A friend of mine married a guy named Jerome who was raised in Switzerland but had lived a few years in Thailand as a missionary. It was always fascinating to talk with him about church, missions, and his cross-cultural experiences. Often, we don’t realize that our normal isn’t normal until someone from the outside is able to gently speak into what we say and do. One day, Jerome and I sat down for a chat after church.
I asked him, “Jerome, now that you live in the US, what stands out to you as different in our churches compared to yours in Switzerland or even in Thailand?”
He reclined in his chair and patiently responded. I could tell that he was working to be both frank and kind. He was slow to speak when I reminded him that I asked him because I wanted an honest answer.
“Well, I have noticed something. It seems that many churches in America I’ve attended sing and preach significantly about our sin, which is appropriate and true: we are sinners and totally depraved, in desperate need of a Savior. But we’re also sons of God, adopted by the Father and there’s great power in that.”
Jerome stated something so simple and, I think, so fascinating: For those of us who are in Christ…we are sons of God. There’s great power in that declaration. I spend a lot more time contemplating my depravity than I do my sonship. I spend a lot more time contemplating my sanctification than my sonship. I spend a lot more time contemplating that I am the bride of Christ than my sonship. All of these truths deserve my contemplation, but it seems more difficult for me to consider my sonship.
As women, it seems (whether married or single) that we get we’re the bride of Christ. We are captivated by the idea that he takes the lead and is our Bridegroom. Our union with Christ is lovely and mysterious. He pursues us, covers us, provides for us, cares for us and protects us. What a Savior!
But at the same time, we are sons of God. It might be just as difficult for men to grasp being the bride of Christ as it is for women to grasp that we are sons of God. But I think it’s a discipline to allow this truth to wash over us: For those of us who are in Christ Jesus, we are sons of God.
If you look at Romans 8:15, Paul talks of our adoption as sons, and this isn’t sexist or exclusive. He’s not ignoring women here, but elevating women. Many Bibles, including the ESV, have a special note about why this particular Greek word is translated as sons and not children or sons and daughters. It’s translated as sons because of a covenantal promise. You can see it clearly in Galatians when Paul states that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus and sons (Gal. 3:28-4:7).
An adoption transaction only transpired with males in the time of the New Testament. Those who were adopted were given the full privilege of the first-born son. This declaration in Romans and Galatians isn’t speaking to our sexuality or our gender, but the illustration is far more significant: it speaks to our standing before our Father in heaven. For Paul to call Gentiles (not only Jews), but slaves also (not only those who were free) and women (not just men) co-heirs with Christ was scandalous in that culture and true by the power of the gospel. To quote my seminary professor, John Fesko, from his commentary on Galatians:
Replacing the word “sons” with “children” essentially negates Paul’s point. Yes, of course, we are God’s children through faith in Christ. But, more specifically, we are all, male and female, God’s sons. To call a woman a “son” does not negate her femininity but rather accords her the same covenantal legal status as a full heir in Christ!
How often, as a woman, do you consider yourself God’s adopted son and co-heir with Christ? This can be challenging, but I think it’s worth the time and effort it takes to allow it to sink deep into our souls.
Like Jerome said, there is great power in being God’s son. Maybe much of the power rests in the tension of many truths: we are totally depraved sinners being loved, pursued, accepted, adopted, and even adored by our heavenly Father. We are sinners in desperate need of the Savior, but we are also his beloved son. Imagine, if you can, the pride in the eyes of the Father as he gazes upon you, his beloved son.
“You are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Gal. 4:7
 Fesko, John V. Galatians: Expository Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012), p.97.
About the Author:
Sue Harris serves the congregation at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church (Birmingham) as the Women’s Ministry Director. She has a passion for spiritual formation as she earned her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta in 2014. She served Mission to the World for nine years challenging PCA congregations in missions as well as serving missionaries on the field through encouragement, teaching and short-term teams. Previously, she spent 12 years as a college women’s basketball coach, earning her MBA at Texas Woman’s University.