“Who You Say I Am”: A Song of Freedom (Song Discovery)

“Who You Say I Am” was released this year by Hillsong Worship and centers around John 8. It explores the wonderful truth that when Jesus saves us, He not only sets us free, but also brings us into the family of God.

About the song

“Who You Say I Am” was written by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding. This is not their first time collaborating, as they’re the two responsible for “Mighty To Save,” “God Is Able,” and “Stronger”—not to mention the many songs they’ve written separately, including ”What A Beautiful Name.” It seems as if every time they write a song together, it turns into a Hillsong classic.
Morgan and Fielding had actually started working on an uptempo song when out of nowhere this slower 6/8 ballad appeared. The one thing they had agreed on was to write about John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
In interviews, they talk about how this song was a real declaration of identity for them, with the lyrical hook “I am who You say I am” showing up in the bridge. It’s interesting to see how many worship songs have recently been written on the theme of identity. Perhaps God is using these songs to remind the Church of her identity in the midst of a cultural identity crisis.

Lyrical analysis

The song as a whole is great, but the chorus and the bridge really drive home the message.
Chorus
The song launches into the chorus with a declaration of freedom:

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

This freedom we have in Christ is worth shouting—as the music of this song drives you to do. Though the John 8 verbiage may be familiar, the truth is timeless and bears on every aspect of our Christian life. Freedom from sin, freedom to say no to every empty, self-injuring temptation that comes our way. Freedom for God. Freedom for the beauty of holiness. Freedom to say yes to His wonderful calling on our lives and to step into His fountain of blessing in Christ. Freedom found in being adopted, purchased, and fully loved by our perfect Father.
As if that theme isn’t strong enough, the chorus goes on to say:

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

In a time when we feel less at home than ever, this lyric strikes particularly true. We are more mobile than ever before in history. Families are scattered across states and even the world. The overuse of smartphones is disconnecting us from one another. The phrase “In my father’s house, there’s a place for me” is powerful in light of this present reality. The longing for a real home may be stronger than ever.
Bridge
The bridge is comprised of four simple but rich lines:

I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who You say I am

Whom among us can’t use more of those truths? We so easily default to a false reality—that we are forsaken, that God is against us, and that we define ourselves. But praise be to God that He is for us and has given us a new identity as children in His family of grace.

Musical analysis

Kicking off with a driving acoustic guitar, Hillsong’s version is mostly comprised of real instruments (as opposed to electronic tracks) and is very doable musically. The electric hook is easy to learn and carries a good bit of the melodic energy. Leading the song with an acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and an electric guitar would be enough to adequately recreate the feel from the record.
There’s something about the 6/8 meter that helps carry the melody in a way that 4/4 doesn’t. And with its vocal range within an octave, this song is singable for anyone. A good key for female worship leaders is E or F#, while A or B major may be better suited for male leaders.
The chorus melody resembles “Mighty To Save” in the way the notes climb the scale by whole steps with the first three chord changes. This gives an emotional lift to the melody and helps deliver this truth in an effective way. The way the chords change beneath the lyrics “I’m a child of God, yes I am” in the chorus has a way of emphasizing them and letting them stand out from the rest of the song.
“Who You Say I Am” not only has a great theme, but is also very singable, making it an easy choice for worship leaders to lead in their churches.
This is a guest post by music professionals Cody Norris and Stephen Folden. Photo by Dino Reichmuth.

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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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Written by Matthew Boffey
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