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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Acts 16:13-15. Paul's first European convert. A Jewish proselyte ("which worshipped God".) In attending the means of grace at Philippi, Lydia received the blessing. Many women, and among them Lydia, resorted to the place by the river Gangites or Gaggitas "where prayer was wont to be made"; possibly a proseuchee was there, "the meeting place of Jewish congregations in Greek cities" (Winer), or "a place of prayer as opposed to a synagogue or house of prayer" (Conybeare and Howson, Life of Paul). For quietness and freedom from interruption it was "outside of the gate" (so the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus manuscripts read instead of "out of the city"), and "by the river side" for the sake of the ablutions connected with the worship. The seashore was esteemed by the Jews a place most pure, and therefore suited for prayer; at their great fast they used to leave their synagogues and pray on every shore in Tertullian's (de Jejun. 16) time; see also Josephus Ant. 14:10, section 23.

Luke describes here with the vividness of an eye witness, Women, as in many of our own congregations, formed the greater part of the worshippers; their employment as dyers brought them together in that vicinity. Lydia belonged to Thyatira in Asia Minor, where inscriptions relating to a "guild of dyers" there confirm Luke's accuracy. Paul arrived early in the week, for "certain days" elapsed before the sabbath. Paul, Silas, and Luke "sat down" (the usual attitude of teachers) to speak to the assembled women. Lydia was one of the listeners (eekouen ), and "the Lord opened her heart (compare Luke 24:45; Psalms 119:18; Psalms 119:130) that she attended unto the things spoken of Paul" (Luke modestly omits notice of his own preaching). The Greek (elaloumen ) implies conversational speaking rather than set preaching. Her modesty and simplicity beautifully come out in the narrative. She heartily yields to her convictions and is forthwith baptized, the waters of Europe then first being sacramentally used to seal her faith and God's forgiveness in Christ.

She leads her "household" to believe in, and be baptized as disciples of, the same Saviour. This is the first example of that family religion to which Paul often refers in his epistles (1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 16:5; Philemon 1:2). First came her faith, then her leading all around her to Christ, then her and their baptismal confession, then her love evidenced in pressing hospitality (Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 5:10), finally her receiving into her house Paul and Silas after their discharge from prison; she was not "ashamed of the Lord's prisoners, but was partaker of the afflictions of the gospel." Through Lydia also the gospel probably came into Thyatira, where Paul had been forbidden to preach it at the earlier time, for God has His times for everything (Acts 16:6; Revelation 2:18). Thyatira being a Macedonian colony had much contact with Philippi, the parent city. Lydia may have been also one of "those women who laboured with Paul in the gospel" at Philippi (Philippians 4:3).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Lydia'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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