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.”

Wonderful Acting

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?

Brilliant Dialogue

power

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.

14 thoughts

  1. I can’t wait to watch the movie and thanks so much for the review. When I first heard about there being a movie about Paul, I was excited because I think that he is one of the disciples and apostles of Christ that not only faced persecution but through his writings to the various churches of the ancient world and to his interactions with others, we see that Paul was fervent in his faith even until death.

  2. My wife & I saw the movie last eve and was 100% pleased! Many of us applauded at the end! There was some license taken with the jailer & his daughter but the over all biblical narrative was historical. Our knowledge of the story was not seriously challenged and we would recommend it to anyone who needs further verification of the eternal value of Paul: Apostle of Christ. Frank & Barbara

  3. The best quote in the movie was the analogy of the handful of water (a person’s life) in comparison to the unending sea (all that we have waiting for us in Christ Jesus). I was wondering what verse could be the inspiration? Not that it was necessary because the analogy is a great one regardless. Ephesians 3 was the first to come to mind for me.

    Ephesians 3 16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, [[18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.]]

    1. Yeah, Thomas, I loved that quote as well. I don’t know if it is just one verses or section that inspired it but it sure summed up things well. I was thinking about life is vapor but it seemed to incorporate quite a few different verses together.

      Sounds like you enjoyed the movie?

      1. Good catch on the vapor aspect. Probably more a combination of verses as you say.

        I loved the movie! So did my 18 year old son. I thought it was pretty clever and well acted. Best I’ve seen since Risen.

        It must be challenging to make a Biblical/Christian movie because there is a lot of pressure to stay true to the Scriptures; which they should at least as far as authenticity and historicity. But sometimes there’s so much jumping around in order for a Director cover everything that the movie feels more like someone reading from the Bible (which I already do every day) rather than just telling a story. Samson was a good example of that. Yes, they covered all the important parts but they really didn’t get a chance to develop Samson as a man struggling to deal with balancing the temptations of this world with serving Almighty God. I still liked the movie but it could have been a little better. Characters are more important than action scenes when it comes to storytelling.

        The Apostle Paul and Risen felt more like stories to me and that makes for better movies I think. As a Christian I will always vote with my dollars to support our genre but it sure makes it better when the movie is so well done.

    1. Hi Olita – the movie was released on video and on Amazon. If you have access to either, you should be able watch it. God bless you.
      Tom

  4. Thank you for this review, and also for your comments on Silence. I live and minister in the immediate neighborhood where that story took place, and I too was deeply saddened by the movie. The fundamental problem is that the author of the book from which it was made, Shusaku Endo, was a Catholic who didn’t believe in the resurrection. Therefore, he was totally focused on temporal “salvation,” and he found it noble that people would deny their faith to keep others from being tortured and/or killed. Such attitudes were why the Japanese persecution was the only “successful” persecution in the history of the Church, driving believers underground and essentially silencing them. Even today, Japan has the lowest “rate of return” for investments of all sorts in evangelism and ministry.

    1. Oh wow Jack, that is really interesting! I did not know that about the author. That explains so much.

      It is so sad this was a view of Christianity and Jesus and the effects are still felt today.

      Thanks for comment.

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