Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A WOMAN NAMED LYDIA”

Acts 16.1-15

 Open your Bible to the book of Acts, chapter 16. The Apostle Paul, in this portion of Luke’s record, is now on the second of his three missionary journeys that took him to various places in the eastern Mediterranean region of the Roman Empire. On this second trip, he visited churches he had previously established, continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever he traveled, baptized new converts in obedience to the command of Christ, and continued to plant New Testament churches. I begin reading, this morning, in Acts 16.1-2:

 1      Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

2      Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

 Derbe and Lystra were cities that Paul and his coworker Barnabas had visited to start churches on their first missionary journey. When Paul went back these several years later, he found that one of his young converts was now a standout Christian man. His name was Timotheus, or Timothy. Born of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, Timothy nevertheless, and in spite of certain racial prejudices which existed in those days, had a sterling testimony among the primarily Jewish Christian brethren.

Look to Acts 16.3-5:

 3      Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

4      And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

5      And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

 Paul took Timothy with his party, possibly as a replacement for John Mark. John Mark, you will remember, was the nephew of Barnabas who had failed in his attempt to travel with Paul and Barnabas during their previous missionary journey, succumbing to the difficulties of being a pioneer missionary and returning home. On this second journey, John Mark was not allowed to come along with Paul because he had shown himself to be spiritually unfit for the rigors of missionary life. Having picked up eager young Timothy along the way, Luke informs us that the Apostle Paul circumcised him. Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? Was it because circumcision is required for salvation? Absolutely not. One is saved from his sins by believing the gospel, whether he is circumcised or not, trusting Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul. Timothy was circumcised to make it easier to evangelize the many Jewish people who would be encountered during their travels. Circumcision would make some of the prejudice Timothy encountered because he was half-Jewish and half Gentile disappear. This done, Paul and his colleagues went from one city to another and delivered letters to the churches from the church at Jerusalem without much trouble. God blessed their ministries and people were added to the different congregations as Paul and his companions labored in the Lord’s vineyard and bore fruit that remained. This is what church life is supposed to be like. When churches do not grow, or when Christians become complacent and uncaring about reaching souls for Christ, but become more concerned about leading a social club church and pink tea party kind of Bible study life, then something is terribly wrong. Sadly, that is just the kind of body life found in many churches in our country at present.

Next, we take note of Acts 16.6-10:

 6      Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

7      After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

8      And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

9      And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

10     And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

 Several interesting things to note in the passage I have just read. First, notice in verse 8, that Luke uses his customary word “they” when describing the activities of the missionary party. In verse 10, he begins to use the word “we,” which suggests that he has now joined Paul and his party and has become a firsthand witness of the events he is recording. Second, notice how God directed Paul on this journey. He was in the area that we now call Turkey, or Asia Minor. Being in the central region of that area, he attempted to head southwest, but the Holy Ghost somehow forbade him to preach the Word in that area, for what reasons I do not claim to know. Then, inclined to swing up toward the north, the Spirit would not allow him to go there, either. Desiring, apparently, to head in a westerly direction, Paul could only go through the region of Mysia to the coastal city of Troas, bringing him to just a short trip from the border of Europe.[1] The third thing to notice in this passage was the vision Paul saw, beseeching him to go into Macedonia, which is in Europe, and preach the gospel there. These events, taken together, show that you do not have to know where God wants you to end up. All you have to know is the general direction He wants you to move in and then let Him worry about providing direction for you. That is what Paul did in his missionary journey, and that is what we ought to do in our Christian lives.

Now, look to Acts 16.11-13:

 11     Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

12     And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

13     And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

 Paul sailed from Asia Minor to the Macedonian coast and settled in a city named Philippi. Luke reports that Philippi was a colony, in verse 12, which means the city was a strategic Roman colony city occupying an important place in the Roman line of defenses in that region. It also lets us know that there was an important highway to this city, as was the case with all Roman colonies. So you see, Paul began his European evangelistic work in a city from which the gospel could easily spread outward to other parts of the Roman Empire in Eastern Europe. As was Paul’s custom after settling in, he initially sought out a Jewish audience for his gospel message. However, going out of the city to the riverside suggests there was no synagogue in Philippi, for which reason Paul and his party went to the place where Jewish people in the city would customarily meet for prayer and worship on the Sabbath where there was no synagogue. This was wherever there was running water. It was a Jewish custom that Paul, being Jewish, would be familiar with. Why was there no synagogue if there were Jews in the city? Well, there are two possible answers. First, there may have been fewer than ten Jewish men living in the city. No matter how many women there were in a city, a synagogue would not be established unless there were ten men who were willing to serve as synagogue leaders. Such was their custom. Second, it may have been that there were enough men in the city, but that the men were spiritual sloths who were perfectly content to allow their women to tend to the spiritual matters. There are too many men in the world like that today. It is a wonderful thing to see that those women did not usurp the authority given by God to men to be spiritual leaders in their homes. They could have said, “There are no men to organize the synagogue and teach the Torah. I guess we will have to do it ourselves.” However, having an admirable respect for the Word of God, even though they were not saved, they did not do that. However, had they usurped that authority which Jewish custom allocated only to men, the difficulty Paul would have had presenting the gospel to them would have been greater. Those women are to be commended for their devotion to the truth, as they knew it. They are to be commended for their humility.

