The text for this lesson is Acts 16:11–15
- God pours out His love for me by giving me His Holy Spirit through water and the Word, granting me saving faith, forgiveness, and a home in heaven.
- Law: In my sin, I often close my heart and mind to the saving Word of the Gospel that is preached to me.
- Gospel: In mercy, God still sees to it that His Holy Word is proclaimed so that, through it, the Holy Spirit might grant faith and open my heart to receive the forgiveness Christ has won for me.
- This story takes place during Paul’s second missionary journey, which began in the fall of AD 49. Today’s account takes place in Philippi. Lydia, from Thyatira, was a dealer in purple dye, one of the most expensive commodities in the ancient world. Lydia is also described as a worshiper of God (or God-fearer), which means she was a Gentile-born believer in the God of the Old Testament. On hearing Paul’s preaching of Christ, Lydia recognizes that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and she is baptized. She then extends hospitality to Paul and his companions.
- In the days of the apostolic Church, there were many Gentiles throughout the Roman world who had heard the Old Testament Scriptures with its promises and believed them. Normally, they heard the Old Testament read from the Septuagint, a Greek translation that had been in existence for about three hundred years.
It is important to remember that the Book of Acts presents us with a unique circumstance. Because of the Diaspora, there were Jews throughout the Roman world. Many Gentiles, including Lydia and the centurion of Luke 7, had heard about God’s promise to send the Messiah. The Book of Acts is not written as a model for how the Church should look or function now. It is an account of how the Gospel was preached to believing Jews and God-fearers (such as Lydia) in the years immediately following our Lord’s ascension. Many of those who are “added to” the Church in the Book of Acts already believed in the promised Messiah. They just didn’t know His name.
Paul encounters Lydia in a group of women who had come together to pray at the riverside. Paul comes and preaches the Gospel to them. As a highly educated biblical scholar, Paul proclaimed Jesus as the one who had been promised in the Old Testament texts. Luke describes this event: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). These words bring to mind what Luke wrote in his Gospel.
Toward the end of his Gospel, Luke describes the encounter the Emmaus disciples had with the resurrected Christ. Jesus interprets “to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Later, the disciples ask each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32).
The story of Lydia also parallels the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. After Jesus is shown to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, the person hearing this proclamation is baptized.
In today’s account, Lydia is not the only one who is baptized. She and her household all receive the gift. This is also a common theme in the Book of Acts. The gift of Baptism for the forgiveness of sins is for absolutely everyone. No one is left out.
This account gives us a wonderful example of how in the apostolic Church, the Holy Spirit worked through ordinary people to deliver the life and salvation that Christ won on the cross. God does it the same way even now.