Why ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’ is Worth Your Time

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Paul, Apostle of Christ

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Paul, Apostle of Christ yet.

What I have done is read Plugged In reviewer Paul Asay’s excellent review of the latest Christian movie to hit the theaters. And based on that review—and a couple of other reasons I’m going to unpack here—I think it’s a film that would be worth your time (and mine, too!) this weekend.

Movies, of course, depend upon a dramatic arc that draws us into the narrative. With many Christian films, that arc often involves a character experiencing some sort of personal or moral crisis that brings him (or her) to his knees. The kind of stuff that forces a personal, spiritual reckoning—with both himself and, usually, with God. The dramatic stakes generally have to do with one or two characters’ spiritual transformation.

Now, the Apostle Paul definitely underwent a spiritual transformation. He tells us as much in his letters, and this new movie about his life dramatizes that metamorphosis as well. But with Paul’s story, the stakes are higher than just one person’s decision to obediently trust God. In Paul, Apostle of Christ, the narrative stakes involve the question of whether the fledgling Church that Paul devoted himself to is going to survive at all.

In A.D. 67, that outcome is anything but clear. Christians are experiencing horrific persecution. Paul, perhaps the preeminent leader of this small, countercultural religious sect, is imprisoned and awaiting (presumably) his execution. Things don’t look good at all.

It’s easy to read much of the New Testament through the lens of 2,000 years or so of history since that time. It’s easy for it to feel rather academic. (Many of us go to Bible studies, after all.) Obviously, the Church not only survived, it thrived, becoming the primary shaping force behind Western civilization for much of the next two millennia.

But a film such as Paul, Apostle of Christ, helps us to visualize just how tentative things were in the early Church. As Nero used Christians to light the streets of Rome, the future looked grim indeed. What does it look to trust God when nothing short of everything is at stake? This film deals with that existential question.

Movies such as Paul, Apostle of Christ obviously take some dramatic license in imagining certain historical details. But the broad swath of history that this film presents is an accurate one. And it’s one we’d do well to recall as Christians once again face rising social and cultural pressures to conform to norms that run counter to our faith.

Even if historical movies like this one aren’t your thing, Paul, Apostle of Christ powerfully envisions what it looked like for the members of this young movement to trust God for everything—up to and including their very lives. And I can’t think of a much better way to spend two hours in a theater this weekend, especially as we prepare to enter Holy Week and remember Jesus’ sacrifice—and His glorious, hope-inspiring resurrection—on our behalf.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our family just watched Paul. We were very disappointed. It lacked character building for the most part. Very boring. Yes it showed how things  were during those times...horrible. But it was spiritless. Just speaking Scripture doesn’t make a Christian movie. It had no life....in our opinion. Didn’t speak to us. The acting was good.  For the most part. But the Roman Mauritius was so hard to understand. His French accent was so thick. Not very believable. All in all save your money. 
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
Saw 'Paul' over Easter and was... kind of disappointed. Though I understand creative license as a novelist, Paul being fixated on his former mistakes and overrun with guilt made an already depressing story even bleaker, since it focused entirely on the negative in every situation it encountered and left me without any hope at the end (even their interpretation of the afterlife is a barren, colorless place). I appreciated the tough issues it raised, but also wondered why every single scene had to take place in poor lighting; I could not even see the actors' faces half the time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic movie.  I saw 'I Can Only Imagine" one day, and was very moved by it.  The next day I saw "Paul Apostle of Christ".  When it was over people did not move, while the credits rolled...they just sat there.  I Can Only Imagine is very much framed in by North American Christianity, and as such, has a certain flavour.  There is a real contrast when you see Paul, Apostle of Christ.  It digs deep and challenges our Laodocean mindset.  It made me think for days afterward.  I didn't cry as much, but I thought a great deal more after seeing it, and in ways that hopefully will change my life.  Everyone should see this film and I really hope it does well at the box office.
seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
Something else I found amusing was that behind Pacific Rim: Uprising and Black Panther, this weekend's #3 highest box office belongs not to an adult thriller or even a children's movie but rather to "I Can Only Imagine." http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=4382&p=.htm Also the critical reviews are a LOT better than I expected they would be for a Christian movie, though I did figure the audience-approval ratings would skew  high. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/i_can_only_imagine_2018 Likewise, relative to its tiny budget, the movie has been performing well, and oddly enough the movie technically had more foreign openings than "Love, Simon" did, which with its positive reviews (I knoooooow) I'm surprised hasn't made a lot more money despite its premise. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=icanonlyimagine.htm The Apostle Paul movie came in just behind Simon. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?view=&yr=2018&wknd=12&p=.htm God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness' story concept doesn't sound terrible, though I hope it's not as "blah blah evil atheists/liberals/Muslims" as the first film was. https://godsnotdead.pureflix.com/about/
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
Full Disclosure; I haven't seen it either ^^.  I watched the trailer though, and it really didn't grab my attention.  I have rarely ever been able to get into historical dramas or Biblical movies like this (I can think of a few I really liked; the Nativity Story, One Night with the King, the 10 Commandments, Noah, but that's about it).  I was much more drawn to "I can Only Imagine" which I saw earlier today, and thought was excellent.    
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I want to see it, but can't go for awhile -- hope it sticks around a couple of weeks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't been to a theater in I don't know how long. It comes from my work hours, since by the time I get off work, the sun is usually coming up.
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seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
As am I, though I've not decided whether to see it in the first-run or to wait and see if it comes to my second-run.  Audience-approval scores so far have been fantastic, though (90% on RottenTomatoes - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/paul_apostle_of_christ ).