We now come to my text for this morning. Verses 14-15:

 14     And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

15     And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

 This is the account of the salvation of a woman named Lydia, which I preached about exactly one month ago. However, her conversion is a wonderful one for us to recount yet again. Lydia, because of her wealth and prestige, may very well have been a leader of those women who met for worship on the Sabbath. How God was able to use such a woman who, though used to wielding authority, was willing to listen to a stranger named Paul. Not many women would have listened to Paul. Not many men would have listened to Paul. However, she did listen, and this is the account of her salvation. The salvation of one who was a moral and upright woman with position, with wealth, and with status as a merchant, is significant. Lydia’s story demonstrates the need for even a religious and moral person to be saved.

Three factors contribute to this conclusion in these two verses.

 FACTOR #1 IS LYDIA’S FICTIONAL FAITH

 Fictional? How dare I say that this woman’s faith was fictional? There are three reasons why I say that this woman did not have a biblical, God-honoring, faith when Paul first encountered her:

Reason #1. Lydia’s faith was fictional because it was based upon Judaism. There can be no doubt, based upon the writings of the Apostle Paul, that Judaism during the days of the apostles was a corrupt and apostate religion, and bore little or no resemblance to the spirit of the system of sacrifices and ordinances originally introduced by Moses. The Apostle Paul himself was a Jew’s Jew, and he actually persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. He was considered a standout by his peers and a stellar example of a devout Jewish man. He also proved that Judaism could not save. Additionally, Judaism in the days of the Apostle Paul taught a salvation that required good works and the keeping of the Law to maintain a relationship with God. This in itself is seen to be unbiblical since salvation and the security of the believer is by means of faith, not works. People nowadays seem to downplay the need of pointing out such doctrinal distinctives, thinking it is not important what you believe. However, I must emphasize that what you believe determines whether you are saved. What you believe distinguishes you from a pagan and an atheist. If what Lydia believed was Judaism, then we can strongly, if not dogmatically, assert that she was not saved. Why is this? Because Paul, the greatest practitioner of Judaism who ever lived, still needed Jesus as his Savior to be saved. After all, it is not a religion that saves any sinner’s soul, but a Savior.

Reason #2. Lydia’s faith was fictional because it was based solely upon intellect. Look at verse 14. When Paul began to speak the truth to Lydia, the Lord opened her heart. Thus, it was until Paul arrived in the city of Philippi that her heart had been closed to the truth. A heart that is closed to the truth is not a place where faith resides. This should not surprise anyone. It is normal conduct for an unsaved person to have a closed and hardened heart. Does not the Bible say that there is none righteous, no not one? Of course it does. Does not the Bible say that there is none that seeketh after God? Of course it does, in Romans 3.11. Since Lydia’s heart was closed to the truth prior to Paul’s arrival in Philippi, and since it is with the heart that one must believe in Jesus unto salvation, we can say with certainty that Lydia was saved only after Paul arrived on the scene. Prior to that time, she had only an intellectual or a mental belief, not a heart’s trusting in Jesus. She knew about God, but she did not know God. It was in verse 14 that the record of God opening her heart to the truth takes place.

