One of the best religious films I’ve seen in years is the recent release, “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” It’s the story of Paul’s last days in a dark dungeon and under house arrest in Rome. The retrospective of his life is seen through the eyes of Luke, who tells Paul’s story in the Book of Acts. Luke visits Paul in prison and in relative freedom before Nero’s ax fall on the Apostle’s neck and ends his mission to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Gritty, minus melodrama, and factually accurate, “Paul, Apostle of Christ” is a film all Christians should see.
Yet one thing troubles me about this movie. Its message is symptomatic of modern, North American Christianity. It guts an important part of the Gospel. (I use “gut” as a verb, “to remove essential or vital parts of something.”) The script of “Paul” is faithful to Scripture, and brilliantly weaves biblical truth into the dialogue between Luke and Paul. There is a moving portrayal of Paul’s Damascus road epiphany; indelible insights into the character of Paul the man as he grapples with life’s end. But important aspects of Paul’s life and teaching are missing.
Understandably, this movie couldn’t contain every account in Acts and every significant passage in the Apostle’s epistles. But notably absent was any reference to Paul’s great exposition in Ephesians chapter six about the armor of God and the demonic forces with which we all “wrestle.” Also, the thorn in Paul’s “flesh” is never referred to, perhaps because the idea that he was tormented by a demon is too much for evangelicals to swallow. Imagine, such a holy man oppressed by a “messenger of Satan.” And “Paul” is silent about one of the most significant events in the Apostle’s life: Acts 16:16 where Luke records the casting out of evil spirits from a demon-possessed witch/fortune-teller/psychic. Paul as an exorcist? That might require too much explaining to a movie audience of seeker-friendly Christian who think casting out demons is a medieval oddity.
I don’t mean to be picky, because I do like this film; but I suspect excising all references to spiritual warfare from Luke’s writings was deliberate. Too controversial. Perhaps not theologically acceptable to most evangelicals who are cessationists when it comes to spiritual gifts and the present-day miracle of deliverance. But casting out demons IS the gospel, and the first sign of the gospel’s integrity. (Read again Mark 16:17, the Great Commission.) To remove references to spiritual warfare and deliverance from the life of Paul is an unacceptable omission, and it guts the Gospel. In Luke’s own words (Luke 4:18), Jesus came to declare freedom to the captives of Satan. That’s the Gospel for which Paul lived and died!
An Encouraging word: HOW GOD SEES YOU
A pastor friend of mine recently made the following observation, which I’ll put into my own words: There are many ways that we think about ourselves: (1) How we see ourselves, (2) How others see us, (3) How we think others see us, (4) How we want others to see us, and (5) How God sees us. One of the most important questions in life is to ask yourself how God really sees you. Paul had that insight when he wrote in Romans 3:12, “There is no one who does good, not even one.” As sinners, God sees us as unrighteous and worthy of condemnation. As saints, He sees us as forgiven and worthy of eternal life.
Bob Larson has trained healing and deliverance teams all over the world to set the captives free and Do What Jesus Did® (Luke 4:18). You can partner with Bob and support this vision to demonstrate God’s power in action by calling 303-980-1511 or clicking here to donate online