Ok so tonight I read about Lydia. One of my college ministry leaders brought her up tonight and sparked my interest. Truthfully, I could have told you there was a woman named Lydia, but could have told you diddly squat about her. Let me tell ya, she was one fascinating and powerful lady.
Acts 16 is where we find her story. So background on our girl of the hour: she’s from Thyatira (16:14), but currently living in Philippi (16: 12), or at least somewhere just outside of it. She is a single, business woman. I think if she lived today, she’d be a hardcore business chick in New York, taking names and making deals. But in Philippi, she sold dye. Dye was a commodity only sold in parts of Eurasia at the time, according to a little research I did. It was also quite expensive, especially purple dye, which she happened to be a seller of. With this information, we get the picture that she was a more than likely a somewhat wealthy, confident business woman in Philippi.
At this point in the New Testament, Paul and Timothy are out doing their thing across Europe, spreading the Gospel. They came to Philippi and on the Sabbath, went just outside the city gate to the river. A group of women had gathered at the river (I’d have to guess they were getting water, washing clothes, etc.-wifey/womanly responsibilities). Paul and Timothy take this opportunity to talk to the women. One of the women was Lydia.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14
At face value, we see a woman who sold cloth becoming a Christian (Praise God!), but a little deeper than that, we see it is so much more.
Lydia is believed (through what is recorded in the Bible) to be the first European convert, the first person to respond to the Gospel in Europe. I love that the wording there is respond. I feel like this is such a critical part of the Gospel that we miss. You can have all the knowledge and know the facts, but its how we respond to the Gospel that really matters. I can know all the inner and outer workings of a car, but if I don’t stick the key in and turn it, that knowledge does nobody any good. Does that bring the car manufacturer any glory or honor through myself or others seeing the car work? Do I get a chance to fully experience the car and the joy it can bring me if its not on and I can’t drive it? Same with the Gospel. If you don’t respond out of faith and live in it, we’re not bringing God the glory He deserves and demands through the cross. If we don’t respond in faith and allow the Holy Spirit to come into our lives, we don’t get to fully experience or enjoy the life God has for us nor the grace given to us through Christ. Lydia heard and responded. Also, important side note: The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. The Lord. Not Paul. God spoke through Paul and gave him the means and words to lay the truth out on the table for Lydia, but it was God who worked in her heart and changed it to respond. It wasn’t Paul that changed her. You can speak the Gospel as eloquently as you can, but your words alone cannot save someone. God working in their heart, opening their mind and for them to respond to the truth you’re speaking changes lives.
Lydia was a seller of purple. I read about selling dye at the time, and historians say that purple was an extremely expensive and valuable dye. It was a coveted cloth. Purple also represents royalty. This description of her selling specifically purple dye hit me. She sold something extremely valuable and unique, a color representing power and royalty. Jesus is extremely valuable and unique, He is power, He is royalty-the King of Kings. I find it no coincidence she sold purple cloth and I think there is some symbolism we can learn from there.
Lydia’s story may be short, but she was impactful. In Acts 16:40, it states Paul and Silas went back to stay at Lydia’s house when they were released from prison, where the met up with “the brothers”, then continued on. Some time has passed in between this, so Paul and Lydia’s first encounter wasn’t a drive by, hit and run. She didn’t respond to the Gospel, then never speak to Paul again. There was some discipleship going on here, and obviously a continued relationship if Paul goes back to stay with Lydia and pow-wow with the other Jesus lovers in the area there. It is believed that Lydia is included in the women that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:3 in his letter to the church at Philippi. We see Lydia as a missionary in Philippi, helping spread the Gospel.
Lydia’s story is an example of the Holy Spirit working and how God wins hearts over through His word. It is an example of responding to the Gospel. I want to be known as a “seller of purple” and follow Lydia’s example. She was a confident, smart woman who responded in faith and was open to what God was doing in her. She listened to teaching. She helped spread the word. She lived out godly woman characteristics. She “sold” Jesus, the ultimate valuable, unique, royal object.
Be a seller of purple. Respond to the Gospel. Watch God change hearts and minds.