Galatians 1:6-9 and Church Authority


Hey guys,

This is my first post on here, so don’t make too much fun of my ignorance. I have been raised a Protestant (more specifically, a fundamentalist). Independently I read and study much theology, and I have been thinking more and more about the Catholic-Protestant difference, and in almost every area I have found what the Catholic Church teaches is true. However, I have a few questions, which over the next few weeks I will post one by one to get your thoughts about them.

Anyway, on the first question.

In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul says:

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Now, it seems to me (and many commentators) that Paul is saying here that they are to judge the truth of what a messenger says using the gospel that they had first received from him. I’m wondering if this has any implications for the church’s authority. Would that mean we are to judge the truth of the Church by the gospel? That the gospel is our guide, not the church? (When I say gospel, I don’t mean that sola scriptura is our guide, but instead the basic gospel that is witnessed to in the Sciptures and through other Christians is our guide) What is the Catholic teaching on these verses? I have read Karl Keating’s “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” and his “Answers to 52 common misconceptions…” (or whatever that title is). I have also read David Courier’s (?) book “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” and I own a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but I have yet to read the section on Church Authority. So, I have a very basic understanding of the teaching of Church Authority.

Just to avoid discussion on issues surrounding this topic that I am already aware of, let me just say this: it seems to me that in one way this does not constitute a problem for the CC’s teaching. For, if I understand the teaching on Church Authority, God through his Holy Spirit will keep the CC from teaching error. So, my objection doesn’t apply in this sense, because we can judge the message by the Church, and the Church by the message, for they will be teaching the same thing if the doctrine of the Church is true. (So, in a way, I am refuting my own question because it seems to be begging the question).

However, I am mainly wondering if the CC would have a problem with the saying “judge the messenger by the message”. Would they say the CC is apart of the message? And/or would they say that this saying is true and is what Paul means in the passage mentioned above, however Paul is not excluding that in certain cases, depending on who the messenger is, one can “judge the message by the messenger”? Either of these solutions would be satisfactory to me (an any other that I haven’t thought of that doesn’t go against the clear meaning of the text). The only problem I would have is if the CC had a problem with the saying “jusdge the messenger by the message”. If this is the case, then I will definitely need someone to help me through this problem.



For me, church authority is summed up by the apostle Paul in one verse:

15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God,** the pillar and ground of the truth**.

15 But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.

If Paul says the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, then they will be representing the gospel. History tells us objectively that the first established Christian Church was built on the 13 Apostles (counting Paul) and the only Christian Church that can be traced back to the apostles directly is the Catholic Church. With that said, the Catholic church has to be the pillar and foundation Paul wrote about.


Micah, you have already worked your way out of your own dilemma. I think the problem you are having is that you have some residual Protestant exegesis still floating through your mind that is causing you to doubt the Church’s authority. As a convert myself, I went through the same misgivings, but on another issue. It’s only natural that after thinking and believing from a particular point of view all your life you are having a bit of difficulty fully integrating the Catholic understanding/changing your way of thinking into a Catholic one.

Whenever we read passages such as these we have to remind ourselves that it was the Church that gave us the Bible. You cited that, but I don’t think it’s really taken hold of your mind and heart yet. You are too used to reading the Bible and then trying to come up with answers for parts that bother you without any real guide to help you but your own common sense. And while common sense is not be sneered at, it can’t always help us out of such pickles nor teach us what we don’t know.

Paul was speaking from the perspective of being an Apostle of the Catholic (universal) Church founded by Christ. He was concerned about Judaizers coming along and trying to get Gentile believers to practice all the Jewish ceremonial laws, which Christ had fulfilled. Seen in this context, these people would quickly recognize that that was what these men were doing, with Paul’s very sensible admonition to help them, and not be fooled by such false teachers. So, the passage is about rejecting whatever goes against what the Church has clearly taught us, not about trying to discern if every Catholic preacher is subverting the Gospel or not or if the Church has the authority to discern such matters. I hope this helps you.


[quote=BigTurkey] I’m wondering if this has any implications for the church’s authority.

Yes. God has said everything in his Word. (see CCC, 65) There will be no further Revelation. (see CCC, 66-67)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) goes on to say:
85. “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86. “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”



WELCOME!!! Feel free to ask whatever questions you have, and stay as long as you would like.

As for Gal 1:6-9, I would point you to Gal 1:9:

Gal 1:9 As 5613 we said before 4280 , so 2532 say I 3004 now 737 again 3825, If any 1536 [man] preach 2097 0 any other 3844 0 gospel 2097 unto you 5209 than 3844 that 3739 ye have received 3880 , let him be 2077 accursed 331.

Specifically, number 3880 (“received”): (Greek transliteration - paralambano )

2) to receive something transmitted… 1) by oral transmission: of the authors from whom the ***tradition ***proceeds

2) by the narrating to others,*** by instruction of teachers*** (used of disciples)

The Galatians received a tradition, which they were to instruct others in. That’s the Gospel.

[quote=Big Turkey]When I say gospel, I don’t mean that sola scriptura is our guide, but instead the basic gospel that is witnessed to in the Sciptures and through other Christians is our guide

Please keep in mind which “other Christians” you are talking about, as some of the “other Christians” now-a-days preach a very different message than the Gospel taught by the Apostles. We can know that for certain by examining the writings of those who learned at the feet of the Apostles; specifically, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, in addition to the Didache. Beyond them, we may also look to those whom they taught. There are more surviving writings than you would think…

Thankfully, this is exactly what scripture tells us would happen, and as a result the exact thing we should look to:
2 Timothy 2:2
And the things that thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, commit thou the same to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.

Apostolic Succession and the liniage of Sacred Tradition:
1st generation: Paul
2nd generation: Timothy
3rd generation: Those Timothy teaches (“faithful men”)
4th generation: “others” who “shall” be taught

I cannot stress enough the writings of the Early Church Fathers. You can find their writings here, or samples from the CA tracts on this site.

I hope that was helpful.

God Bless,


Hello Micah,
Just an amateur Catholic here! As I read that passage, the question is “what is the gospel Paul preached?” Most of the new testament had not been written at that time, so it could not be our scriptures. It must have been the ORAL tradition of the faith which Paul transmitted. That oral tradition is what still exists in the Catholic church. So the Catholic Church, thru the inspiration of the Holy Spirt, continues to be true to the Gospel Paul preached. Sorry if I’m trivializing your question. Keep seeking Him!


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