FFF 11:6 (June – July 1965)
A Business Woman Believed
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey was well under way when the Apostle and his companions were stopped by the Spirit of God from taking the Gospel of Christ into Asia and Bithynia, the result being that the Holy Spirit thrust them over into Europe. Having crossed the Aegean Sea this party of Gospel pioneers landed at Neapolis, the sea port of Philippi, and then proceeded on their way to Philippi proper. A new Alexander had come with a new power to conquer Europe for Christ, God having used Alexander the Great and Caesar to prepare the way, and the far-reaching effects of the events recorded here in Acts 16 can be hardly overestimated. Philippi, originally called Crenides (from its many springs), was seized by Philip of Macedonia in 356 B. C. In 168 B. C. it passed to the Romans with the rest of Macedonia, and in 42 B. C. it was made a Roman colony — “a bit of Rome away from Rome.” Soon it was to feel the impact of the gospel.
The situation in which Paul and his fellow labourers found themselves was not a promising one, but as always proves true, “little is much when God is in it.” It is apparent that Philippi, being a military outpost, had few Jews. There was no synagogue in the city, but a mile west of the city by the Gangites River an enclosure had been noticed which they “supposed … was a place of prayer” (16:13, ASV). A new era for women and for Europe was about to dawn, Lydia being the first convert on the continent of whom we have record.
In pursuit of the Holy Spirit’s brief biography of Lydia we wish to stress two particular things about her, the first being:
Her Opened Heart
The Providence Which Led to It. Lydia’s birthplace was undoubtedly Thyatira in Lydia, the latter having been a Macedonian colony in Asia Minor. It may be that she was named after her homeland. One of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation was located at Thyatira (see Rev. 2:18-29), the city having been especially noted for its dyers. Lydia became “a seller of purple” (16:14), purple being a name for a dye which was made from shellfish. The fluid from them was first placed on wool, which turned it blue. It was then exposed to sunlight, which turned it green, and finally purple. When it was washed in water it became a brilliant crimson, such material being widely desired and bringing a high price. Lydia apparently became a woman of considerable means, eventually carrying on her lucrative business away from her home city. However, money cannot buy peace of mind and heavenly joy, and she was typical of multitudes in her day, as well as the present day, groping after reality midst the vice, vanity, and vexation of this earthly scene.
It is evident that she was seeking. She wanted that which would satisfy her heart. It may be that Lydia was a widow who perhaps had become a Jewish proselyte in her home city, for at that time there was a Jewish settlement in Thyatira interested in the dyeing industry. At any rate, the superstitions and pagan practices of her day could not satisfy her inner longings, so she sought the monotheism of the Jews.
It is also apparent that she was sincere. In the darkness of her soul Lydia truly longed for heavenly light and peace, and I am convinced that anyone who really and truly desires to know God will eventually be given light from God Himself. Lydia meant business with God, and through divinely-directed circumstances light did come to her in the persons of Paul and his companions.
The Power Which Lightened It. Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy were absolutely helpless in themselves to open Lydia’s heart and mind to Christ and to the truth of God’s Word. They were but instruments in the hand of God, but as they conversed with these women by the riverside, presenting the claims of Christ upon the soul, Lydia truly believed on the Saviour, realizing that here at last was the answer she had been sincerely seeking in regard to the problem of her sins. Having heard the way of salvation, her heart was opened by the Lord as she heeded the things spoken by Paul (see 16:14 with Rom. 10:17).
The Person Who Lorded It. The entrance of the Lord Jesus Christ into her heart and life led quickly to the enthronement of Christ over the same. Lydia readily submitted to Christian baptism, thereby publicly confessing the Lord Jesus before all. It is not important to know whether she was saved that particular Sabbath or not. The fact remains that she was truly brought to know Christ, and also her “household” (16:15), all taking their stand in the waters of baptism. Of whom did her household consist? Undoubtedly they were the women she employed who also had heard Paul’s preaching and, like Lydia, had their hearts opened to the Lord. It may be that Euodias and Syntyche formed part of her household (see Phil. 4:2-3).
