We watched this on Amazon Prime yesterday, where you can rent it: Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018). It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Beautifully filmed and acted, this tells the story of Paul’s life, in flashbacks, against the grim background of Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome. James Faulker, who played Herod Agrippa in I, Claudius, plays Paul–in a Roman prison, awaiting execution. Jim Caviezel is Luke, writing the Book of Acts under Paul’s guidance. Joanne Whalley and John Lynch are Priscilla and Aquila, trying to hold together the city’s Christian community.
There are in the world today places where Christians are brutally persecuted, as they were in Nero’s Rome. And yet those are the places where faith in Christ is growing.
I’m not going to write a long review here, Paul is well worth seeing for yourselves. I just want to note that, as someone who has lived his whole life in a place where, by the providence of God, neither war nor civil strife has touched for centuries, such scenes are strange and terrifying to me. I have never seen anyone beaten on the streets, publicly hanged, herded off to a gulag. I know these things have happened many times in history. I know they happen now.
But on an emotional level, I don’t want to believe that persecution, of the kind that Paul and Luke knew, can be a fact of life. I don’t want to believe it. I don’t want the world to be like that, even though I know it is. God help us peace-loving American Christians, if we ever have to confront anything worse than snarky comments and hate-contorted faces.
For thy sake, Lord, we are slaughtered like sheep…
And yet by you we are more than conquerors.
That’s what Paul said (Romans 8:36-37).
And he taught himself, and us, that only love, filled by God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ, can survive a fallen world.