Reason #3. Lydia’s faith was fictional because it was not based upon the gospel. Prior to the time Paul and his party entered Philippi it seems no one had come there with the message of the gospel. Without the gospel message, my friend, you are not going to be saved. It is only by means of the gospel that sinners are guided to the sole savior of sinful men’s souls, Jesus Christ. It is in Romans 1.16 that Paul writes these famous words of truth: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek” Thus, Lydia could not have been saved before Paul’s arrival because she had never heard the gospel before Paul’s arrival. What is the gospel? It is the truth that Christ died according to Old Testament prophecy written many years before His actual birth. It is the truth that after He died for my sins, He then arose from the dead on the third day. He was then seen by hundreds of people, many of whom still were alive when Paul was preaching, and then He ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven.[2] You must believe in the Jesus Christ Who did all this to be saved. That is what Paul taught. If you do not believe in this Jesus then you are not saved. Until Lydia believed the message Paul delivered to her she was lost in her sins, because her religious beliefs though sincere were wrong, because her faith was intellectual instead of a heart faith, and because she had never yet heard the saving message until then, because the object of her faith was not Jesus Christ, the Savior. All of this shows that Lydia’s faith had been a fictional faith and not a real one.

 FACTOR #2 IS PAUL’S FACTUAL GOSPEL

 Consider the various roles played by the persons involved in the salvation of Lydia and in the presentation of Paul’s factual gospel:

First, we see the role of God, the Father. The Bible says, “whose heart the Lord opened.” Does God actually play a part in a person’s salvation? Of course, He does. A person’s salvation is God’s idea in the first place, John 1.13: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” God is the Originator of His plan of salvation and its application to your life. Some do not like this truth. Some would rather think that a sinner begins thinking about God on his own, and that one day he decides on his own to trust Christ as his personal Savior. That may seem to be true to a sinner at the time conversion takes place, but do not ignore what the Bible says and what Christians come to later learn about God’s role in this transaction. #1 No one seeks after God. God seeks after the sinner. Deny it if you will, but it is Bible fact without contradiction.[3] #2 For you to begin to listen to the Word of God and understand it, God must open your heart. This is what happened to Lydia. God softened her heart to the truth of His infinite love and desire to save her.

This brings us to the role of the witness, named Paul. The Bible says in Acts 16.14 that she attended to the things that were spoken of by the Apostle Paul. Turn to Romans 10.13-17:

 13     For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14     How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15     And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

16     But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17     So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Do you see the connection between the man who preaches the truth and the person who is subsequently saved? What is the role of the witness? To present the truth in the simplest way possible. To tell folks of their estrangement from God because of their sins, that God loves them, and that He sent His Son to die for them. If the sinner will believe the message and trust the Savior sent by God and preached by the messenger, he will be saved from his sins. Why, then, do so few churches preach this gospel message? Why do so few Christians preach this gospel message? Maybe because they either do not have the message to begin with or because they do not really care. They care more about living in sin than in serving Christ. If you looked back over the life of a professing Christian and discovered that at no time in 2011 did he bring a lost person into his home, that at no time did he take a lost person out to lunch, that at no time did he actually invite a lost person to church for the purpose of wooing and winning him to Jesus Christ, would you believe he had a concern for the lost? Of course, not. Neither would you be surprised to learn that professing Christian’s own child was not a believer. Why not? Because there is no demonstration of concern for the souls of men. Paul served God and preached Christ because he cared. He cared for Christ and he cared for the lost. He realized that he was simply a funnel. He was simply a messenger boy. Paul preached against sin and showed that it damns people to Hell. Then he presented an alternative to going to Hell. That alternative he presented to that group of which Lydia was a part is Jesus Christ. That is the role he played in her salvation. He lifted up the Savior and she trusted Him.

Thirdly, we see the role of Lydia in her own salvation. What part did she play in being saved? We know that she did not do any good works, because the Bible says “Not of works, lest anyone should boast.”[4] In another place it reads, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.”[5] Therefore, Lydia did not actually do anything to be saved from her sins in the ordinary sense of the word. What role, then, did she play in this drama? The Bible says that she “attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” The Bible does not actually record her saying a sinner’s prayer. The Bible does not actually record words indicating that she received Christ. However, she did believe in Jesus. She did trust Jesus. That is what Luke was referring to when he said that she “attended unto the things which were spoken of by Paul.”

I say this because, fourth, though Luke does not specifically mention him here, we know of the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God. You see, the Spirit is the great Executor of God, working in the lives of men on behalf of God. It is the Spirit of God that persuades, and guides, and instructs men concerning spiritual truth, John 16.7-13. It is the Spirit of God who glorifies Christ, who persuades sinners to look to Him, and who lifts Him up in the eyes of men as their great Object of faith.[6] It is the Spirit of God who is the Author of the new birth, John 3.3-8. Therefore, wherever Christians are made of sinners, the Spirit of God is on the scene doing what only He is tasked by God the Father to do.

