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.
II. OPPORTUNITY: THE GOSPEL ATTENDED TO
The context for Paul’s interactions with Lydia starts with him traveling from place to place (on his second of three missionary journeys) and he arrives at the city of Philippi. The Jewish population that Paul found in Philippi must have been small because there needed to be 10 Jewish men for a synagogue. There was no Jewish synagogue so there must have been less than 10 Jewish men in the city. Paul finds out some women were gathered for prayer near the Gangites River which was about 1.5 mile walk outside of the city of Philippi (Tousaint, “Acts” in Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 399). This was a gathering of women, probably in the open air near the river (Larkin, “Acts” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 529).
A. Lydia listened and talked with Paul.
“she [Lydia] listened to us [Paul and his companions]” (v. 14)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation[/ref]
The Bible tells us that Paul went to the River to “speak with” some women who traveled there (Acts 16:13). Lydia was one of the women there who “listened” (Acts 16:14) to what Paul was saying. The two Greek words used in verses 13 and 14 here are simple words for “speak” in Greek. While Paul might have preached a little bit, it seems to imply that this was a conversation. The Greek word used here is λαλεω to “talk, speak” while there is another word in Greek κηρυσσω “announce, make known, proclaim aloud.” That Greek word is used in Gal 2:2, “I had been preaching to the Gentiles”, in Gal 5:11, “If I were still preaching” and Rom 10:18, “The very message about faith that we preaching”. Here in Acts 16:13-14 the word is λαλεω which seems to mean that Paul simply had a conversation and that they talked together.
B. Lydia heard the Gospel.
“As she [Lydia] listened to us” (v. 14)
But, what do you think Lydia listened to and talked to Paul and his companions about?
1. Five Things Lydia Heard
If we go off of what Paul shared in other witnessing opportunities we will notice five common things that Lydia likely heard in her conversation with Paul.
- First, Lydia likely heard the name of Jesus a lot (Acts 9:27; 12:23-24; 16:31; 28:31).
- Second, Lydia likely heard the Old Testament explained to her in a new way (Acts 13:16-22; 17:3; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23-27). This was important because Lydia was a worshipper of the God of the Old Testament and likely knew some of the Old Testament.
- Third, Lydia likely heard about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:29-37; 17:3; 23:6; 25:19; 26:23).
- Fourth, Lydia likely heard about the forgiveness of sins that is offered by Jesus Christ (Acts 13:23-41; 28:28).
- Fifth, Lydia likely heard some of her own “language” and “culture” used in the conversation (Acts 17:22-34)
2. Without Jesus You Are Just a Nice Person
When I was doing my undergraduate work at Fresno Pacific University I was taking a class about evangelism and we were talking about doing outreach and ministry and loving on people in the community. The professor said something that has really stuck with me. He said that if you feed the poor and take care of widows and love your neighbors, but you never mention the name of Jesus, you are nothing more than a “nice person.” You have to make sure that people know what you are doing has a motivation behind it: the love of Christ. And that’s true for when we talk with nonChristians and share our faith.
C. Lydia Life Lesson: Tailor your approach to sharing the Gospel based on circumstances and audience.
1. Manners in Sharing the Gospel
The manner in which we share the Gospel must be with love (Mark 10:21; Phil 1:15-17), with urgency (2 Cor 5:20; Ezek 33:7-9), fearlessly (Eph 6:19-20; Acts 4:29), and clearly while courteously (1 Peter 3:15; Acts 26:1-3; Col 4:4-6).
2. Methods in Sharing the Gospel
The methods we used to share the Gospel can be by sharing personal testimony (John 4:29; Acts 22:3-8), explaining the Scriptures (Acts 8:30-35; Isa 53:7-8; Pss 119:172; Acts 17:1-3, 10-12), answering questions (Col 4:6; John 9:8-11, 15-17, 24-25; 1 Peter 3:15), through writing (John 20:31; Luke 1:1-4), through holy living (Matt 5:16; 1 Peter 3:1-2), and through acts of devotion (Matt 26:6-7; Luke 7:36-38; John 12:1-3).
I share these manners and methods with you because the methods change in different circumstances with different people, but the manners are used with all people in all circumstances.
