A Look at the Inspiring Story of Lydia in the Bible and the Four Lessons We Can Learn From Her

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Lydia in the Bible is only mentioned two times in scripture. Both in Acts.

We find the record of her conversion and then her baptism. From the story of Lydia in the Bible, we can learn quite a bit about conversion, especially the conversion of Jewish believers.

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,  and from there to Philippi, a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:11–15 (ESV
image of biblical woman in water with the text A Look at the Inspiring Story of Lydia in the Bible and the Four Lessons We Can Learn From Her

The Story of Lydia in the Bible

Lydia was originally from Thyatira, a city in the western province of Lydia in Asia Minor. Still, she was living in Philippi when she met Paul on his second missionary trip. Philippi a leading city of Macedonia on the European continent.

This Thyatiran woman was well known for her trade in purple cloth, which the city was known for. In addition, it was the center of the indigo trade.

Apparently, Lydia moved to Philippi to sell her cloth in that city.  Some archaeologists have found inscriptions relating to a Dyers’ Guild in the city of Thyatira. It is possible that Lydia was involved with this organization, but there’s no Bible Evidence for it.

Biblical scholars believe she may have been the first Gentile convert in Europe and the first believer to open her home for worship for the early European Christians.

Her generosity and hospitality benefited not just Paul and the early church but even future generations of believers.

Lydia in the Bible exemplifies determination, foresight, and true generosity that can encourage us today.

Lydia’s in the Bible: Her Conversion

Lydia was also a worshiper of God and observed the Sabbath.  This means that she was likely Jewish.  

In Acts, we read that Lydia was gathered together for prayer with other women on the Sabbath near the river outside Philippi.  

The lack of Jewish men in Philippi may have been why Paul and his companions went down to speak with the women.

When Lydia heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, she was instantly open to paying attention and understanding what Paul was saying. 

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

Acts 16:14 (ESV)

When she believed, Lydia became a follower of Jesus and was baptized with the rest of her household. It’s unclear if “her household” refers only to family members or includes servants.

After Lydia’s conversion and subsequent baptism, she insisted that Paul and his companions stay at her home if they considered her “faithful to the Lord” (verse 15). 

image of Traditional baptismal site of Lydia, the first Christian in Europe near ancient Philippi, Greece for the post Lydia in the Bible
Traditional baptismal site of Lydia, the first Christian in Europe near ancient Philippi, Greece

Her actions indicate the eagerness with which she sought to provide hospitality, “she prevailed upon us.” They judged that Lydia was a true believer and stayed at her home while in Philippi.

It was the start of a new era for Christianity. Up until then, the gospel had not gone beyond Asia Minor.

He had planned to stay in Asia, but God changed his plans. Instead, a vision sent by the Lord directed him west across the Aegean Sea and into Macedonia.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 16:6-10 (ESV)

Lydia is the first person recorded to have been saved in Europe, although she was native to Asia Minor.

The church in Thyatira was a mystery to Paul, and he didn’t visit it during any of his missions. So we don’t know who might have established this church but their story, but it is possible that Lydia is the one who brought the gospel to her hometown.  However, there is no biblical proof for this.

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Revelation 2:18 (ESV)

The story of Lydia in the Bible offers an excellent model for Christian leadership, influence, and godly living.

The story of Lydia in the Bible is also a great example of God’s providence and His care for believers. Lydia was a worshiper of God, but, like Cornelius, in Acts 10 she had not yet heard the gospel. 

God is always in the right place when we need him most. So he rerouted Paul and his friends, making sure that Lydia could hear about Jesus from one of his most prominent followers- a man who knew what it meant for someone to be redeemed and start life anew.

In this story, so full of divine intervention and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life; we see how God is always present to save His children; As Jesus said:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 (ESV)

There is something so powerful about the bond that new believers share with other members of their community—Lydia showed hospitality to those who brought good news, and she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

When Lydia realized that her old life and possessions now belonged to the Lord, she felt a sense of peace and freedom.

• She had a new Savior—the Lord Jesus Christ

• She had a new purpose in life —to serve him and love others

• She had a new joy—seeking to be effective and successful in sharing the gospel with others

Although she was a successful career woman, that did not prevent her from sharing the gospel, and she was never too busy to be hospitable to others.

Lydia in the Bible: Using Her Means to Spread the Word of God

We tell this story to bring attention to and expand knowledge of how women played a significant financial role in early Christianity.

Women have always been the silent backbone of society, and Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and other women, including Lydia in the Bible, were no exception. Yet, they gave their resources to support Jesus and his disciples in supporting them and their ministry.

Tabitha and many other women contributed financially to care for the poor, while Lydia offered hospitality. While hospitality is a typical role for women, Lydia’s generosity goes above and beyond. Her hospitality was unprecedented. 

Lydia’s self-giving care for her new community was patterned after the love of Jesus. It is also remarkable that she had a home to share with others in need. It was rare in biblical times for a woman to be the sole homeowner.

Because she found creative ways to use her assets, this generous soul could provide more substantial help for the cause than ever before.

Lydia can inspire us to think in fresh ways about our own assets and how we use them to support ministry.

The time is now for women. We have so many blessings and resources that we could be leveraging to help make change happen in our world. So how can you impact change with the resources you have?  

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What Lessons Can We Learn from Lydia in the Bible?

Although her story in the Bible is short, we can learn much from Lydia in the Bible.

What if we lost sight of the people around us? The Lydia’s in our lives can teach about being prepared for moments, seeking something bigger than ourselves, and inviting others along on your journey.

Verse 15 shines a light on this, “ And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us..” 

  1. We can see what thriving in a new culture looks like. We don’t know why Lydia made the move, whether she married someone foreign or had to leave due to persecution, but either way, I’m sure that her transition into this new country was not easy, and there were moments where things got tough for Lydia.

The fresh new life in a larger city was just what this vibrant young woman needed. Finally, she found herself at the perfect time and place, meeting someone who would forever change her whole world- a man named Paul, who led her and her household to conversion in Christ.

  1. We must remember that not every Christian has or desires a vocational calling like being a missionary. God needs us in all places, including “ordinary” workplaces. We can minister to the world from a cubicle or behind a barista counter!

  1. Lydia shows us that we also need to show hospitality. Lydia opened her home to other believers.  Whether inviting someone for dinner, coffee, or a small group meeting, our home does not need to be a mansion for us to show hospitality.

  1. If God has blessed us with more abundance than others,  we need to show generosity to those who do not have as much.  We should always be generous with other believers, for the money does not belong to us.

The generosity of spirit seen in those who continue to learn and grow results in them investing their time, energy, and resources into the church and the world.

We are a community of believers called to cast our vision and make this world more beautiful through Jesus Christ. Our mission is found in partnership with one another as we fulfill the Great Commission.

Look to the example of Lydia and Paul not only because they are a great inspiration but also to remind us why generosity is so important. We can all take small steps towards giving more by listening and observing to learn about other people’s needs and using creative opportunities to offer our help and make a genuine difference in the world.

Although Lydia only appears in a chapter, we can learn much from her life and ministry. We can also analyze other women mentioned in the Bible and realize the radical message of the Gospel and how it uses the most marginalized and forgotten people to spread its good news.

You may enjoy this video about Lydia and her life.

Or one of these recommended resources for further study:

Lydia: Paul’s Cosmopolitan Hostess by Richard S. Ascough 

Lydia, Woman of Philippi by Diana Wallis Taylor (Fiction)

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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