The Opening of Lydia's Heart
The Bible account of the conversion of Lydia can be found in Acts 16:5-15. In this text, verse 12 informs us that Paul and Silas (Paul now on his second Missionary Journey) had now traveled to the city of Philippi, the foremost city of that part of Macedonia. As was true in other cities, they had come to Philippi to preach the gospel. In verse 13 we find this account, "And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there." While there they met a woman who was away from home on business. Her name was Lydia. She had traveled from Thyatira and was a seller of purple. Thaytira, about 300 miles from Philippi, was a city well noted for its expensive purple dyes.
Immediately in our text we notice two outstanding characteristics about this woman named Lydia. (1) She is a worshipper of God. (2) Worship is very important to her. She is almost 300 miles away from home selling purple, yet, when the Sabbath arrived she put her business aside and went to worship her God. She went down by the riverside to pray. It was at this time that she came in contact with Paul. This would prove to be a very eventful day for this woman from Thyatira.
Notice the words of v. 14, `Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul." The last sentence of this verse has caused much discussion in years gone by. Our Calvinist friends would suggest to us that this is a proof text of one totally depraved and having her heart opened in a miraculous way by God.
Not to my surprise, yet to my disgust, this teaching was being voiced in a lectureship that I attended a few years ago in Canada by those who would claim to be New Testament Christians.
Was Lydia totally depraved as a result of inheritance from Adam to the point that she couldn't do right until God's Spirit by immediate and direct action opened her heart? Not only does this passage not teach this; it denies it. Before any mention is made of Lydia's heart being opened, she is said to have heard something. What did she hear? She had heard the preaching of the Word.
Notice with me briefly the conversion of others in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:4 we find that the apostles, on the Day of Pentecost were preaching "as the Spirit gave then utterance." The result? Some were cut to their heart v. 37. What brought these Jews to the point of repentance? "Now when they heard this" (v. 37).
In Acts 8 we find the conversion of the Samaritans. Notice what took place in verse 5. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them." What effect did this preaching have on them? "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (v. 12).
Acts 8:13 tells us that the same thing is true concerning Simon. In verses 35-39 we find that Philip taught Jesus to the one referred to as an Ethiopian eunuch. Notice in the text the result of this teaching.
Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:1-20; 22:6-16) was told to continue into
Damascus and there it "will be told what you must do" (9:6). He went and waited as he had been instructed to do. Sure enough, just as the Lord had said, one by the name of Ananias joined himself to Saul and told him what he needed to do (cf. Acts 22:16).
Cornelius in Acts 10 heard the preaching of Peter. Soon, Peter by the authority of Christ commanded them to be baptized.
In Acts 16:30-33 we read of the one called the Philippian Jailer. In verse 30 he had asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" In verses 31-34 we find the answer to his question. But take special note of verse 32: "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house."
What about Lydia? Did the Lord open her heart? Yes, certainly he did! How? First, he sent Paul into Macedonia (cf. Acts 16:9). Second, through inspiration he had given Paul (and others) a wondrously saving message to teach and preach (cf. I Cor. 2:1-16). Thus, through the Word that had been taught by this great preacher, the truth of the story of Christ pierced any and all prior misleadings and preconceived notions that this seller of purple may have had. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
The conversion of Lydia, is but another instance of the pure seed finding a good and honest heart (cf. Lk. 8:4-15). However, as a good friend of mine used to say, "We've got to get the seed out of the barn and plant it so that God can give the in-crease."
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 7, p. 5