Lydia: Called to Serve

Acts 16:11-15, 40;

1 Corinthians 1:26-30

I. The Gospel Encounters the Roman World (Acts 16:11-13)

“And spake unto the women which resorted thither.” (verse 13) — Apparently there was no Jewish colony or synagogue in Philippi. Ten men was the necessary number to facilitate an official synagogue designation. This, however, was an unofficial meeting place of a group of Jewish women and a number of God-fearers outside the city by the river.

According to the most text, “where prayer was wont to be made” could more accurately be read, “where we supposed there was a place of prayer.”

The word for “a place of prayer” is used in Jewish writings as a synonym for “synagogue.” And the expression “we sat down” delineates the normal position of a Jewish instructor when addressing an audience (note Jesus on the mount in Matthew, chapter 5). (Wycliffe Bible Commentary)

The women who had regularly assembled would be pleased to see a seemingly prominent Jewish teacher among them willing to come and teach them. Faithfully, week after week, month after month, and even possibly year after year, they had met there, praying and reading the Scriptures, aware that no man came among them, and in their tiny women’s group looking off to God, they must often have prayed for male support. They knew that they were in a large world and were looked on as an irrelevance by all but God, but they kept on praying and believing. And now this man, the Apostle Paul, had come. And he had brought Jesus Christ among them, the One Who would never leave them or forsake them. That was why it would be different. (Pett)

II. Lydia Accepts Christ and Opens Her Heart and Home (Acts 16:14-15, 40) It is believed that Lydia is the first European convert of the Apostle Paul, and afterward, his hostess during his first stay at Philippi. (Acts 18:14,15, also Acts 18:40, A.D. 47.) She was a Jewish proselyte at the time of the apostle’s coming; and it was at the Jewish Sabbath worship by the side of a stream, verse 13, that the preaching of the gospel reached her heart. Her native place was Thyatira, in the province of Asia, verse 14 (also Revelation 2:18). Thyatira was famous for its dyeing works; and Lydia was connected with this trade as a seller either of dye or of dyed goods. Quite likely, she was a person of considerable wealth and a premier contributor to missionary causes. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

III. God Calls Ordinary People into His Service (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) The Old Testament is full of illustrations of God choosing less than promising material as His instruments. In the Book of Judges, for example, we see Him using an ox goad (Judges 3:31), a nail (1 Corinthians 4:21), trumpets, pitchers, and lamps (Judges 7:20), a millstone (Judges 9:53), and the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15). His method did not change with the coming of Christ, nor has it changed since.

“Things that are not” are things that are nothing. They are non-entities in the eyes of the world. The “things that are” are those things and individuals that the world values highly. Paul did not mean that God cannot or will not save the affluent, but the glory of the gospel is that God’s mercy extends to everyone, even the less fortunate. (Constable)

IV. God’s Call Excludes Human Boasting (1 Corinthians 1:29-30) Wycliffe in his commentary helps to better understand the context of this set of scriptures when he explains the terms as they are listed. Due to the construction of the Greek sentence, stated Wycliffe, it is obvious that wisdom is the dominant word, and that the nouns “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” amplify and explain wisdom. Paul is in this instance not speaking of practical wisdom, but rather positional wisdom and God’s wise plan for our complete salvation. “Righteousness” is meant to describe the righteousness given in justification, or that which Paul expounds in Romans 1:1-5, 21. “Sanctification” is used in its immediate and complete sense (reference 1 Corinthians 1:2). Righteousness enables the believer to stand before God in the court of divine justice, while sanctification equips on to serve him in the temple of divine service (as outlined by Paul in Romans 6:1-8:17). “Redemption,” in view of the order of words, is quite likely meant to conjecture the final redemption of the body (see Romans 8:23).

“According as it is written” — from Jeremiah 9:23-24. So then, as all good is of and from God, let him that has either wisdom, strength, riches, pardon, holiness, or any other blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, acknowledge that he has nothing but what he has received; and that, as he has cause of glorying (boasting or exultation) in being made a partaker of these benefits and mercies of his Creator and Redeemer, let him boast in God alone, by whom, through Christ Jesus, he has received the whole. (Adam Clarke)

Central Text: 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. 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. — Acts 16:14-15

Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.

Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.

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