Apparently there is a new movie out entitled The Son of God that is about Jesus, His ministry and His death. And there have been attempts by the promoters of this movie to do with it, what was done with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. If you recall with the first movie, many in the church made a big deal to try and get as many people to go as possible, using the movie as an evangelistic tool. I was opposed to this type of evangelism then, and now. I see it as a lazy man’s attempt to get his wife-beating brother in-law to come to Christ. Of all those who supposedly came to know Christ because of Gibson’s presentation of Jesus, how many are truly believers today?
Just the anecdotal examples I know of indicate very few are true believers. Why is that? Because God has chosen to use the preaching of God’s word as the primary means of bringing people to faith in Christ. Just do a quick search of how many times the word “preach” or “preaching” is used in the New Testament and you find that Jesus and the Apostles did quite a bit of preaching in their ministries. They didn’t use passion plays, which were available to them, but declared God’s word to the people. This is because fundamentally when we hear God’s word preached faithfully, we are actually hearing from Christ.
Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Please note that the second sentence of the verse can and should be translated: And how shall they believe
in Him whom they have not heard? Translators add the word “in” but it should properly be understood that when the word of God is preached, and the Spirit moves in the believer, we HEAR Christ through the voice of the preacher. When I first head the gospel so many years ago that led to my conversion, I heard it through the voice of Tommy Nelson, but I was actually hearing Christ calling me to follow Him.
John 10:27-30 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”
But the point of Romans 10:14-16 is that God’s word is preached to the lost, not shown to them by a film. As I mentioned before, the disciples had at their disposal the use of plays and the theater if that is how God intended to His word to go forth. They did not avail themselves of that because the preaching of His word is the means He uses to convert the lost and bring them to Himself. It is the spoken and written word that God conveys truth to us.
Tim Challies has two excellent articles on this subject that are helpful. In the first article, he shows that Gibson’s movie actually hurt the church because it got the church off mission:
The first caution is that The Passion caused us to look away from Scripture. This is ironic, of course, since The Passion was based on Scripture (plus a bit of imagination and a dash of Roman Catholic tradition). The fact is, though, that God saw fit to give us the Bible written, not displayed. He chose to give us a book, not a film. Those who pushed churches to embrace The Passion as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity made all kinds of promises, and many of those promises were based on the media. They claimed that by putting the old message into a new media it would come alive to a whole new generation and would do what preaching would not or could not. Many churches looked away from Scripture, even if only for a few weeks, and put their hope in a film.
The second caution is that The Passion took us off-mission. There is nothing more central to the church than the preaching of God’s Word. There is nothing that cuts deeper or builds stronger than the Bible faithfully taught. There is nothing we should expect God to use more powerfully than the preaching of his Word. Every revival in days past—every true revival, at least—has been a revival sparked by and carried on through preaching. We should have no expectation that God will accomplish through a film what he has only promised to accomplish through preaching. Too many churches veered off-mission when faced with the opportunity of The Passion of the Christ.
As I said before, I believe so many were caught up with Gibson’s movie because they were basically lazy. They erroneously thought a movie could do what the church needs to be doing on a regular basis: Preaching and teaching God’s word. In his second article, Challies shows that the movie fails because it confuses the crucifixion with the cross. In other words, there were thousands of people who were crucified during the days of Christ, but there was only one Cross. Even those who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion did not understand it as the Cross. It took the witnesses of the gospel writers and the apostles to explain what made Christ’s crucifixion the cross.
The cross of Christ is not less than the crucifixion, but it is certainly far, far more. Don’t believe you understand more about the cross by witnessing a dramatic recreation of the crucifixion. Before you line up to see Son of God, do at least consider what Wells says: the film leaves us with a biographical Christ, an incomplete picture, a half-told story. Those who see the film without being told the rest of the story may actually understand less about the person and work of Christ than if they had never seen it at all.
Again, what is necessary? The preaching and teaching of God’s word is necessary. This cannot be done in a weekend, or a two-hour movie. It takes time and effort to teach and preach God’s word.
The problem with the church when it comes to movies like this one is that we want what took place on the Day of Pentecost without the work that went into that Day beforehand. Remember, those people who came to know Christ on that day as a result of Peter preaching God’s word, were steeped in the Bible. They had been raised being taught the Scriptures so that they were not biblical illiterate. But the masses that saw the Passion of Christ and that will see the Son of God are not steeped in the Bible. They are steeped in humanism and a host of other things from New Age Religion to the feel-good slop that is put forth by the Joel Osteen types. They don’t see the cross in these movies, just the crucifixion. They do not hear the explanations of why Christ goes to the cross and what took place there. They don’t hear from Christ in these movies, only from the producers.
For these reasons, I don’t recommend seeing such movies. My regular readers know that I’m opposed to all movies about Christ, not just these two. I feel they also violate the Second Commandment which forbids the use of making idols or images to bow down and worship. We have been given images to use in worship, that of baptism and the Lord’s Table. Both of which are visual representations of the Cross. Other than those two images, we are not to use any images in worship at all, and our worship should be filled with the proclamation of God’s word.
As Paul said:
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”