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Studies on the Women of the Bible
by Davis W. Huckabee
"And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was want to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purpose, 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. 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," (Acts 16:13-15).
Here and in verse 40 are the only two references to this woman who was a professional woman in the sense that she was a dealer in a rather expensive purple cloth. The dye that was used in this was particularly prized by the Jews for the dying of the ribbons about the hem of their robes, which might explain her moving about from city to city. She had a profitable business among the Jews. She was originally of the city of Thyatira, which was of the province of Asia Minor known as Lydia. This has led some to think that her personal name was not Lydia, but that the reference is simply to her being "The Lydian woman." In any case her business had brought her and her entire household to the city of Philippi, but there is nothing mentioned about her having a husband or children, which will be an important factor when we consider the baptism of her household. Here she is captured by Paul's preaching. The reference to her being a worshipper of God is the New Testament way of expressing that she was a Gentile proselyte to the Jewish religion. Many of the thoughtful Gentiles, including a number of Roman soldiers, came to see the follies of polytheism, and they became converts to the worship of Jehovah as practiced by the Jews alone. Seldom, if ever, did this involve genuine salvation, but it was always a step in the right direction and fitted such to receive the witness of Christian missionaries as they pointed people to faith in Christ. Many of the Old Testament Scriptures pointed forward to a special "Seed" that would come in due time to those among the Jews that looked for Him.
Among the Jews a minimum of eight men was required to have a synagogue but a lesser number, even of women, could be constituted a proseuka—a place of prayer, and this was what Paul and the others find here by the river. Another possible factor in this matter is that Philippi was a Roman Colony, and Rome may have interdicted the Jews from having a synagogue here, (cf. Acts 18:2). However, the fact that only women are found here by Paul and the others would seem rather to indicate that there were few if any Jewish men at this place initially. It was generally Paul's practice to initially preach in the synagogue in any city that he entered, for thereby he had a ready-made congregation, for visitors to the synagogues were often asked to speak. Here, there is no synagogue, but there is a small congregation of women that are met together specifically to worship God, and these probably delighted to have someone speak to them from the Word of God.
Long before our modern "open heart surgeries" the Lord performed a spiritual open heart surgery on this woman, which is always necessary before anyone will receive the Word of God. The word "that" suggests that the purpose of the opening of her heart was in order that she would receive the Truth that Paul preached. This is always an absolute necessity, for no one by nature has a heart that is inclined to receive the Truth. The heart is, by nature, hard, cold and totally indifferent to the things of God.
Not Lydia herself, nor the apostle Paul, but the Lord opened her heart, Jehovah the Father, who commanded light out of darkness. Jehovah the Son, who has the key of the house of David. Jehovah the Spirit, who convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment: that she attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul; concerning the person and offices of Christ, concerning his truths and ordinances, concerning free justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and everlasting salvation by Him.—John Gill, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. V, p. 927.
In the Bible the word "heart" refers to the inward part of man—his spiritual nature—never to the physical blood pump of the human body. It is a metaphor that is often used in Scripture for the motive center of every person. Its natural state is shown in Jeremiah 17:9-10, which is rightly understood only by God Himself, Who alone can open it to receive the Gospel. Romans 10:6-11 gives an inspired commentary on the heart's part in salvation, but until one is born again the heart of the natural man is spiritually dead, and so, is incapable of doing anything spiritual. Hence, salvation is an utter impossibility apart from the sovereign making alive by the Lord.
This was the Lord's work; according unto what our Savior Himself had said, (John 6:44), No man can come to me, except the Father which bath sent me draw him. And yet we may in a sense open our hearts, by using such means as God hath promised to succeed for that purpose, (Rev. 3:20); and especially when, in a sense of our inability and necessity, we implore the free grace of God, and engage him to work in us according unto all his good pleasure. Otherwise creating a clean heart within us, as it is called, (Ps. 51:10), is beyond the power of nature.—Matthew Poole, Commentary On The Holy Bible, Vol. III, p. 438.
It was by this spiritual working in her heart by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of Paul that this religious woman was brought into a state of real salvation that she had not experienced before. Immediately she is baptized, and all of her household, for they too have heard the preaching of the Word and have responded to it. Sadly pedobaptists think that they can find infants in every "household" in the New Testament, for thereby alone can they justify their departure from the Truth in baptizing babies. But Jesus' commission to His church always required faith before baptism and any baptism that is not preceded by a genuine trust in the Lord for salvation is a false evangelism and under the Lord's curse, (Gal. 1:6-9). Later, after the release of the missionaries from the Philippian jail, when they return to Lydia's house, there is no reference to any but "brethren" in this household—no children or infants Following this proper administration of baptism, Lydia invites the missionaries to make her house their center of operation As a business woman her house was probably large and commodious enough to serve as a good meeting place for all the people that assembled with them.
Following this is the account of Paul and the others' arrest and of the conversion of the jailer and all his family. Here, was another "household baptism" yet here it is specifically declared that this was preceded by household faith, (vv. 32-34), which Jesus' commission to His churches always require. Notice that here was: (1) Preaching to all that were in the house, (v. 32). (2) Baptism of the jailer and all his household, (v. 33). (3) This was because the whole household believed in God. Can anything be any clearer?
And now these two families, Lydia's and the jailer's, laid the foundation of a Gospel church in this city of Philippi, and which continued for ages after... In the second century there was a church, to which Ignatius and Polycarp are said to send epistles. And there are epistles to the Philippians which go under their names... In the third century, Tertullian, among other churches, makes mention of the church at Philippi, as sound in the faith."—John Gill, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. V, p. 932.
Behold what humble beginnings many of the Lord's workings start with. The missionaries find no synagogue wherein to preach, but only find a small group of women gathered by a river. But upon preaching to them, the Gospel is made effectual to the salvation of several, and then the missionaries are arrested, and this is made effectual to the salvation of yet others, and all this results in a faithful church being established to the glory of God, (Eph. 3:21). How easy it would have been for Lydia to have excused herself from attending religious services by pleading that she was far from home, was not acquainted locally, and there was no preacher available, and for other reasons, yet she did not. And her faithfulness to the God that she did not fully understand about at first, was the means of great good being done, for the Philippian church was a great blessing to Paul and the other missionaries long after they were compelled to leave this city because of persecution.
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