(Acts 16:11-12) Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
The Philippi that Paul visited was a Roman colony founded by Augustus. The position of the city on the main road from Rome to Asia, the Via Egnatia, made it strategically important. In spots its pavement has been laid bare and ruts made by ancient chariots and wagons can still be seen. On the Western side of the town a large arched gateway stood. About a mile from the city the road leading to this gateway crossed a small river. This is undoubtedly the place referred to in the next verse. (Unger's Bible Dictionary by Merrill F. Unger, Copyright 1957, The Moody Press, Chicago.)
(Acts 16:13) And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. "Wont" means customary. "Resorted" means to go somewhere often or on a regular basis. It was here, by the river, on the edge of town that the women usually met. Since women were prohibited from participating in the worship at the Synagogue it was here that a group of women gathered and as they worked they had their own prayer meeting. It was on the Sabbath that Paul, along with Luke and Silas, went down to where the women were at the river and preached to and taught them there.
Among these women was one named Lydia. (Acts 16:14) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. Not much information is given about Lydia but from this verse we learn four important things.
Lydia is a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira.
The waters of Thyatira are said to be so well adapted for dyeing that in no place in the world can the scarlet cloth, out of which fezzes are made, be so brilliantly and so permanently dyed as there. Thyatira is modern-day Turkey. (Unger's Bible Dictionary by Merrill F. Unger, Copyright 1957, The Moody Press, Chicago.)
Thyatira, mentioned in the book of Revelation, is said to be the least important of the seven cities. It was more important commercially than politically. The church in Thyatira corresponds to the time period when the church was firmly established not only as a church, but also as a state (A.D. 590-1517). It begins with the first pope, Gregory the Great, and continues to the time of the Protestant Reformation.
Lydia worshipped God.
The chief deity of the city of Thyatira was Apollo who was worshipped as a sun-god. She was probably not a Jew. Yet, the Bible says Lydia worshipped God so she must have been seeking the truth like a lot of Gentiles were at that time. A lot of people worship God but they are not saved. Lydia was one of those people.
Lydia's heart was opened by God.
She listened intently to what Paul and the others were saying. The Bible says she "heard us." God put Paul in the right place at the right time. God opened Lydia's heart to receive the truth that she was seeking.
(Luke 24:32) And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
(Luke 24:45) Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
God will always make sure that the person who seeks Him, finds Him. And God always puts a person who He can trust with the gospel message in the path of a sinner.
Lydia listened and heeded to what was said.
The Bible says she "attended" unto the things, which were spoken by Paul. She not only listened but she regarded with care. The things that he was saying spoke to her heart. God had already opened her heart to receive the gospel and now she acted upon what she heard. She got saved. Lydia was Paul's first convert in Macedonia. The dream that Paul had, in which there stood a man who beckoned him to come was now answered.
You may be asking yourself where it says that Lydia got saved. It doesn't but read the next verse. (Acts 16:15) And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Baptism always follows true salvation. It never precedes it. If you were baptized before you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour the only thing your baptism did for you was make you wet. Paul would not have allowed Lydia, or anyone else, to be baptized unless they were saved.
Not only was Lydia saved and baptized but the Bible says her household was too. We are not told who her household consisted of: her husband if she had one, her parents, or any children, but whoever it was also got saved and were baptized. It is not recorded that Paul personally baptized Lydia but someone in his party did. (1 Corinthians 1:14-16) I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
One of the first things Lydia does after this takes place is invite Paul and his companions to stay with her. She is overjoyed that she got saved and wants Paul to tarry so she can express her appreciation. This is not unusual for someone who is newly saved. They want to learn more and trust that the person who led them to the Lord can teach them.
Verse fifteen tells us that she "constrained" them. She persuaded or compelled them. She was offering them her hospitality. It was not unusual for Paul and anyone traveling with him to be put up at the home of one of their converts or some of the believers. He readily accepted her gracious invitation. We have already read that there were others in her household so it would not be wrong for three men to take up residence with Lydia and her family for a period of time. As a matter of fact, we learn from verse forty that after Paul and Silas were let out of prison, shortly after Lydia's conversion, it was to Lydia's house that they returned.
Some things we can learn from Lydia:
- She was a hard worker. She may have been the sole provider for her family.
- She loved God. She worshipped Him even though she did not truly know Him.
- She was seeking for the truth. She attended the women's prayer meeting at the river.
- She accepted Jesus Christ as her Saviour when she heard Paul preach the gospel.
- She was baptized immediately after her conversion.
- She had and maintained a good testimony. Her moral character was above reproach.
- She was hospitable to Paul and his companions. She opened her home to them.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Lydia truly is a Proverbs 31 woman.