The Conversion of Lydia
The Conversion of Lydia
The Marsden Cross memorial in Kerikeri was erected to mark the first time the gospel was preached in New Zealand on Christmas day in 1814. the service was led by Samuel Marsden who preached from Luke 2:10 (“Don't be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people.")
Whether memorialised or not, most countries will have a beach or marketplace or house where the gospel was first preached to a region. Our text from Acts recounts the entry of the gospel into the Western world---into Europe---and it was preached to a bunch of ladies.
HOW THE MISSIONARY TEAM GOT TO PHILIPPI: They had come from the East. They were trying to go West to Asia, but were prevented. To the South was the ocean. So they proceed Northwards towards Bythnia. But the Holy Spirit does not let them go there either. They are forced to take the little corridor Westwards above Asia to Troas. Then, in a vision Paul sees a man from Macedonia (Northern Greece) begging Paul to come and help them.
Sometimes God opens a door to point the way. God closing a door is just as much a way God uses to guide us, although it may be disappointing as we may be invested in the path that is closing to us. Looking for a group with which to worship on the Sabbath, the team find themselves on a riverside where Lydia and some other ladies have gathered for prayer.
WHO COMPRISE THE TEAM: In this passage, we see that the account that was being written in the third person suddenly switches to the first person. So we know that Luke is with them now. They must have met up in Troas. So at the riverside service, are gathered along with the women, Luke, Paul, Timothy, and Silas. But Paul does not see the lack of a men in the gathering or the fact that it is a small gathering as another closed door' rather he sees it as the open door that it is for the gospel to spread. One traveling sales woman is converted and then her family too. This will set the Western world afire with the gospel.
This passage has been used to justify Infant baptism, Woman in leadership, Woman not to be in leadership (as Lydia goes home and becomes a host.) But in fact, this passage has nothing to do with any of these. Instead, we can learn that:
- Small beginnings are not to be despised.
- (Main takeaway) It is the Lord who saves from first to last, and opens hearts. The Bible consistently describes this process, using the idea of hard and soft hearts and heart made of stone vs flesh. What makes the difference between hard and soft or stone and flesh is the opening of the heart by God.
- The fact that Lydia's household also came to faith is great motivation to share the gospel in the family. We have a role to take the gospel to our family.
- Observing what God did for the gospel to reach Lydia makes us think of what God has done for the gospel to have reached us. In Lydia's case, God stopped the apostle from going to Asia or Bythnia, and forced him to go through the narrow corridor westwards. God gave Paul a vision. God opened Lydia's heart. God opened her family's hearts. The gospel then exploded in Europe and then through the world. And from there to each one of us. Every single step was orchestrated to save us. The miracle of the transmission of the gospel and then the opening of our hearts. We are not Christians by accident.