Finally, of course, there is the Savior Himself. Jesus left heaven’s glory to become a man, so He might redeem men. Jesus bore our sins on the cross in fulfillment of God’s demands and prophetic predictions. It was Jesus who shed His blood an atonement for sins, that He might wash away the sins of those who come to God by Him. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.[7] He is our great High Priest.[8] He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[9] He is the one Mediator between God and men.[10] What was missing from Lydia’s ever improving morality that left her spiritually dead and lifeless even after abandoning idolatry was Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life.[11] Thus, we see the involvement of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as well as the involvement of the man of God, to bring the sinner to salvation through faith in Jesus. Until Lydia had Jesus, she really had nothing at all.

FACTOR #3 IS LYDIA’S FRUIT OF SALVATION

 Two things about Lydia’s life give strong testimony of her having received Christ as her personal Savior.

First, there is the evidence of her baptism. It is a fact that no one is eligible for New Testament baptism who has not first received Christ as his personal Savior. This is seen in the fact that Philip would not baptize the Ethiopian eunuch until he gave clear testimony of belief in Christ. This is also seen in the example of the New Testament as a whole. No one in the New Testament is ever baptized until after he has persuaded God’s people he is saved through faith in Christ. Another reason that baptism is evidence of one’s salvation is because, according to First Peter 3.21, it is the answer of a good conscience toward God. That is, it is the natural response of anyone whose conscience has been purged and whose sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. To be sure, there are people who resist believer baptism by immersion. I suspect there are even saved people who will never submit to believer baptism, and who will certainly go to heaven. However, such a person will go to heaven disobedient to the clear command of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. . . .”

The second fruit of Lydia’s salvation is the evidence of her love of the brethren and her desire to serve God. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another,” John 13.35. Then, in First John 4.12 it says, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” We see strong evidence of Lydia’s Christianity because she fell in love with Paul and those who traveled with him. This was a holy, sincere and sacrificial kind of love. As well, she constrained them to allow her to serve God with them. This is a love and a commitment that she would not have displayed before her salvation. Truly, she did hear the gospel and believe. Folks who claim to be Christians, but who do not hang around Christians, who do not like saved people, who do not have a strong love for the saints, and who will not serve, have a professed relationship with Christ that is very suspect.

 There is enough gospel truth in this sermon that I have preached to save the whole world. There is enough gospel truth to save you. I have rehearsed the truth that you are a sinner in the sight of God and must be saved. I have rehearsed the truth that only the Savior Who is told of in the gospel message has the power to save you. In addition, I have rehearsed the truth that when you truly are saved you begin to act differently. You see, when you are saved you will do things you were never willing to do before. You will respond to a challenge to be scripturally baptized because the Bible passage which says, “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed” is realized in your life. You will begin to love the brethren and desire to be with other Christians instead of running with that lost crowd who would have been perfectly happy to take you to Hell with them . . . laughing all the way to eternal torment. Most of all, I hope each of you have realized something about who needs to be saved this morning. We all know that the adulterer needs to be saved. We all know that the liar needs to be saved. Moreover, we know that the murderer needs to be saved. No one argues this point. Least of all those who are guilty of such sins. However, how many times do we forget that the society people need salvation as well? How many times do we forget that so-called clean sinners are just as Hell-bound as so-called dirty sinners are? Some folks might call Lydia a clean sinner. However, she was still after all just a sinner, and had she died without Christ she would have gone straight to Hell, just like the worst of sinners. But, praise the Lord, she became a sinner who was saved by the grace of God by trusting in Jesus Christ.

If you are here this morning and you are a dirty sinner, you know that you need Christ. If you came this morning as a so-called fairly clean sinner, I hope that you now know that you, too, need Christ. Will you not trust Him this morning? Will you not realize that no matter what kind of sinner you are He is able to save you . . . from the uttermost to the guttermost? He died for you. He took your sins to the cross and paid the penalty for them there. The work has all been done. All that remains is for you to trust Jesus as your Savior to receive the full benefit of what He has already done for you. Trust Jesus now.



[1] Frank J. Goodwin, A Harmony Of The Life Of St. Paul According To The Acts Of The Apostles and the Pauline Epistles, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1951), pages 59-60, 66.

[2] 1 Corinthians 15.1-8

[3] Romans 3.11

[4] Ephesians 2.9

[5] Titus 3.5

[6] John 16.14

[7] Hebrews 12.2

[8] Hebrews 3.1; 4.14; 5.10; 7.26; 9.11; 10.21

[9] John 1.29

[10] 1 Timothy 2.5-6

[11] John 11.25



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org