Lydia “was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira” (Acts 16:14). When Paul came to Philippi, Lydia heard his gospel message, heeded what he said, and was baptized. Her family members did the same. Every conversion to Jesus is special, and Lydia’s case was no exception (Acts 16:9-15).
What was Paul doing in Philippi? In a vision from the Lord, he had seen a man from Macedonia calling him over to “help” (Acts 16:9). Paul and his company responded by going immediately to Macedonia “to preach the gospel” (16:10).
Why would Paul look for prospects on the Sabbath day? Paul found Lydia and other women praying on a riverside on the Sabbath (16:13). Religious observance of the Sabbath was abolished when Jesus died (Ephesians 2:13-17). Yet, Paul often joined Jews on the Sabbath day. Why? He was looking for opportunities to preach the gospel to them. Like Paul, we need to be looking for prospects and be willing to go to places where we will have the chance to communicate the gospel to lost people.
What did Paul do to help those women learn the gospel? He spoke to them (16:13). Before Lydia and others submitted to the gospel, they had to learn it first. Like Paul and Philip (Acts 8:35), we need to learn to practice open-mouth evangelism.
Why was Lydia in Philippi? We are told about her occupation and hometown (16:14), but nothing is said about what brought her to Philippi. At any rate, we are reminded that the Lord’s salvation is for people from all places, and His salvation is for people in all places. Sometimes people obey the gospel after they move away from their home. Lydia did. All sinners need the gospel. Let us not be overly concerned about where a person is from or where he/she lives. They need the gospel, so let us be ready to teach it to them!
What kind of religious background did Lydia have? She gathered on the Sabbath where people prayed (16:13). She worshipped God (16:14). These truths imply that she believed in God. Yet, despite such positives in her life, she was still lost. If she were saved, then there would be no need to submit to the gospel message which Paul presented.
How was Lydia’s heart opened? Note the order of how things happened: (1) God’s word was taught (16:13); (2) Lydia heard what was taught (16:14); (3) the Lord opened her heart (16:14); (4) she heeded the message taught (16:14); (5) she obeyed what she heard – she was baptized (16:15).
The Bible’s statement is, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (16:14). Many people conclude that this teaches a direct, irresistible operation by the Holy Spirit. It does not. Jesus taught that people are drawn/pulled/attracted to Him when they are taught by God (John 6:44,45). The Lord opens peoples’ hearts via the gospel. On Pentecost, listeners were cut to the heart when they heard God’s word proclaimed (Acts 2:36,37), and the same occurred in the instance of Lydia.
If the Lord acts irresistibly to open the heart of one lost person, but He purposely leaves the heart of a second person closed, what then? Would such a course of action not prove that He is partial in His dealings with humans? The Bible says that He shows no partiality (Acts 10:34), so He does not pick and choose randomly whom to leave lost and whom to save. The truth is, He calls all people in the same manner – through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Is it possible to reject the gospel? Many did in the first century (Acts 28:24), and that trend continues today. What about resisting the Holy Spirit? Can it be done? Stephen accused his rebellious listeners with these words: “You always resist the Holy Spirit . . .” (Acts 7:51). One might persistently endorse the notion that the Holy Spirit irresistibly and miraculously opens the hearts of lost people, but he has no Bible basis for doing so. None. God opened Lydia’s heart when she allowed such to happen after she heard the word proclaimed. The seed was sown, and it fell into a noble and heart (Luke 8:11,15).
Lydia was baptized (Acts 16:15). Why would she do that? Other conversion cases that are noted in the book of Acts make it clear, undeniably plain, that the purpose of water baptism is to have sins remitted (Acts 2:38). Or, as Saul of Tarsus was told, its purpose is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16). Yes, Lydia was immersed. She did not do so in order to join a man-made denomination (none existed at the time). She was not baptized as an outward sign of an inward grace (the false position that salvation of the soul comes prior to immersion), and, if she understood baptism properly, she was not immersed in order to remove all of the problems in her life. Baptism does no such thing.
After Lydia was baptized, what was she concerned about doing? She wanted to show hospitality, begging Paul and others to stay in her house (Acts 16:15). She also wanted to be counted as “faithful to the Lord” (16:15). That, friends, is what really matters in this life – being faithful to Him!
Have you obeyed the gospel like Lydia did? Are you striving to be faithful like she did? May we all be willing to humble ourselves and serve the Master.
— Roger D. Campbell