At any rate, the Lord Jesus Christ had been placed on the throne of Lydia’s heart and life, not just on the threshold. To her. Christ was indeed Lord Of All!
The second prominent thing about Lydia is
Her Opened Home
The Lowliness Which Prompted It. Having willingly submitted to water baptism, this in itself being a token of her faithfulness to the Lord, Lydia asked Paul and his fellow labourers to abide in her house, that is, if they had judged her to be faithful. She wanted her house to be used for the glory of her Lord, knowing that it could serve as a splendid base of operations for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. Actually, “if” in verse 15 should read “since” Lydia, knowing that Paul and his companions had already judged her to be faithful, and so she made known her desire toward them.
The Love Which Provided It. Note the closing words of verse 15: “And she constrained us” (the only other place in the New Testiment where the word for “constrained” is used is in Luke 24:29). It is apparent that Paul at first demurred, the Apostle preferring to be independent and thereby burden no one, not even a woman of wealth. However, as the famous New Testament scholar A. T. Robertson has said, Lydia “had her way as women usually do” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 3, p. 254).
It was genuine Christ-like love which provided a home for these pioneers of faith. Apart from such homes the early missionary movement would hardly have been possible, and there is a continuing need for similar homes today. Is your home opened to the Lord and to His own?
Some years ago there appeared in “Letters of Interest” a timely little article simply entitled, “Hospitality,” and signed anonymously by “A Grateful Preacher.” Whoever this preacher may have been he expresses well the deep and continuing appreciation of a host of preachers, myself included, whose experiences have been similar to his own in the opened homes of God’s dear people. The article is quoted in full.
“This is an anonymous tribute to saints who show hospitality to the Lord’s servants. Their unselfish devotion and sacrificial labors have won my deepest admiration and constant gratitude.
“Perhaps the best way to express what I feel is to cite four examples of gracious hospitality.
1. “In one home I was given the master bedroom while the young host and hostess spent the night, no doubt uncomfortably, with the children in the latters’ beds.
2. “In another home I learned quite by accident that a selfless Christian couple had occupied couches while the preacher enjoyed their bed.
3. “At another time two teen-agers curled up in sleeping bags in the livingroom so that the Lord’s servant could have their comfortable upstairs room.
4. “Three adult Christians, one in her eighties, slept in the basement while guests (including the preacher) occupied the two bedrooms in the home.
“All of this was done so quietly that the facts were not known until it was too late to protest, and even then the protest would no doubt have been futile.
“What shall we more say of those who meet trains at inconvenient hours, of sisters whose home cooking evidences such skill and untiring labor, of those brethren who arrange meetings and provide necessary transportation.
“Contact with such Christians makes us aware of their royal lineage and inspires us to emulate their example of devotion to Christ. I know I speak for many in Christian service when I say to those who have ministered of their substance, ‘Ye… received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.’
“May all such hear the Saviour say to them, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me’ (Matthew 25:40).”
The Liberality Which Permeated It. What a “Haven of Hospitality” Lydia’s home must have become (16: 40)! Those of God’s people needing shelter and comfort were afforded a warm welcome. Perhaps it became the meeting place of the first assembly testimony established in Europe, just like the church in Philemon’s house (Philem. 2). Though Lydia is not named, she is undoubtedly included in the women mentioned in Philippians 4:3. Furthermore, it is quite probable that she was used by the Lord to carry the gospel message back to her native city of Thyatira, one of the very areas Paul and his companions had been forbidden by the Spirit to go (see Acts 16:6-8).
It is significant that the gospel of Christ in Europe had its beginning in the hearts and lives of women and, in a sense, the Macedonian call was that of a woman — namely, Lydia.
Have you ever heard such a call? Have you “endeavoured to go” (16:10)?