Lydia of Thyatira is known by her profession as a successful, businesswoman. But her character is revealed in her actions, she is a woman who is seeking God and has her priorities right. Lydia, figuratively, opens the door of her heart to receive the good news of the gospel. At the same time, she, literally, opens the door of her home. She is willing to offer hospitality and invites the apostle Paul, and his travelling companions, to come and stay at her house.
Lydia of Thyatira – An Unusual Woman?
Where is Lydia mentioned in the Bible?
The story of Lydia of Thyatira appears in Acts chapter sixteen when the apostle Paul, who was on his second missionary journey, visited the city where she was living. She was a merchant, living in Philippi but from the town of Thyatira. Philippi was one of the main cities in Macedonia, it was a Roman outpost, and on the main trade routes. It was a place where many legionnaires chose to live out their retirement. Lydia was a trader and possibly it was a business decision for her to move to Philippi which was a prosperous Roman colony.
Lydia Seller of Purple Cloth
Lydia’s hometown of Thyatira was famous for its dyeing works, producing the most expensive purple cloth. The dye required to produce the purple colour was costly – and therefore purple robes were associated with wealth and high social standing.
In the First century was it unusual for women to have their own business? Historical records reveal, that although Roman society did not allow women to gain official political power, it did allow them to be involved in business. Lydia of Thyatira was a successful businesswoman, in her own right, and it was not presented as anything unusual.
Lydia of Thyatira was a worshipper of God. As a Gentile she was following the moral teachings of Judaism, although it appears that she was not a convert. At that time to be a follower of Judaism in Philippi was unusual, as there were not many Jews living there and, consequently, no synagogue either. On the Sabbath she was outside of the city, apparently relaxing with friends by the river…..
The Apostle Paul in Philippi
The apostle Paul and his companions were travelling on his second missionary journey. They had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from travelling East into Bythinia and had moved on to the port of Troas. While they were there Paul had a vision of a man, across the water in Macedonia, standing and calling out to him, to come over and ‘help us.’ Paul and his companions got ready to travel to Macedonia, concluding that was the direction they were to go in.
They landed in Neapolis and travelled on to Philippi. On the Sabbath they went outside of the city to look for a place of prayer. Paul and his companions sat down by the river and began to speak to the women who were there. Lydia was one of those listening, and God opened her heart to respond to the gospel message.
Commentary on Lydia
Paul came to Philippi because of a vision, the message of the vision brought guidance and direction, leading him to Macedonia. Once there, Paul did not meet a man, literally calling to him for help, instead he met a woman who was seeking to know God with a spiritual need just waiting to be met. God sent Paul with the message of salvation for Lydia of Thyatira, and for the ‘whosoever’ would choose to believe. In Scripture we are promised that those who seek God, will find Him.
Lydia straight away exercises the gift of hospitality and invites Paul and his companions to stay at her house. As a successful businesswoman she was able to house them all and to provide for them. The church at Philippi had a generous woman as one of its founder members and that became part of its godly heritage. The church partnered with and supported Paul’s ministry right from the start, for which he was so thankful.
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only, for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.Philippians 4:15-16
Lydia of Thyatira was an unusual woman, not because of her success as a businesswoman, or even her generous spirit, but because she was seeking and responsive to God’s word.
Lessons from Lydia in the Bible
Lydia was someone who was seeking spiritual answers, even though she was a Gentile she was known as a worshipper of God. This story reveals God’s faithfulness, for His word promises that those who seek the Lord will always find Him.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:8
God created a divine appointment between Lydia and the apostle Paul. He directed Paul to Philippi and sent Lydia to the riverside at just the right time to hear a life-changing message. We don’t believe in ‘coincidences’ but instead see God’s hand at work. It is in His attention to the details of our lives that God reveals that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
The Gift of Generosity
Lydia’s worship of God was not just an intellectual seeking of enlightenment or truth. God’s word had penetrated her heart which was demonstrated by her hospitality. In her generosity Lydia showed godly perspective and priorities with a willingness to serve others. We can never outgive God, as we give so we receive!
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.John 7:37-38
Lydia went to the river, maybe just because on a hot Mediterranean morning it was a cool and refreshing place to be. But it was here that she was refreshed spiritually and received from the ‘river of life.’
Related post: The River of Life and it’s Meaning
Responsive to the Word
God opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the gospel. We need above all else to guard our hearts so that we remain responsive to the word of God. If we are to grow as Christians, to have depth and strength, it is not enough to just hear the word of God, it requires a response. Whether the word is one of guidance, encouragement, instruction, or even correction. Our heart needs to remain soft to the truth of God’s word and allow it to transform our lives.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.Proverbs 4:23