“Paul the Apostle of Christ” 2018 Movie is the “Ready Player One” of Biblical movies. Just as Ready Player One illustrated the moral that playing games is fun and collecting rewards is important, but real life begins when the Game is Over, so too Paul Apostle of Christ (2018) proves a point that death is not the end for a Christian.
One positive feeling from watching this movie is the sense of assurance that death is only a door. When we lose our greatest fear – the fear of death – then the challenges of life become more bearable. “To live is Christ, to die is GAIN,” as Paul wrote to the Philippians.
In Steve Spielberg’s “Ready Player One”, when the characters are killed in the game, they continue with real life. To be sure, there are consequences as to how you play the game – the rewards and losses count after the game is over – but real life is more important. In a coincidental parallel, the message of Paul the Movie is also that we should play the game of life well, we should collect as many rewards as we can while we obey Christ on earth, but the moment we die, we actually begin true life. Only after we enter eternity with Christ does our real life begin!
Another positive effect of this movie is that it purifies our love. The dramatization of suffering which the first-century Christians underwent makes our own sufferings pale in comparison. In one scene before Christian families were fed to lions in what the Romans called “The Games”, Luke thought he was going to die too, and he said his final words to the fellow believers, “There will be a moment of pain, but only a moment, then we shall be home in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ forever.” Then they played the Lord’s Prayer from their prison cell. If first-century Christians could forgive their enemies for throwing them into the lion’s jaws, what is our excuse for not forgiving?
When a young man named Cassius was determined to take revenge and divide the church community, Luke said, “Peace begins with you Cassius. Love is the only way.”
Paul to Luke, “I once wanted revenge… I hated those that followed Jesus Christ. I hunted them down. I was determined to be God’s hand of justice.”
Paul to Luke: We can never forget what it is like to be lost….and to be found.
Mauritius: You claim to serve a God above all gods, yet all I see is an old man in chains
Paul: I deserve worse, but His grace is for everyone.
“Is the movie perfectly accurate?” This seems to be the question Christians apply to only Christian movies, and not to any other movie in the same historical or “based on a true story” genre.
Christians must know that Christian movies are not sermons. Movies that try to lecture too much end up too predictable for general audiences. That is why most Christian movies have been unpopular. What makes a good sermon may make a flop at the box office.
Some Christians had an expectation before going to this movie to see the early life of Paul, especially his conversion experience in Acts 9, but they got very little of that. This movie does not take you where you expect. And that is partly why the movie differs from previous Christian movies. It is more interesting.
I was surprised by a few things.
Great acting. Jim Caviezel is obviously an “A Class” actor whom Hollywood has ignored since his role in “The Passion of the Christ”. But he’s back as Luke the Physician! I don’t imagine Luke looked anything like Jim Caviezel in real life, but Jim makes Luke more imaginable in our minds. When in the movie Luke faced the cruel and insignificant prison guard, he told him, “You most certainly are a powerful man.” By Heaven’s standard, it is Luke who was one of the most powerful men who ever walked the earth. The irony was well played. You can feel Luke’s humility as he navigated through dangers. I also loved the Italian accent of the Roman prefect Mauritius.
Great dialogue. It is not stilted like Christian movies used to be, and it is well-sprinkled with Scriptures. You will hear Paul quote the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, nearly in its entirety.
Drama and twists. The director created a nice contrast in how Luke kept escaping danger, whereas Paul was caught and imprisoned. There is a twist to the sidestory of the little orphan Christian boy sent to find a way to escape Rome (I won’t spoil it). There is also the drama of the Roman prefect Mauritius’ sick daughter and his conflict with his wife. The movie delves into his devotion to his Roman gods, which were ultimately of no help. The typical Christian movie would avoid showing idolatry at all. The movie probably made Mauritius the most complex character, showing his struggle with his prison job, disliking the demotion and harboring other ambitions.
AVOID THE MOVIE?
Are there inaccuracies in the movie? I believe there are some, three of which I cover in my Christian mentoring blog www.Cioccolanti.org.
Should Christians avoid the movie because there may be some errors in it? I believe if that were the standard, then no Christian should ever watch any Hollywood movie. Why reserve our nit-picking and fault-finding for movies with Christian themes only? Why do Christians watch anti-Christian Hollywood movies with no qualm?
Never before has so many Scriptures been quoted in a Hollywood movie as this one. The fault finders may say the quotes were used out of context. Perhaps. But who is to say these quotes were spoken once chronologically? In real life, we often speak multiple times what we may write down only once.
By the end of the movie, Paul and Luke were walking in a Roman garden. Paul accepted his death sentence and told Luke, “And yet death is another beginning. To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Luke replied humorously, “I’ll write that one.”
Of course, Bible-reading Christians know that the only record we have of that phrase being used was by Paul in the Book of Philippians chapter 1 verse 21. But again who is to say Paul said it once or that it was written only once? Many things Christians wrote did not survive. Only that which was agreed upon as meeting the strictest standards were accepted as New Testament Scripture.
I say, Go watch the movie and look for Christian life on display. It is good the world gets to hear the Scriptures in the cinemas, and the Scriptures were well integrated into the script.
“Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018)” tells the story of the New Testament, of Roman persecution of faith, and of 4 significant Biblical characters: Paul, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla. It shows audiences how the Gospel which was first preached in Jerusalem 30 years ago arrived in Rome. It also gives audiences a history lesson about an event not recorded in the Bible: Emperor Nero’s blaming the burning of the city of Rome in 67AD on Christians. Nero unjustly sentenced many Christians to death by burning, and Paul to death by beheading. No movie has done such a fine job in bringing all these themes together for modern audiences to feel and relive them again. It was beautifully filmed and I was moved to tears watching it twice.
I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST
The best line of the movie for me. Spoken by Paul to the prefect Mauritius while Paul was under interrogation, “Do you think I’ve come to Rome against my will? That I’m in this cell by accident?”
Instead of a weak Paul, we finally saw Paul the apostle of faith. This was the strongest faith declaration from Paul. It sounded just like our Master Jesus when He was arrested. He had no fear. Jesus said in effect, “Don’t you know I can call 12 legions of angels to come defend me?” Matthew 26:53 (CEB) records it this way, “Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me here and now with more than twelve legions of angels?” How does this related to “Ready Player One”?
The Game in “Ready Player One” could only be won by the player who could find 3 keys, all of which were related to knowing the Creator of the Game very well. And in a sense, the winner had already been chosen, as the Creator did not want a conformist to win, He did not want someone selfish to win, He wanted someone who was willing to go against the tide to find the keys. This meant that the most likely person to win had a choice to play, but also he was “chosen” to play and guided to win from the start!
We are destined to find the keys by our Creator, as long as we choose to know Him very well. Our lives are in His hands and our steps are being ordered by the Lord, as long as we are His like Paul was His (Psalm 37:23).
For a more critical take on the movie, comparing its accuracy to Scriptures, please go to: www.Cioccolanti.org
*Because you got to the end, you get a special reward! First access to Pastor Steve Cioccolanti’s YouTube video comparing Paul the Apostle of Christ in 64AD with The American Revolutionary War of 1776.