Monday, July 23, 2012

Have You Met Lydia?

There is an old song that goes, “Lydia, oh Lydia! Say, have you met Lydia? Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” Okay, so post this is not about that Lydia. It’s about Lydia the “Seller of Purple.”
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)
Paul and associates, concluding from a dream Paul had that the Spirit of God was leading them to minister the gospel in Macedonia, came to Philippi and settled there for a little while. On the Sabbath, as was his habit, Paul and team went to speak with the Jews about Jesus, whom God had anointed to be King.

However, there was no synagogue at Philippi. Apparently there were not enough Jewish men to form one (Jewish law required a minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish males). But there was a group of Jewish woman who regularly met to pray, at a place outside the city and down by the riverside. So Paul went and spoke with them about King Jesus.

One woman was very prominent in that gathering, a well-to-do woman named Lydia. She was from Thyatira, which was in the region called Lydia (in what is now western Turkey), in Asia Minor. She was a “seller of purple.” The Greek word for this is a technical term that referred to a guild that produced and sold richly dyed cloths. They were, shall we say, “comfortable.”

Another thing we should note about her is that, although she was praying Jewish prayers with the Jewish women, she herself was not Jewish. Luke says she “worshipped God,” which was a way of saying that she was a proselyte. Though a Gentile, she revered the God of Israel. So here she was with the others, and she heard the good news Paul was preaching about Messiah.

In his letter to the believers at Rome, Paul said that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). And that is what happened here. The word of God came and opened Lydia’s heart to embrace the message of Jesus the Messiah. God initiated, she responded and the grace of God bore its fruit in her life.
And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:15)
She turned to the Lord, believed and was baptized, which is the pattern we find consistently throughout the book of Acts. It was the natural progression, and Luke speaks of it in passing: “when she and her household were baptized.” Oh, and not only was Lydia herself baptized but so were those of her household who were with her that day. Her faith became a source of influence for them and they believed also and were baptized. Church tradition says that Lydia was baptized by Silas, with assistance from a deacon on the team (see the image at top).

Lydia was so grateful, she invited Paul and his associates to come and stay at her home, “if you judge me to be faithful to the Lord.” The sense of “if” here is “since. Having baptized her, it was obvious that they did indeed consider her faith in the Lord to be real. So they went and enjoyed the hospitality of her house — she simply would not take no for an answer!

There is one more thing that is significant about this encounter. Remember that Paul had originally intended to go to Asia Minor with the gospel, until he was redirected by the Holy Spirit to come to Macedonia instead. And now here at Philippi, in Macedonia, the first one to come to the Lord was a woman from Asia Minor. She is regarded in Church history as the first convert to Christianity in Europe.

Focus Questions
  1. How was the grace of God evident in Lydia’s life?
  2. How do you suppose God opened her heart to consider the message about Messiah?
  3. How was faith evident in Lydia’s life?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Size Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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