FAITH BEING THE SUBSTANTIATION OF GOD’S FACT
Hebrews 11:1 speaks of the importance of faith. This is the only verse in the whole Bible that gives the definition of faith. "Now faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." There are many ways to translate the word "substantiation." It is a difficult word to translate from Greek to English. The word "substantiation" means the capacity to make something real. For example, we have the shape of the lamps, the color of the walls, and the sound of the organ. How can these shapes, colors, and sounds become real to us? The only thing that proves the existence of color is our eyes. Here is a picture in beautiful green, red, and yellow colors, but the beautiful colors can only be substantiated through the eyes. Without the eyes, the colors could not be substantiated no matter how beautiful they are. The sound of the organ is very beautiful, but it can only be substantiated by the ears. A deaf person will not be able to substantiate sound. The eyes cannot substantiate sound, and hands cannot substantiate sound. Only the ears can substantiate sound. Different objects have different shapes: some are cubic, while others are spherical, flat, triangular, or curved. One can only substantiate these shapes by the vision of the eyes or the touch of the hands. Therefore, it is one thing for objects to exist, and it is another thing for the existence of these things to be substantiated. There are millions of objects on the earth, but all of them are dependent upon a certain ability in order to be substantiated. The same is true with faith.
Here is a painting with mountains, water, flowers, grass, and trees. The scenery is beautiful, and if you have eyes, you can appreciate the beauty of the painting and tell others about it. But suppose a person was born blind and has never seen color his whole life. If you tell him about red and that it is attractive, he will ask, "What is red?" You may tell him about green and that it is lovely, but he will ask, "What is green?" You can only say that red is red and green is green. Although the painting exists, he cannot appreciate how wonderful it is. Although the scenery in the picture is wonderful, there is no way he can enjoy this wonder.
We have a sister here who can play the piano very well. Those who have ears and understand music can appreciate the music that she plays. However, those who are deaf or do not understand music cannot testify to the beauty of the music. The same is true of our faith. All of God’s facts are real. However, these facts of God can only be substantiated by faith, because faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
A nice painting may have beautiful scenery, but a blind man cannot see it. However, one cannot say that the painting does not exist because he has not seen it. The painting exists as a fact. Whether or not one sees, it is still a painting, and the beautiful colors are still present. The question is whether or not you have received the benefit from the painting. Those with sight will find enjoyment from the painting; they will receive the benefit from it. The Lord has died and shed His blood on the cross for all men. This is a fact. But some have the faith to substantiate this fact of the Lord’s death, and they receive the benefit from it. Some do not have the faith. The death of the Lord on the cross is still a fact, but they are unable to experience it.
Brothers and sisters, do you see the importance of faith? We need faith to substantiate a spiritual fact just as we need eyes, ears, and hands to substantiate physical objects. In spiritual matters, we need faith to substantiate the reality of everything. The hand substantiates the shape of objects, and the ear perceives sound, but the hand cannot feel nor can the ear hear colors. Colors can only be substantiated by the eyes. This is also true with spiritual matters. For example, the Lord is the Head and we are the members. This union is a fact, and there is no possibility of any separation. In the same way, the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, and there is no possibility of separation. If we believe this, we will receive the benefit of this fact. Some people confess that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches. But they do not have the juice, the life. They cannot bear fruit because they do not have faith.
What is faith? It is not a mental understanding of a truth. It is the seeing of a fact and the substantiation of it. We have heard that the Lord has died on the cross and shed His blood for our redemption. We may even agree with others that the Lord has died on the cross and shed His blood for our redemption. We have also heard that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, and we may agree with others that He is the vine and we are the branches. We have heard that the Lord Jesus is our life and living within us, and we may even agree with others that He is our life and living within us. Yet this alone cannot substantiate these facts. Brothers and sisters, we may have put ourselves aside and have already realized that we are powerless and useless. We may have already let go, but these are only the things we should do on the negative side. On the positive side, we should still substantiate Christ. This is a wonderful thing! It only takes a second, and the accomplished facts of Christ will be substantiated in us.
Here is a beautiful painting. How do you know that it is beautiful? You know it because you have seen it. How do you know about all the riches in Christ? You know because you have seen them. Colossians says that we are made full in Christ. How do we know that we are made full in Christ? We know because we have seen Him. When we look at ourselves, we do not see any fullness. But we are told that we are made full in Christ. Are we made full in Christ yet? The Lord has given us all the fullness and given us grace upon grace. Do we have them yet? It is not a question of whether we have them in our head but whether or not we have such a faith in our heart.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)