III. OPTION: THE GOSPEL ACCEPTED
A. Lydia’s heart was opened by God.
“As she [Lydia] listened to us, the Lord opened her heart.” (v. 14)
Lydia was a worshipper of God who had gathered near the river for prayer. Yet, she did not know her Savior Jesus Christ. As Paul and his companions shared with Lydia the Gospel the text says, “the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying” (v. 14).
But, why would God need to “open her heart?” “This divine direct intervention is essential if the unregenerate heart, always slow to believe—if not antagonistic to the gospel message—is to positively embrace it in an ‘honest good-hearted’ way” (Larkin, “Acts” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 529). If you are like me you know people that you have clearly shared the Gospel with, yet they don’t believe nor do they understand. Paul told the believers in Corinth that “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Cor 4:4, NLT) The fact that people are blinded to God’s truth is why we pray to God for people to come to know Jesus Christ. We pray for God to open up their hearts as we share the Gospel. Because, we need God to start the process and prepare the way for us. If other people coming to know God was entirely dependent on us, we would not have to pray to God for assistance.
The key here is that it says “the Lord opened her heart.”[iii] The word picture that AT Robertson gives is that this is like something opening up wide or completely like a folding door (Robertson, Word Pictures). [see slide pic]
B. Lydia accepted what she heard.
“As she [Lydia] listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with other members of her household.” (vv. 14-15)
The passage says that Lydia listened, the Lord opened her heart, and she “accepted what Paul was saying.” Warren Wiersbe makes an important observation saying, “We must not conclude that because God opened Lydia’s heart, Lydia’s part in her conversion was entirely passive. She listened attentively to the Word, and it is the Word that brings the sinner to the Savior” (Wiersbe, Be Daring, 47). In the Gospel of John Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (John 5:24, NLT). You see, it’s not enough for people to simply “listen” to the message. Many people hear the Gospel yet don’t respond to it. But we have to accept and apply it to our lives. And the essence of this word isn’t just to casually “accept” what is said. It has the idea of paying close attention to something and is often translated as “pay attention to, give heed to, follow, occupy oneself with, devote, apply oneself to” (BDAG, 879-880).
And the Passage hear clearly states that Lydia did more than just “listened” but she applied what she heard.
C. Lydia’s converted from her religion to Christianity.
“meeting for prayer . . . Lydia . . . worshipped God . . . listened and accepted what Paul was saying” (vv. 13-14)
1. Everyone has a religion even if they don’t think they do.
Everyone has a religion. My religion is Christianity. Well, it’s not really a “religion” as in something I have to do to get right with God or things I have to do to be right with God. But instead it is a relationship. But even an atheist has a religion. It just does not have the Lord God as the focus of it. For an atheist it probably is science because that’s their “god” and their “religion” which they are part of. For some others it might be sports. Sports is a religion when people are so wrapped up in it that that’s all they think about. When I was a caddy in Texas I used to get so frustrated and even a couple other guys would get frustrated because September begins a new season for a specific sport. What sport is that? Football? Well yes, it is Football. But more importantly, “Fantasy Football.” Those guys would talk for hours about fantasy football! Oh my gosh. There was one caddie who was in 7 different fantasy football leagues. Another religion is Apple Mac. Right, people get in line and buy stuff from Apple and they don’t even know what they are buying. They just know that they “have to have it.”
2. There are several elements that likely are involved in our conversion.
- First, conversion is a turning away from unbelief to faith. This is linked to repentance (Acts 3:19; Ezek 14:6; 18:30; Acts 26:20) and coming to faith (Acts 11:21).
- Second, conversion brings new life. It results in a transformed life (2 Cor 5:17; Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18; Gal 6:14-15), is symbolized in baptism (Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:12; 3:1-3), and demands a new lifestyle (Hosea 12:6; Matt 18:3-4; Gal 5:22-24; Eph 4:1; 5:8-11; 1 Peter 2:11-12).
- Third, conversion brings a relationship with God. It brings a new status (Gal 4:7; 3:26-29; 1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 2:9-10) and a new understanding (2 Cor 3:15-16; Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11).
- Fourth, as we have seen conversion is a work of God. God turns people to himself (Jer 24:7; Lam 5:21; 1 Kings 8:58; Jer 31:18; Ezek 36:26-27; John 6:44; 15:16; Eph 2:12-13) and God gives new birth (James 1:17-18; John 3:3-6; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 1:23).
D. Lydia Life Lesson: We must be patient with the people that we share the Gospel with and ask God to work in people’s hearts.
