Acts 16:13-15 And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was accustomed to be made; and we sat down, and spoke unto the women who met there. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, so that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
A seller of purple
Lydia was born in the city of Thyatira (now called Ak-hisar) in the province of Lydia of Asia Minor, where the practice of dying fabrics was a common guild as recorded by Homer. Purple was a very valuable color, usually obtained from shellfish and worn by princes and wealthy people. Because of that, it is very likely that Lydia too was wealthy, by nature of her trade.
Whose heart the Lord opened
A Gentile proselyte, Lydia had some understanding of the Scriptures, perhaps through word of mouth, but she desired to know more. Whenever a person wants to know more about the Savior, He always sends someone to teach them. In Lydia’s case, God sent the apostle Paul. In fact, His leading was very specific. For Paul had desired to go to other places, but the Holy Spirit had said ‘no’ continually until finally Paul turned toward Macedonia, and specifically to the city of Philippi, ultimately leading him directly to the riverside, where the women had gathered to pray.
The Lord gave Lydia grace to receive the message of the gospel as preached by Paul. In fact he evidently preached the same message to her entire household, for shortly thereafter they all were baptized as an outward profession of their faith in Christ.
Come into my house
After they were baptized, Lydia invited Paul and his fellow travelers to lodge with her in her home. In fact, the Scripture says she “constrained” them. What does that mean? It means, “to compel or force; to urge with irresistible power, or with a power sufficient to produce the effect.” I can easily imagine her saying, “I won’t take ‘no’ for answer. Come on in. I have fresh hot bread just coming out of the oven, and the beds have already been made.” Okay, those may not have been her exact words, but clearly she made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Undoubtedly Lydia had the gift of hospitality. Given her trade as a seller of purple, Lydia likely also had a spacious home and could easily put up a good many guests. The Lord knew He could entrust the gift of wealth to her because she would have a heart to use it for His glory.
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches (Proverbs 13:7).
I’ve known people like Lydia. They were wealthy by the world’s standards, but they didn’t keep it for themselves. They gave it away, seemingly as fast as the Lord gave it to them. And yet they themselves never went without, for God abundantly blessed their cheerful giving. I have also known people who selfishly held onto every penny, every minute of their time, and every item of their possessions, only to lose it all in a moment. God gives generously to generous people. This should never be our motivation for giving, but it is certainly a sure reward.
Romans 12:3-13 tells us how we can be a blessing to one another in the faith. As believers in Christ, we are part of the body of Christ, and each of us has a distinct purpose. We are not all called to be the hand, or the foot, etc. Furthermore, spiritual gifts are not exotic traits such as speaking in tongues, healing the sick, and so on, but most of them are simple things that are accessible to all. Take a look at these ways in which you can be a blessing to others through the spiritual gifts that God has given to the church:
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching; Or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality.
Verse 13 is in bold because this is the part that Lydia demonstrated. She must have been a good hostess. How do I know? Well, Paul and Silas were arrested (long story which I will not discuss here). When they were finally released, they returned to Lydia’s home to visit with the brothers and sisters in Christ and say their good-byes before departing from the city (Acts 16:40). This was not the only place where they had stayed in the city of Philippi. In fact, they had already been in Philippi several days before they met Lydia (Acts 16:12-14). So I’m thinking they went back there to enjoy more of her hospitality (and fresh hot rolls) before they set out on their journey. Of course, this is mere speculation. It could just be that her house was the largest and most practical for such a reunion, or perhaps it was convenient to the road that led out of town. Regardless, Paul and Silas did indeed pay Lydia one more visit before they left town.
It is likely that Lydia made her home available for other believers who passed in and out of the city as she so joyfully practiced her gift of hospitality. What is your spiritual gift? May I encourage you to seek the face of God to understand what gift (or gifts) He has given you, and then put it (or them) into practice right away, by His grace and for His glory.
A modern-day Lydia with a B&B
When searching the Internet for a photo to go along with this article, I stumbled upon a quaint little spot that I’d like to introduce to you. I haven’t been there myself, but having read about it, I’d love to go someday. It’s called the House of Lydia Bed and Breakfast, and it’s located in Lynchburg, Virginia. (I am not being paid to advertise. I just thought it was cool to find a faith-based B&B with Lydia’s name on it.)
If you are planning a trip to the Lynchburg area, perhaps you’ll want to check this place out.
Next week: Mary of Bethany