The Conversion of Lydia
As Paul, Silas and Timothy were traveling in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) they left Troas by ship landing at Neapolis (near modern day Kavala, Greece) and continuing by land to Philippi (modern day Filippoi, Greece) which was the major city in the Roman colony of Macedonia. On the Sabbath they went to a riverside (believed to be the River Gangites, modern day River Angista) outside the city where women who believed in God had gathered to pray.
Lydia is only mentioned in Acts 16 and nowhere else in the scriptures. Verses 14-15: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay’. And she prevailed upon us.” Verse 40: “They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.”
Biblical scholars have written many volumes about Lydia and made numerous inferences.
What do the scriptures tell us about Lydia?
- She was the first person baptized in what became the continent of Europe.
- She was from Thyatira (modern day Akhisar, Turkey) a city some 300 miles north of Philippi (modern day Filippoi, Greece).
- She was in an evil environment where Jews and Greeks were considered inferior and where sin and idolatry were rampant.
- She was a merchant, a seller of purple fabrics. She was honorable and hard working. Lydia sold very expensive fabrics usually woolen, colored with a special dye extracted from some types of shellfish and also from the madder root which grew around Thyatira. The extract was blended with spring water to create the purple dye.
- She was a worshiper of God. She prayed to God regularly. She kept the Sabbath before she became a Christian.
- She had a listening heart. She responded to Paul’s teaching. She and her household were baptized.
- She had a household which could mean children, siblings, servants or a spouse but the scriptures do not indicate what her household included. The scriptures do not indicate that any infants were baptized.
- She was hospitable and offered her home to Paul, Silas and Timothy.
- She had a home large enough to provide accommodations for Paul, Silas and Timothy.
Historically, this is the beginning of the saints at Philippi which the book of Philippians further discusses. It shows how a small group of Christians can grow and blossom into a mature congregation and a constant encouragement to Paul.
How can we follow Lydia’s example?
Pray to God regularly. Acts 10:2 “A devout man and one who feared God with all his household and gave many alms to the people and prayed to God continually.” Phil. 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Have a listening heart and be receptive to the scriptures. Acts 16:14 “and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
Become a Christian. Sitting in the audience and just listening is not enough. Acts 2:38 “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 16:30-33 “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately was baptized, he and all his household.”
Be hospitable. When was the last time you offered your home to a visiting preacher? When was the last time you offered a meal to a visiting preacher? 1 Pet. 4:9 “Be hospitable one to another without complaint.”
Be part of a growing and thriving congregation that gives of its means to support the spread of the gospel throughout the world. This means regular attendance at services and giving of your means. Romans 12:4-5 ”For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually one of another.”