reasons for Not Being Destroyed

Why is it that after many years of dealing some remain the same? Some individuals have a forceful will; some have strong emotions, others have a strong mind. Since the Lord is able to destroy these, why is it that after many years some are still unchanged? We believe there are two main reasons.

First, many who live in darkness, are not seeing the hand of God. While God is working, while God is destroying, they do not recognize it as being from Him. They are devoid of light, seeing only men opposing them. They imagine their environment is just too difficult, that circumstances are to blame. So they continue in darkness and despair.

May God give us a revelation to see what is from His hand, that we may kneel down and say to Him, "It is You; since it is You, I will accept." At least we must recognize WHOSE hand it is that deals with us. It is not a human hand, nor our family's, nor the brothers' and sisters' in the Church, but God's. We need to learn how to kneel down and kiss the hand, love the hand that deals with us, even as Madame Guyon did. We must have this light to see that whatever the Lord has done, we accept and believe; the Lord can do no wrong.

Second, another great hindrance to the work of destroying the outer man is self-love. We must ask God to take away the heart of self-love. As He deals with us in response to our prayer, we should worship and say, "Oh Lord, if this be Your hand, let me accept it from my heart." Let us remember that the one reason for all misunderstanding, all fretfulness, all discontent, is that we secretly love ourselves. Thus we plan a way whereby we can deliver ourselves. Many times problems arise due to our seeking a way of escape - an escape from the working of the cross.

He who has ascended the cross and refuses to drink the vinegar mingled with gall is the one who knows the Lord. Many go up to the cross rather reluctantly, still thinking of drinking vinegar mingled with gall to alleviate their pains. All who say, "The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" will not drink the cup of vinegar mingled with gall. They can only drink of one cup, not two. Such as these are without any self-love. Self-love is a basic difficulty. May the Lord speak to us today that we may be able to pray: "O my God, I have seen that all things come from You. All my ways these five years, ten years, or twenty years, are of You. You have so worked to attain Your purpose, which is none other than that Your Life may be lived out through me. But I have been foolish. I did not see. I did many things to deliver myself, thus delaying Your time. Today I see Your hand. I am willing to offer myself to You. Once again I place myself in Your hands."

Expect to See Wounds

There is no one more beautiful than one who is broken! Stubbornness and self-love give way to beauty in one who has been broken by God. We see Jacob in the Old Testament, how even in his mother's womb he struggled with his brother. He was subtle, tricky, deceitful. Yet his Life was full of sorrows and grief. When a youth, he fled from home. For twenty years he was cheated by Laban. The wife of his heart's love, Rachel, died prematurely. The son of his love, Joseph, was sold. Years later Benjamin was detained in Egypt. He was successively dealt with by God once, twice; indeed his whole history could be said to be a history of being stricken by God. Finally after many such dealings, the man Jacob was transformed. In his last few years, he was quite transparent. How dignified was his answer to Pharaoh! How beautiful was his end, when he worshiped God on his staff! After reading the last page of his history, we want to bow our heads and worship God. Here is one who is matured, who knows God. Several decades of dealings have resulted in Jacob's outward man being destroyed. In his old age, the picture is a beautiful one.

Each one of us has much of the same Jacob nature in us. Our only hope is that the Lord may blaze a way out, destroying the outward man to such a degree that the inward man may come out and be seen. This is precious, and this is the way of those who serve the Lord. Only thus can we serve; only thus can we lead men to the Lord. All else is limited in its value. Doctrine does not have much use, nor does theology. What is the use of mere mental knowledge of the Bible if the outward man remains unbroken? Only the person through whom God can come forth is useful.

After our outward man has been stricken, dealt with, and lead through various trials, we have wounds upon us, thus allowing the spirit to emerge. We are afraid to meet some brothers and sisters whose whole being remains intact, never having been dealt with and changed. May God have mercy upon us in showing us clearly this way and in revealing to us that it is the only way. May He also show us that herein is seen the purpose of all His dealings with us in these few years, say ten or twenty. Thus, let no one despise the Lord's dealings. May He truly reveal to us what is meant by the destroying of the outward man. Should the outward man remain whole, everything would be merely in our mind, utterly useless. Let us expect the Lord to deal with us thoroughly.

[1] Quotes from: What is Man by T.A. Sparks

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