June 9, 2019
by Jim Eschenbacher
Acts 16:11-24 11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.
20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, "These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice." 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
-English Standard Version
It is significant to note that Luke, the writer of Acts, chose to identify Lydia by name. That was a bit unusual in that day. Women were not highly regarded and were often considered a lower form of human. Even the Jews were guilty of the same thing. When God create mankind, He created Adam and it was recorded, at God’s prompting, “Adam was created male and female, in God’s image.” That tells us a little about God that we rarely discuss. It was bold of Drew to include this person in this series. It draws attention to cultural differences and also the whole nature of God. Verse 13 could have been written… On the Sabbath day, we went outside the city gate to the riverside where we supposed there was a place of prayer, but there was nobody there… just some women. That would have been culturally sensitive. But, Luke did not write it as a cultural expression. Nor did Paul, who at times gets accused of being opposed to women leaders. In verse 40, when Paul was let out of prison, he chose to visit Lydia.
As I mentioned earlier, Lydia could have been easily referred to as one of the women. But, instead, we know her name… or at least a title she was known by. That, alone, tells us the importance of women in the church expanding process of those days. As we learn when reading this, it took place in Philappi . That was a city in the larger area known as Maccedonia. Paul was in Maccedonia. In verse 9, we learn that Paul had a vision from God of a man calling to him, “Come over to Maccedonia.” It seems, Paul did not plan to go there, but God directed him.
In Phillipi, Lydia became a disciple and likely opened her home for a church to meet. One might have imagined a bunch of young men converts but that is not what we learn. We learn that discipleship has no specific demographic. Discipleship seeks the faithful, the available, and the teachable. That is what we watch for. Lydia met that criteria. She did not meet the cultural criteria of male.
When checking criteria, look for God’s, not man’s. A growing, healthy church began in Philippi. Thank you, Lydia.