A Woman Becomes A Christian
Religious teachers do not give the same answer to the most important question one can ask. But the Bible teaches but one way to be saved. Both by direct commands and precepts and by examples, the Scriptures leave us without wondering how to come to Christ. The book of Acts has been called the book of conversions because therein we read of the conversion to Christ of several people. Of the eight examples (Jews on Pentecost, Samaritans, Ethiopian, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailor and the Corinthians) we shall study the conversion of Lydia, what was involved in her conversion, just what she did and what others did.
"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. 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. 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. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” (Acts 16:11-15).
Paul, The Holy Spirit, And A Prayer Meeting
First, we see Paul and company, which included Timothy, Silas, Luke, and possibly others, obeying the great commission of Christ to go and preach the gospel to the whole world. Why preach? The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). We are begotten by the Word of truth (James 1:18). The Word is able to save us (James 1:21). The Word is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again (First Peter 22-23) .The Holy Spirit had directed Paul to this city in a vision in Troas. Here, as in the cases of the Ethiopian and Saul himself, we see the Holy Spirit getting the preacher and the prospective Christian together so the preacher might preach the word of salvation to the lost. It is important to note that the Holy Spirit did not come with a still, small voice to Lydia. Nor was there any other kind of direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon her to her salvation. Those who claim we are saved by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit have a different plan than that of which we read in the New Testament. There is no conversion apart from the hearing of the Word because faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10: 17).
Paul went down by a river where he supposed there would be gathered some for prayer. Paul usually would go into the synagogues of the Jews and find opportunity to preach. But there was no synagogue in Phillipi. Paul, himself a Jew, knew that Jews would seek out a relatively quiet place to worship on the Sabbath Day, so he went looking for someone to whom he could preach the truth.
We want to note also that the Holy Spirit is again involved in the conversion of this woman as the Word of God was preached because the Word was given by and through the Holy Spirit. When the Word is proclaimed, this is the way and the manner the Holy Spirit operates on the hearts of those who hear it.
Among those present at this prayer meeting was a woman named Lydia. In passing, we might note the importance of attending every worship service. What if Lydia had been absent from this gathering? Would she have ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved? How do you know but that the very service you choose to miss may be the one wherein something is said or done that may be just exactly what you needed most at that time to see you faithfully through some temptation or trial? Something may be taught then that you would desperately need later in life that could mean the difference between heaven and hell. We run a needless risk and waste to deliberately be absent from any period of worship or study of the Word of God. Can we afford to ignore such things?
Let us look more closely at the person under consideration. Lydia was already a believer in God. She was obviously a devout person. It was not convenient to be in a strange city where there was no place of worship but nonetheless she arranged to be faithful to her duty. She was a long way from home, her home being in Thyatira some 300 miles distance. She was a Jewish businesswoman in a Gentile city. The Sabbath was a regular business day for the Gentiles. It would be costly for her to lose the trade that she might have otherwise gained that day. But making money was not more important to her than worship. She did more than what some who profess to be Christians today will do when it comes to moneymaking, vacations, visiting friends, etc. She even brought others with her to this prayer meeting. She would not allow anything to come between her and what she considered her religious responsibility. Certainly before she ever met Paul, she was a woman of faith, humility, devotion, and prayer, with a keen sense of duty to God.
Yet, she was not saved because she was not in Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12). Jesus had taught, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). Lydia was still lost because she had not obeyed the gospel of Christ. This is the reason Paul wanted to preach the gospel to her and others. It is highly significant that in every example of conversion in the book of Acts (with the possible exception of the jailor, yet he was a religious man under the Roman system), the one converted was called upon to change religions. Some balk at the idea of changing religions today, yet this is precisely what all those who came to Christ had to do.
Lydia Heard The Word
Hearing the gospel is the first step toward coming to Christ. Her heart was opened to the things she heard. “The Lord opened her heart.” The Lord opens the heart of all who eventually come to Christ. But how does the Lord open people's hearts? He opens hearts by the preaching of the gospel and the persuasive story of His love; those who hear open their hearts to the truths they must obey. Only an open heart will receive the message of truth. Those who have closed their minds, hardened their hearts, and refused to listen cannot give heed to the things they hear. This was no act of respect of persons. The soil was cultivated to receive the seed of the kingdom and when she heard it, she responded to it. The gospel is the way Deity appeals to man to be saved.
She Gave Heed
This means she did what she was instructed to do. People who hear must also heed. They must act in obedience to the commands of the gospel. Paul had preached and Lydia had come to know what she must do to be saved. Now it was up to her to either obey or reject what she had heard. She attended to the things she heard, even through baptism.
What was it that Paul could have preached? We do not have the record of his sermon, nor where he started in the story of Christ. He could have begun with God's plan for the Jewish people that through them would come the Messiah for all mankind. He would then have preached the pre-existence of Christ, His virgin birth, His perfect life, His death, burial, resurrection, ascension into heaven, the establishment of his kingdom on Pentecost, the judgment to come, and the plan of salvation-requiring man's obedience. All this, and more, is included in preaching the gospel of Christ. Surely he included the promises of forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven after this life.
She Was Baptized
In every example of conversion in the book of Acts, people were baptized. As one reads the Scriptures on baptism, he is not surprised to learn this was true. Baptism saved (First Peter 3:21), not by any power of the water, but because in this way one gets into Christ (Galatians 3:27), reaching His shed blood that was shed in His death (Romans 6:3.4).
She Lived Her Faith
Having been baptized into Christ, she immediately began to practice the manner of life that characterizes one in Christ. She offered hospitality to Paul and his preaching company. Later, after Paul had undergone persecutions for having preached the gospel in Philippi, her house was open to them where this newly formed congregation comforted him.
What Did She Do?
What Lydia did is exactly what people now must do to be saved. She heard the Word, believed the Word, obeyed the Word, and lived the Word. And what church did she join? Friend, she joined no church. This is not because being a member of the church is unimportant and optional. It is because when she obeyed the gospel, like others before her, she was added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:47). One does not do one thing to be saved and something additional and different to join some church. I know she was not a member of any denomination because none existed. But she was a member of the body of Christ, the church, and the saved.
The way of salvation is before us in terms that are clear, plain, simple, easily understood. And the way is open even yet to all those who will do as she has done.