In order to approach the veneration of saints from a Biblical perspective, I would like to begin our time in the New Testament Book of Hebrews. We can just keep a finger on Hebrews 11 and see what we really need there because we go through the Old Testament Hall of Fame rapidly. Hebrews 11, verse 1 begins, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it the men of old received Divine approval, and by faith we understand that the world is created by the Word of God so that what is seen was made out of things that do not appear.”
Then he begins to pick off this list of great saints of the Old Testament family of God beginning with the first martyr, Abel, who offered an acceptable sacrifice. And then Enoch and then Noah and then Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah. And then it goes on to talk about Abraham some more and Isaac and Jacob and all the sufferings they endured because their hope was ultimately not in the earthly Jerusalem but in the heavenly Jerusalem, not in the earthly Promised Land but in the heavenly Promised Land.
But notice that the writer of Hebrews is recounting all of this to inspire us to emulate their example. This is going to be one fundamental consideration as we understand the Biblical rationale for the veneration of the saints. Heroic examples inspire heroic virtue. But let’s take a look now at Hebrews 12, “Therefore,” in one of the most basic interpretive principles of Biblical studies that whenever you see that word, “therefore,” you ask yourself what it’s there for because it basically sums up everything before it and draws a very practical conclusion, especially so in the Book of Hebrews. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every way and sin which clings so closely and let us run with perseverance, the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you haven’t resisted yet to the point of shedding your blood. Have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?”