Women Of The Bible: Lydia — Samantha Harvey

The human body basically runs on electricity. The food we eat contains electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc.), and the water we drink helps them pump in and out of cells constantly, allowing electricity to run through the body powering muscles and nerves. Without these, our bodies would not be able to function. We have a molecular sodium-potassium pump that needs an intake of potassium in order to pump out sodium, creating the current that keeps our bodies in balance and working properly. God calls Christians to be the salt of the earth, an electrolyte that this world needs in order to perform correctly (Matt. 5:13). Since both the human body and the church were designed by God, it is no surprise that they share common characteristics.

Just as salt is necessary and useful to us, so should we be to the kingdom of God. It does not matter what your past looks like. Consider the apostle Paul. Born Saul of Tarsus, he was not only a Jew but a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Pharisees in general despised Christ, and Saul took part in rounding up followers of Christ and arresting them. He had caused much harm to the saints in Jerusalem. On a trip to Damascus, Saul was stopped by the light and voice of Jesus, asking him why he was persecuting Him. Afraid and astonished, Paul asked Jesus what He wanted him to do. Jesus told him to go to Damascus and wait for instructions, but when he arose from the ground, Saul was blinded. Ananias was sent to restore Saul’s sight and Saul arose and was baptized right away. After some nourishment and rest with the disciples, he was spreading the gospel in the synagogues (Acts 9:1-20). Only the power of Jesus can turn the church’s number one enemy into the church’s number one promoter. Paul, as he is called in Acts 13:9, went on to make three documented missionary journeys, establishing congregations across the world while risking his life the entire time.

It is on Paul’s second missionary journey that he encountered Lydia. While he and his companions were traveling through Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Paul tried going into northwestern cities of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  He was stopped by the Spirit again. Paul then went to Troas on the west coast. In the night, he received a vision of a man of Macedonia pleading with him to come and help them. Realizing that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel to those people, they immediately left for Macedonia. They set sail and eventually ended up in the colony of Philippi, the foremost city of that part of Macedonia. After a few days, they went to a riverside, just outside the city, where prayer was customarily made. There they met a group of women (Acts 16:1-13).

Lydia was a member of this women’s prayer meeting. She listened to Paul and his companions Silas, Timothy, and Luke. “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (v. 14). In response, she and her household were baptized (v. 15). Now, we can understand that the Spirit was forbidding Paul from certain regions because the Spirit needed Paul to come to Philippi. Paul, a faithful servant, was obedient and patient. He did not pull a stunt like Jonah.  Rather, he was careful to make decisions according to God’s will and was waiting for instruction. As soon as he received his guidance, he quickly obeyed. Paul was like an electrolyte, useful in receiving God’s word and dispensing the gospel of Christ. Are we like Paul?

Lydia was a business woman from Thyatira who sold purple dye. It was a very lucrative job.  Usually only the wealthy could afford such a costly product. Lydia was faithful to keep the Sabbath holy and thus demonstrated balance between her secular responsibilities and her spiritual ones. She worshipped God, but based on her response to Paul’s message she had not heard of Jesus yet. It is unclear whether she was a Jew living in Philippi or if she was a proselyte who had converted to Judaism. Either way, the Lord saw to open her heart. Does that mean that she wouldn’t have opened her heart herself to Paul’s message? Not at all. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Paul would later write to the Philippians  to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Lydia was drawn by God and worked out her salvation by putting on Christ in baptism. She led her household to do the same. Lydia was also the personification of an electrolyte. Are we like Lydia?

When reading this passage, I can see how the gospel of Christ was passed from Paul to Lydia, and from Lydia to her household.  Think of how many people who did business with our seller of purple.  How many more lives did Lydia impact by her example?  She begged Paul and his companions to come stay at her house if they had judged her to be faithful to the Lord, and they did.  Often mobs followed these men, trying to trap and kill them.  Lydia offered lodging anyway.  Paul and Silas returned to her house shortly before departing Philippi, having been released from prison.  It seems it was there that they saw the brethren and encouraged them (Acts 16:40).  Because the term “brethren” was used, it seems men and women were meeting at Lydia’s house to worship God.  Does this mean that the Philippian jailer and his family who were converted by Paul and Silas had met up with Lydia?  It is possible that they had started a congregation and were the ones who were addressed as sending a gift of money to Paul more than once while he was in Thessalonica (Phil. 4:14-16).

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Lk. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3).  Think about filling your mind and heart with righteousness, just as you fill your stomach with food and drink.  I can just imagine the Word of God in us, being pumped in and out through our righteous acts and the righteous acts of others, just humming electricity throughout the body of Christ and to the rest of the world.  It is a continuous act which must never be allowed to stop, for the consequences would be dire.

Samantha, her husband Ty, and their children live and worship in Florence, SC.

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