I was tidying up a guest room in our house recently; it used to be our youngest child’s room. She has one drawer of her “stuff” there. Seeing that drawer reminded me of a piece of “purple cloth” that she kept for years. She had received it in Sunday school when learning about Lydia of Thyatira, and for some reason, she really liked that strip of purple cloth. I had a vague recollection of the story but decided it was worth looking into again.
I was a little surprised to learn that there is only a short, three verse mention of her. You’ll find it in Acts 16:13-15, and 40.
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
Paul was on his second missionary journey when he had a vision of a man who pleaded with Paul to “Come to Macedonia and help us” v9. Paul left at once, bringing Luke, Silas, and Timothy with him. When they arrived, they headed straight to Philippi, “a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia” v12.
Paul probably was looking for this man, but instead, his first ministry encounter was with a group of women! Here’s is Paul’s version of the encounter:
“On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there” v13.
City of Philippi
Did you notice they were meeting outside the city? Inscribed on the arch at the city limits of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing any unrecognized religion into the city. Christianity was considered an impure religion and therefore, could not be established.¹
Since a synagogue was typically built near a water source (to facilitate ritual washings), it makes sense that they would go outside the city to the river to worship and pray.
Lydia and Paul
According to Jewish law, there had to be 10 males who were heads of households and regularly attend services to establish a synagogue. Apparently, there were not even 10 of these men in all of Philippi. So it was here by the river that Paul and Lydia meet at a Sabbath prayer meeting.
“One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” v14.
There is quite a bit of information written about Lydia. That makes her a significant part of scripture. Let’s look at the information we have.
Lydia- The Purple Cloth Seller
Lydia was originally from Thyatira, a city famous for making purple dye. She was a successful businesswoman who came to Philippi to carry on her trade. She carried out her business in her home. Lydia made and sold the expensive purple fabric worn only by the wealthy elite.
The translation of “God-worshiper” tells us that Lydia was a Gentile who was following Judaism. She had faith in God, and a desire to follow and worship him. When Lydia heard Paul’s words on that Sabbath day, her growing devotion to God led her to a belief in trusting Jesus as her Savior.
Lydia was worshiping at the river with her household members. “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us” v15
Pin me for later!
Lydia in the Bible
Lydia didn’t just open her heart, she also opened her home.
She was not only the first European convert to Christianity, but she also created the first church in her own home! That’s some pretty big “firsts” for a woman in Bible times.
Lydia becomes a woman energized, motivated, and changed by her faith.
She invites and persuades a group of men she just met to stay at her house. She didn’t let the fear of possible recriminations (remember the prohibition against new religions?) stop her from embracing her new life in Christ.
It took courage for Lydia to respond as she did.
Having a group of foreign men staying in her house could have caused a scandal. Hosting Christian meetings in her home could have put her in danger as well as her business. She didn’t hesitate to welcome Paul and Silas when they were released from prison even though they were requested to leave the city (v 39).
Lessons from Lydia
Do you have the courage of Lydia?
Lydia was a pioneer in spreading the gospel. If she was fearful, her faith overcame it to spread the word to her household, and quite possibly her business clients and neighbors.
What are your fears of sharing Jesus?
Rejection or ridicule? Other people’s reactions?
God doesn’t ask us to save others; that is his job. He does, however, ask us to know his truth and present it to others. God will take it from there. We can’t control other people’s reactions, but we have control of our actions.
For myself, I’m praying to be more aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit as to whom and when I should share.
Do you have the generosity of Lydia?
She had ample wealth and a comfortable home. Lydia shared both with an open and generous heart. Because of her actions, the small beginnings of the house church in Lydia’s home grew to become a church that was the center of Christian outreach and worship.
In what ways do you use your time, money, and God-given talents to meet the needs of others? Sometimes even the smallest things can make a big impact on someone in need.
Do you have the hospitality of Lydia?
Lydia demonstrated the spiritual gift of hospitality. It was one of the first things she did upon conversion. Her home became the first church. It was one of her first steps on her spiritual journey. She offered her own home as a meeting place. The hospitality of Lydia established the church in Philippi. It then grew as a result of her involvement in its ministry.
Don’t lose track of the fact that Lydia was an ordinary businesswoman before she met Jesus. But just as Jesus came calling for her, he comes for you. Lydia’s open heart and strong faith led her to facilitate the spread of the Gospel through all of Europe.
Allow God to Use You
Belief and worship of God is not the end of our faith journey. He uses us as channels to work out his plan. We just need to yield our life to him! Pray for those who don’t know Jesus yet, and pray for opportunities to reach out to them. Thank you, God, for showing us how you can use us “ordinary” people for your glory.
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:13-14
- Encyclopedia of the Bible-P-Philippi- Biblegateway.com
10 thoughts on “Lydia of Thyatira”
thank u lord
God is great and worthy of all our praise! Amen.
Thank you so much for answering so many of my then unanswered questions. I am a Lydia and feel a similar calling. This description is spot on. Blessings!!
Bless you Lydia! I loved digging in to her story. She was a brave and faithful woman- I aspire to be like her! Thank you for the encouraging comment.
Really interesting to learn more about Lydia!
Thanks, Karen- that’s what I was thinking!
Thank you, I just so happen to run across this. In a time that was just perfect.
I needed something special for a close friends’ eulogy.
I love hearing how God works in our lives! Thanks so much for sharing. When I started this blog, I said, if it only ever reaches one person that God thinks needs to hear the words, it will be worth all the work. He is amazing and so kind to us. Bless you as you give the eulogy for your dear friend.
I was so looking forward to reading your blog about Lydia after having talked about her in our Bible Study on Saturday.
This was excellent!!
Thanks Cindy! It was a great discussion!