The Pillar and Ground of Truth of 1 Timothy 3:15
Is it the Roman Catholic Church?

From the King James:

1 Tim 3:15 But 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.

This verse is commonly cited by Catholics to "prove" the infallibility of the teaching and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The assumption here being that by the process of apostolic succession, the Roman Catholic Church is the church of God and therefore it is "the pillar and ground of truth", which can never error doctrinally. Let's look at this verse in context:

The Office of the Bishop:

1 Tim 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
1 Tim 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1 Tim 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
1 Tim 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
1 Tim 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
1 Tim 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
1 Tim 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The Office of the Deacon:

1 Tim 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
1 Tim 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
1 Tim 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
1 Tim 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
1 Tim 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
1 Tim 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Paul's reason for writing:

1 Tim 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
1 Tim 3:15 But 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.
1 Tim 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Note that Paul has described in writing to Timothy the qualifications for both the bishop and deacon in the church of the living God. Both are to be the husbands of one wife, (married only once) and that the discipline of their children is to be an example of their ability to govern the church. The implication being that if they are unable to maintain an orderly household, they are not qualified for positions of authority in the church. (See also Titus 1:5, 6)

If this describes the men that are to have authority in the church of God, the pillar of the truth, then the true church would cling to this apostolic truth, and apply it to their clergy. One must obviously ask then, how well does it describe the Roman Catholic Church? Have they followed the guidance of the apostle Paul faithfully?

Well, in the 4th century, at the Council of Elvira in 302 A.D. and in Rome in 386 A.D., celibacy was imposed on the Catholic clergy and marriage denied:

The earliest enactment on the subject is that of the Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) in canon xxxiii. It imposes celibacy upon the three higher orders of the clergy, bishops, priests, and deacons. If they continue to live with their wives and beget children after their ordination they are to be deposed.

At a Roman council held by Pope Siricius in 386 an edict was passed forbidding priests and deacons to have conjugal intercourse with their wives (Jaffe-Löwenfeld, Regesta, I, 41), and the pope took steps to have the decree enforced in Spain and in other parts of Christendom (Migne, P.L., LVI, 558 and 728).

Source: The 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, on Celibacy of the Clergy, History of Clerical Celibacy, Second Period, online at New Advent Catholic Supersite.

Current Canon Law On Forbidding to Marry

The following canons are quoted from the CODEX IURIS CANONICI, the current Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, copyright 1983, by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City-

Can. 277 - § 1. Cleric are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and therefore are obliged to observe celibacy, which is a special gift of God, by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and can more freely dedicate themselves to the service of God and mankind.

Can 1037 - An unmarried candidate for the permanent diaconate and a candidate for the presbyterate is not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless in a prescribed rite he has assumed publicly before God and the Church the obligation of celibacy or professed perpetual vows in a religious institute.

Can 1087 - Persons who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage.

Can 1088 - Persons who are bound by a public perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute invalidly attempt marriage.

So contrary to Paul's instructions, for nearly 16 centuries the Catholic priest has been forbidden to marry by Canon Law! This is highly significant because of what Paul says next:

1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
1 Tim 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
1 Tim 4:3 Forbidding to marry, ...

Paul has described a church that in the end times will fall into apostasy, abandoning the truth, and following the doctrines of devils by forbidding marriage. In the context of chapter 3, this speaks of forbidding the bishop and deacon of the church from the sacrament of marriage. Just recently in fact, the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, on May 19, 1997, declared in part:

"Given that in certain nations groups of faithful, appealing to the prescription of canon 1335, second part, of the Code of Canon Law, have requested the celebration of Mass from priests who have attempted marriage, this Pontifical Council has been asked whether it is licit for a faithful or a community of faithful to request for a just cause the celebration of the sacraments or sacramentals by a cleric who, having attempted matrimony, has incurred a "latae sententiae" suspension (cfr. can. 1394, par. 1 CIC), which, however, has not been declared.

"This Pontifical Council, after attentive and thought-out study of the question, declares that such a mode of action is wholly illegitimate and points out the following:

"1) Attempted matrimony on the part of a subject endowed with Holy Orders constitutes a grave violation of an obligation proper to the clerical state (cfr. can. 1087 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 804 of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches) and therefore determines a situation of objective unfitness for the carrying out of the pastoral ministry according to the disciplinary exigencies of the ecclesial communion. Such an action, besides constituting a canonical crime whose commission makes the cleric incur the punishment reviewed by can. 1394, par. 1 CIC and can. 1453, par. 2 CCEO, automatically involves irregularity in exercising sacred orders in the sense of can. 1044, par. 1.3 CIC and can. 763.2 CCEO. This irregularity has a perpetual nature, and is thus independent also of the remission of eventual punishments.

Source: Vatican Information Service (VIS) press release N.90 of Tuesday, May 20th, 1997.

Note that contrary to scripture, the Roman Catholic priest [of the Latin Rite] who attempts marriage is described as a criminal who is unfit for the pastoral ministry!

It should be perfectly clear that for sixteen centuries, until this day, the Roman Catholic Church has indeed been identified and precisely described by Paul, not by 1 Timothy 3:15, but rather by 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Far from being the pillar and foundation of the truth, they bear Paul's prophetic mark of apostasy!

For more on this topic, see also Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Demons.

A Catholic rebutal by Mario Derksen