Paul, Apostle of Christ – A Christian Movie Review.
Their faith challenged an empire. Their words changed the world.
I was blessed to see an early screening of the new Christian movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ last week. It recounts the last days of the Apostle Paul’s life during the persecutions of Emperor Nero. It was a wonderful movie. I loved it.
While watching, I could not stop thinking that I need to see this movie again. There were so many good quotes and great Biblical references it was hard to catch them all. It was visually appealing, Biblically sound, and told a compelling story.
It is an instant classic in the Christian film world.
I highly recommend seeing it.
The Apostle Paul – A Giant of the Christian faith.
Paul wrote a good portion of the New Testament. He is one of the greatest missionaries in history. Paul’s life is still the benchmark for working for Jesus. He was an amazing man of God. Despite this, the man has received very little attention in Christian film. The news that a new film Paul, Apostle of Christ was coming out and that it was starring Jim Caviezel was exciting as a result. There are few actors with the stature of Caviezel in the Christian movie world.
The movie does not disappoint. It does a wonderful job of humanizing Paul, Luke and the early believers of the church. It presents them in a light that we often miss when reading the Bible. They were amazing men and women of God who did enormous works for the Lord under terrible circumstances. They also had doubts, fears, and frailties. Understanding the humanity of the early church is a blessing when reading the Bible.
The movie also expanded my understanding of Paul. H was not just a man facing down an empire. He was every bit that man, surely. But Paul was also as a mentor, beloved friend, and simple man filled with the love of Jesus. We tend to focus on the fearlessness and determination of Paul. It is easy to miss his gentle loving heart.
The movie is able to bring these great Biblical heroes to life and make them relatable. It also crucially stays true to the Word of God. It shows their hearts and their humanity without diminishing them in any way.
It is really well done.
Paul in Prison
The filmmakers set the movie in the last days of Paul’s life as he languished in a Roman prison. Nero has burned down a good portion of the city and uses the new faith called “The Way” as scapegoats for the crime. The city and Nero’s government are seething with anger and they are taking it out on the Christians.
Paul is thrown in prison while other Christians are being murdered throughout the city in terrible ways. Christians are used as torches to light the streets of Rome. These scenes are the cause of the PG-13 rating but were not gratuitous. The historian Tacitus records Nero did really burn Christians alive and killed them in droves during this period. The historical setting is important to tell the story of the film. The pressure is terrible.
In the midst of the chaos, Luke, the longtime friend and traveling companion of Paul sees an opportunity to encourage the church. He risks his own safety to repeatedly visit Paul in prison. His goal is to record what would become the book of Acts. Their fellowship during this process as well as their interactions with the Roman prison warden are highlights of the movie.
The church in Rome is also shown as they struggle with the great challenges before them. They grapple with the desire to flee or fight the Romans or follow the teachings of Jesus to love their enemies, even to the death.
“Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica – Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.”
James Faulkner is wonderful as Paul. This was no small challenge as Paul is a man whose words billions have read and spent hours meditating over.
We see how 30 years of ministry, thousands of miles of travel and physical suffering have taken a toll on Paul. He is tired and somewhat defeated. The temptation to despair is pulling at him.
He also is visited by dreams of his prior life as Saul the Pharisee, the tormentor of the church. These scenes are some of the hardest to watch. They are consistent with the Bible, though. Paul is described in Acts as tearing at the church like a wild animal attacking its prey. It does not diminish Paul’s greatness to show these struggles. They serve to show his transformation in Jesus.
One of my favorite scenes has Paul is in his dank, dark prison cell dreaming about his past when he killed Christians. It is a flashback that is repeated throughout the movie. Paul chases down a little Christian girl as she prays after her family has been killed. Paul approaches with great malice in his eyes and we see a club being raised. Paul awakens from the dream in pain and anguish repeating to himself:
“Your grace is sufficient for me, Your grace is sufficient for me”
The words are written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. I have goosebumps as I write this thinking about the scene.
Jesus’ grace is bigger than anything Paul has ever done. How many time must have Paul reminded himself of that fact? How many times do we do the same?
The writers beautifully weave Scripture into the movie. Faulkner and Caviezel, in particular, have the words of the Bible naturally as a good portion of their dialogue. Scripture just flows from them like streams of living water. It is natural and believable.
Watching them reminisce about their years of ministry together while speaking Scripture was a delight. We get to see them as beloved co-workers in the Gospel, even joking with one another as they sit in the dark prison. As a pastor who goes through the ups and downs of ministry, I enjoyed watching the kinship between men who have shared so much for the Lord together.
Another standout moment in the movie was their shared reaction to the martyrdom of a group of believers by the Romans. Their mixture of sadness, resignation at the evil in this world and joyous understanding was sweet to behold.
Their relationship is put under scrutiny by the Roman warden played by Oliver Martinez. I appreciated the patient love with which Faulkner’s Paul explains Jesus to the initially scoffing Roman. One particularly poignant moment was Paul comparing the life of a non-believer as scooping a handful of water out of the ocean and frantically watching the water leaks out. In contrast, Christians focus on the ocean and look forward to returning to it.
Faulkner’s Paul and Caviezel’s Luke are theologically rich but simple enough for anyone to follow. In word and deed, the characters live out Jesus’ call to choose love even in the worst of circumstances. For a further discussion of the importance of Love in the Christian faith, you may like Christianity Without Love?
Paul, Apostle of Christ is a wonderful movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed Paul, Apostle of Christ and look forward to seeing it a second time. It brings the Bible to life while staying true to it. I hope you enjoy it as well.
God Bless You.