The two pastors I work with are great at doing this. They have so many different ways that they do outreach to people and try to build friendships and do evangelism. Dr. Miller is regularly going to the Wildflower Café, the Whistle Stop, and East Meet West, David Welch regularly goes to the Exeter Coffee Company, Rock Yard Tavern, and VIP Pizza to build relationships and get to know people and invite them to church.
IV. OBLIGATION: THE GOSPEL APPLIED
A. Lydia practiced baptism as the first step to show her salvation.
“She [Lydia] was baptized” (v. 15a)
All Christians are told to be baptized in order to show salvation not in order to be saved. Every Christian experiences two baptisms: a spiritual baptism as is described in 1 Cor 12:13, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:13, NLT) (Rom 6:1-4). We also have a physical baptism as well as a spiritual baptism that Luke describes in Acts 8 with the Ethiopian man who is converted to Christianity, sees some water on the side of the road and says, “let’s baptize me there!” (Acts 8:30-38).
Baptism is a symbol of salvation (Matt 28:19; Rom 6:4; Acts 8:38-39), a testimony to others of faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor 12:13), an evidence of lordship of Jesus Christ (Luke 6:46; Matt 28:18-19; 1 John 5:3), and lastly is a personal blessing (Acts 8:38-39). I would not say that “you are not saved unless you are baptized” but the Bible is clear that “once you are saved you get baptized.”
B. Lydia practiced hospitality as a sign of her salvation.
She [Lydia] asked us to be her true guests. ‘If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my home.’ (v. 15b)
I’m not sure about you, but I love the illustrations that Dr. Miller gives in his sermons. A couple of weeks ago he talked about a guy that purchased a restaurant in a town and everyone new the restaurant was poorly ran and served poor food. The man ripped out a lot of things, fixed it up, put in new items, and began serving better food. Someone came inside and said, “Hey, why don’t you have a sign outside that says ‘under new management’ to which the man replied, ‘I shouldn’t have to tell people. If they come in and see and eat, they will know it’s under new management.’”
That’s how it should be in our Christian lives. Our lives, when we come to know Christ, should be “under new management” and we shouldn’t have to tell people about the change. Those people should be able to see the change. That’s what Lydia did here, she said, “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord . . . come and stay at my home.” If she was a faithful true believer in the Lord, then Paul and his companions would allow her to show the signs of her salvation. This desire on Lydia’s part was so strong that she “urged” Paul and his companions to stay at her home until they agreed (v. 15).
And, we know that Lydia lived out this hospitality because later in this chapter Paul and Silas get thrown in prison (Acts 16:23) and when they are let out of prison (Acts 16:35-36) they go to the home of Lydia and there are a group of believers there. “When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town” (Acts 16:40, NLT). It appears that Lydia’s home had become a center for ministry.
C. Lydia practiced a faith that was so real the other people in her household were converted too.
“She [Lydia] was baptized along with other members of her household” (v. 15)
I’ve explained earlier that Lydia was a wealthy woman who sold purple cloth. The “other members of her household” were either her servants or children. What is clear is that her faith in Christ was so real and changed her life so much, that the other people in her house had the same converting experience. Maybe Paul shared the Gospel with them, or maybe she shared it with them.
D. Lydia Life Lesson: A true faith in Jesus Christ means I have tangible ways that I live out my faith which other people can see.
We need to have a faith in Jesus Christ that is active and alive. Where we are actively being nice to people, sharing the Gospel, as well as being active within the church God has placed us in.
In this message we have looked at the life of this amazing woman Lydia and I’ve talked about how she was baptized as a sign of her faith. Maybe you have been attending church for a while and you want to make that next step of knowing Jesus and following him. Maybe you have never been in a church before and you’ve never read the Bible, but you know about Jesus and you want to follow him with your life. If that’s you, I encourage you to say “Yes, Jesus, I know you, and I want to follow you. I am going to make you Lord over my life.” If that’s you today I encourage you to circle that “yes” on the Keeping In Touch card and we will send you a Bible and walk with you in your new life following Christ Jesus.
[iii] The Greek word (“opened” is the word διανοιγω) is only used nine times in the New Testament. Five of those uses is to describe how someone’s ears are opened so that they can hear (Mark 7:34, 35), eyes are opened so they can understand (Luke 24:31), mind (Luke 24:45), and heart to enable someone to perceive (Acts 16:14).