WHAT IS ASSURANCE
If we read through this verse casually, we may think that we understand the definition of faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But when we think about this definition carefully, we will find that it does not lead us much of anywhere. I have to confess that I have personally spent a number of years on this word "assurance." I pondered over it again and again. I could not arrive at any intelligent interpretation.
I have spent much time to compare different English translations of this verse. After examining at least a dozen different versions, I concluded that the word is best translated as substance. The verse would then read, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." However, this rendering does not carry the full force of the word.
I then spent quite some time studying the Greek language. Finally, I was able to grasp the full impact of the word. Yet I could not find a suitable translation for it. To me the implication was clear. But I could not think of a proper word to express it.
Finally, I found the right word from J.N. Darby’s translation. Mr. Darby was a renowned British authority in Bible exposition. He translated the word as "substantiating." The word substance is easily understood. We all know that the substance of this table is wood, and the substance of this metal is iron. But what is substantiating? We have to spend some time to explain this word.
I believe that substantiating is the ability which enables us to realize a substance. For example, when we see a table, we have the realization that its substance is wood. Or consider the covering of the table. After looking at it, we are able to tell that the substance of this cover is metal. This very ability is the substantiating power.
THE FUNCTION OF THE FIVE SENSES
The world around us is composed of myriads of objects of various colors and shapes. There is also a host of images and objects inside of us. They form a world all their own. Between this inside world and the outside world, there is a constant communication back and forth. The impulses of the outside world are transmitted to the inside world, and the inside world reacts and projects to the outside world. The intermediate organs that relate to the two worlds are known primarily as the five senses. Through these five senses, the impulses of the outside world are transmitted into us to produce certain perceptions, and through the same five faculties, we communicate whatever is inside of us to the outside world.
If a man were deprived of his five senses, it would be extremely difficult for anything of the outside world to come into him. There is a whole spectrum of colors in the world around us. But if a man is blind, he cannot receive these colors into him. He cannot appreciate the beauty in them, for he lacks the ability to substantiate the colors. If you tell him that snow is beautiful, he will ask you, "Why is it so beautiful?" If you answer that the whiteness is what makes it attractive, he will say, "What is white anyway?" And if you say that white is the opposite of black, he will answer, "I do not know what black is like." There are all kinds of colors in the world. But they can only come into us through the substantiating ability of the eyes. Those without sight do not have such an ability. The world inside them is void of any color.
There are some things which require our hearing ability. We receive those things through our hearing organ. If we are deaf, sound has no effect on us. There are some things which call for our tasting or smelling faculties. The function of our five senses is to transfer all the objective items into us to become our subjective experience. If we do not have these five senses, all of the outside objects will remain outside of us; they will never be able to come into us. There will forever be a barrier between the two sides. The work that the five senses does is a work of substantiating.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)