I. An Introduction to the Woman Lydia
Lydia was a common female name in the first century. Let’s take a brief look at who this woman was in his context in biblical history.
Lydia was from the city of “Thyatira” which was a city well known for its purple dye.
B. Purple Dye Business
Lydia Was part of a larger network of people that extracted this purple dye from shellfish, a murex (a predatory tropical marine mollusk), or from the root of a Eurasian plant. She probably was in charge of a “branch office of her guild in Philippi” (Wiersbe, Be Daring, 46). This purple cloth was something that the wealthy and royalty prized (Larkin, “Acts” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 529). It was used on the official toga at Rome and in the Roman colonies (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT).
C. A Worshipper of God
Lydia was a “worshipper of God” (Acts 16:14) which was a term used in the book of Acts to describe Gentiles [define Gentile] who worshipped Yahweh (the same term is used of “Cornelius” in Acts 10:2, for “those in Thessalonica” in Acts 17:4, and “those in Athens” in Acts 17:17).
D. One of Several Significant Women in the Book of Acts
Lydia is one of several significant women in the book of Acts. It says that many “prominent women” were persuaded by what Paul and Silas were saying and they joined them (Acts 17:4). Many “prominent Greek women” came to know Christ through the preaching of Paul and Silas (Acts 17:12). After Paul preached a woman named “Damaris” believed in Jesus (Acts 16:34). And of course the most well known woman in the book of Acts is Priscilla who had a significant traveling ministry (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Rom 16:3-4; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19).
E. A Wealthy Woman
In conclusion, it is clear that Lydia was a wealthy woman. She sold expensive purple cloth, she had a house, she had servants that lived in that house, and she wanted to host people in her home, which indicated she was a woman of means who could provide them with food/accommodations.
F. A Co-Church Planter
It is likely that the church that was planted by Paul and his companions was encouraged and supported by this woman Lydia. We will look at this more in detail later.
G. Lydia Life Lesson: Women make significant contributions to business and ministry.
The seminary that I graduated from, Dallas Theological Seminary, recently had some of their students do some research on how local churches define women. They had the students approach local churches that were teaching women’s studies classes and teaching “what it meant to be a Christian woman.” One of the things that the students discovered was that a lot of the churches were using passages in the Bible that talked about marriage as their primary passages to describe “what it meant to be a woman.” In my opinion this is incorrect because a woman is not primary defined by whether or not she is married, she is defined based on being made in the image of God. “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’ So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26-27, NLT). In addition to being made in the image of God, women are also defined by their spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit gives them “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (1 Cor 12:7, NLT). And, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10, NLT).
I’ve already shown you how Lydia was a successful business woman and that other women in the book of Acts were converted. In the next three sections I want to show you how Lydia had a significant ministry. But first let’s first look at how she became a Christian.