Geoff Thomas is a big man with a voice and a heart to match. He exudes love for the Saviour and for the people of God. Both are illustrated by the fact that he pastored the same church, Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, for fifty years.
His gift for preaching is matched by his determination to avoid the adulation that so easily comes with it. Nonetheless, he remains a sought-after conference speaker.
From 10 to 12 October this year he will be speaking at the ReformationUK 2019 Conference on ‘The Holy Trinity’. Asked what motivated him to agree to speak on this subject, he replies simply: ‘I love God. I love to hear sermons on God, especially on the Father, the neglected member of the Godhead.
‘To meet with those speakers and hear them and sit with the Christians who gather there for a few days will be heaven on earth. Who could stay away?’
This affection for being with the people of God is a recurring theme. Interviewed recently about his time at Alfred Place he reminisced ‘so often, at the end of a Lord’s Day, you are blessed. You’ve met with the people of God and you’ve heard them pray’.
Asked whether evangelicals have a good grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity, he responds with regret: ‘Alas, no, but if we don’t what can be the situation in Rome and the modernist dominated denominations? They have no idea of the Trinity. Most are either unitarians or mariolaters’.
He believes evangelicals are prone to ‘All the ancient errors’ about the trinity, such as ‘modalism and Sabellianism. Seeing the three persons just as three modes of God. Not seeing the incarnate Son of God as the almighty, eternal, infinite one’.
Ministering to someone who is confused about the Trinity, he directs them to the Scriptures including ‘the names of the coming Lord as prophesied by Isaiah, the theophanies of the Old Testament, the opening words of John’s gospel, and Philippians 2’.
Asked for good books on the subject, he doesn’t hesitate to reel off a list of favourites: ‘Stuart Olyott’s paperback on The Trinity. Don Macleod’s Behold Your God and A Faith to Live By. The new first volume of Joel Beeke’s Systematics, and the first volume of Greg Nichols’ Systematics, The Doctrine of God. Lloyd-Jones’ work of Systematic Theology. Frame and Grudem are both safe and warm on the Trinity.’
And should we teach new believers that the Trinity is a salvation issue? ‘There are trunk and branch doctrines. There are leaf and twig doctrines. The nature of God is all trunk and branch, while such doctrines as church government and the millennium are leaf and twig doctrines’.
So how does trinitarian doctrine benefit the believer in practical ways in his daily life? ‘There are economic aspects to the Trinity, unique to each one of them. The first person alone is the Father and all that is involved in the Fatherhood of God, the Son alone was sent to take human nature and be two natures in one person for ever, to live a righteous life for us and die an atoning death for us, and rise and ascend as the God-man at the right hand of God for ever, while the Holy Spirit alone was sent by Father and Son to apply the triumph of the persona and work of Christ to all the vast number of the elect, until the dawning of the final day.
‘Communion is encouraged with all three members of the Godhead and John Owen in his book on this subject encourages us to know how. So our piety and love and obedience and understanding are all immeasurably enriched by a better knowledge of the Trinity’.
In the local church, he insists, ‘Expository preaching of the Old Testament must be Trinitarian. You see this from the opening chapters of Hebrews where you get many quotations from the Old Testament writers and they are ascribed to the Holy Spirit or we are told that the writer is speaking of Christ’.
What would he say to those in our churches who don’t enjoy preaching? ‘I am very sorry for such Christians. They are perhaps not being moved by their local pastors and now endure rather than enjoy their sermons. Let them broaden their experience of listening online to other preachers. Or maybe they are professors of being Christians and are not and so they find powerful sermons tedious. They must be prayed for. They must be born again’.
He continues to cultivate faith-filled optimism about the state of the church, observing: ‘God’s way now is just protecting us by our smallness and encouraging us in our strengths of conviction. And He’s preparing us for a time when blessing might come. And there’s a network of men and ministries that can address a sudden insurge of hungry, convicted people – old and young’.
Inspiring words from a man upheld by God through five decades of faithful ministry.
The ReformationUK 2019 conference ‘The Holy Trinity’ takes place from 10-12 October 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne. Details and registration can be found at www.reformedconferences.org