Good Will Hunting on Law/Gospel

Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies.  In a pivotal scene, Robin Williams’s character repeatedly reminds Matt Damon’s character that the abuse he suffered from his foster parent is not his fault.  I have not included the clip because the language is very graphic.  You can find it on YouTube if you are interested.

Here is my PG paraphrase:

Sean: It’s not your fault.


Will: I know.


Sean: It’s not your fault.


Will: Yeah, I know.


Sean: It’s not your fault.


Will: I KNOW!


Sean: It’s not your fault.


Will: Don’t mess with me Sean! Not you!


Sean: It’s not your fault.


Will:  [Breaks down. They embrace.]

Every day we must adopt the strategy of Sean and remind ourselves that the Law is not the Gospel.  God created human beings to live in obedience to his commands in every detail. He placed the law within each person.  Due to Adam’s Fall, humans fails to keep the Law because every aspect of our being is now corrupted by sin. Knowledge of God’s Law, however, still resides in the conscience of every unbeliever and in the heart of every believer.

The Gospel is a different matter, however.  It is foreign to us.  Even after coming to faith, believers need the Gospel preached into them every day, multiple times a day.  When Martin Luther faced the assaults of the Evil One, he reminded himself of the Gospel: “I am a son of God. I have been baptized. I believe in Jesus who was crucified for me. Let me alone, Devil.”1

We must be reminded of the gospel, especially the fact that the Law is not the Gospel.  The Law precedes the Gospel: no number of our good works can make us right with God.  We need the perfect, righteous, obedient, suffering work of another.  Christ kept the Law perfectly on behalf of sinners.  He graciously imputes the righteousness that he earned to those who believe, so that when the Father looks on them for justification, He only sees the righteousness of Christ, not our inadequate attempts at law keeping.  We now can rest in the finished work of Christ.

United to Christ and justified, the Law follows the Gospel: we seek to live in obedience out of gratitude for God’s work in us through Christ. The Gospel graciously empowers us for this obedience to God’s holy law.

Be like Sean and remind yourself that the Law is not the Gospel.

The Law is not the Gospel.

The Law is not the Gospel.

The Law is not the Gospel.

The Law is not the Gospel

The Law is not the Gospel.

The Law is not the Gospel….

1. Theodore Tappert, ed., Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1995), 134.

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  1. Good Will Hunting is NOT one of my favorite movies, simply because every other bleepin bleepin word spoken is the bleep word. Rotten fish in the wellspring of the soul, man

  2. Amen!

    11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith;

    12 and the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them.

    13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

    14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

  3. But Dan, what do you say?

    The Law leads/drives us to the Gospel,and the Gospel leads/invites us back to the (Third use of the) Law?

    The Law may not be the Gospel, but is not the Law the norm for the gospel-freed believer?

    Can you expand on your phrase?

    And ps – where are you churching in London?!

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