By Irvin Himmel
Paul was at a place called Troas on his second journey when a vision appeared to him in the night. He saw a man from the country of Macedonia who was saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” The apostle and his companions came to Philippi, the ranking city in that section of Macedonia, after concluding that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel in that region. The Romans had planted a colony at Philippi.
Lydia and her household were the first converts at Philippi. Notice what the Bible says about this woman in Acts 16:12-15.
1. Lydia was a business woman. She was a seller of purple. This could mean that she sold a dye that was used in staining fibers, or it may mean that she sold cloth or garments that had been dyed. It is said of the rich man in Lk. 16:19 that he was clothed in purple and fine linen. Lydia did not allow her business interests to keep her from higher interests. Many people use their trade or occupation as an excuse for not serving God. In some cases, one’s business becomes so absorbing that he has no interest in spiritual concerns: Lydia was converted because the Lord was more important than her career.
2. Lydia was a foreigner. She was from the city of Thyatira in Asia Minor. We are not informed of how long she had been at Philippi when Paul and his coworkers arrived. Her being away from her native land did not cause her to forget about religion.
3. Lydia was a praying woman. Paul and the other preachers who were with him learned that it was customary for prayer to be offered by a river side on the Sabbath. They spoke to the women who resorted to that place. Lydia was among them. It is likely that these women were of the Jewish race. Perhaps there were not enough Jews around Philippi to build a synagogue, so a few faithful women were praying regularly at a designated spot by a river side each Sabbath.
4. Lydia worshiped God. Most of the people in Macedonia were idolaters. People were converted in some cases from idolatrous worship. But Lydia had the advantage of believing in the true and living God before she heard the gospel. However, her being a prayerful worshiper of God did not make her a saved person without the gospel. Paul did not go along with the idea that one religion is as good as another. He knew that Lydia was lost in spite of her devotion.
5. Lydia heard the truth. Paul and his companions “spake” (v. 13); Lydia “heard” (v. 14). This is the first step in converting anyone to Jesus Christ. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father; cometh unto m8;” said Jesus in John 6:45. “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
6. Lydia had her heart opened. The Lord opened her heart. This was accomplished through tile power of the gospel which she heard. The Bible does not say that the Lord opened her heart that she might hear, but it says she heard, whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It is by means of the gospel that the Lord opens hearts. First, Lydia heard the word. Second, by the influence of that word her heart was opened by the Lord. Third, because her heart was opened she gave heed to what she was taught to do.
7. Lydia was baptized. This harmonizes with what Jesus told the apostles when they were being sent forth in Mk. 16:15, 16. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Lydia was not saved by faith only. She demonstrated her faith in obedience. Jesus requires baptism as a demonstration of faith, and the remission of sins depends on this kind of faith (Acts 2:38, 22:16).
Both Lydia and her household were baptized. To use this case as justification for infant baptism necessitates the following assumptions: (1) that Lydia was married; (2) that she had children; and, (3) that her children were yet infants. Lydia’s household could have been her servants. If she was married and had children, they could have been mature enough to know right from wrong, and would have been proper subjects for baptism. Other passages make it clear that baptism is for repentant believers, therefore infants are excluded.
8. Lydia shared in gospel work. After being baptized, she besought Paul and his fellow workers to abide in her house. This offer of hospitality was not a mere courtesy. She “constrained” them. She was indebted to these men who had taught her the truth. She wanted to provide them with lodging as an expression of her appreciation and to show her interest in their important work. Afterward, when Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi, he said, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine . . . For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5). From the time of Lydia’s conversion to the time of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome, the saints at Philippi had shown a willingness to share with the apostle in his good work.
The account of Lydia’s conversion is one of the many impressive narratives showing how people turned to the Lord under the influence of simple gospel preaching in the days of the apostles. The same gospel is still being preached and souls are still being converted.
Truth Magazine XXI: 43, p. 674
November 3, 1977