The Lord Opens a Heart to Receive the Gospel
Luke continues his history of what is now known as “Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.” They set sail from Troas, the city which served as the setting for ancient Troy and the famed Trojan War of Homer, recounted in the classic Iliad, a millennium previous. They landed on the island of Samothrace in the Aegean, left the next day for Neapolis on the mainland, and from there went to Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia.
We have seen that Paul’s custom was to visit the local synagogue and preach Jesus as the Christ when given the opportunity. But here we read that Paul and his companions visited no synagogue, so we assume that there were few Jews to establish one, which required ten Jewish men. So Luke informs us that “on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer.” What they found was a group of women who were gathered for just that. From the description of Lydia as “a worshiper of God,” we presume that these women were “God-fearers,” meaning that they were Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel. Apparently Paul took the opportunity to speak to these women and tell them of Jesus, which is reminiscent of our Lord’s interview with the woman of Samaria, who cared not that she was neither a Jew nor a man (John 4:1-45). We are also told that she was of Thyatira (on the coast of Asia Minor) and a seller of purple goods, for which dye Thyatira was famous. Thus, Lydia was a woman of significance, perhaps a business woman, who came to Philippi to sell her purple goods. Again, as an historian, Luke thinks it important that we should know these things.
But what is most important is this line: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Thereupon she believed and was baptized, as well as her household. But we are made to understand that she only believed because the Lord opened her heart, and not that she opened her heart herself that she may believe. And this is a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith: God does the work of regeneration. God does not simply provide the apparatus (the substitutionary death of His Son) for man’s salvation, but He sends His Holy Spirit to convict, convince, rebirth, cleanse, and thus, save; which is all to say that the Holy Spirit applies to us what the Son provided through his death and resurrection, which is all the result of the love of the Father. And she then proved her faith with her hospitality to the missionaries. So pray that God would open the hearts of those around you that people would hear the gospel and be saved, like Lydia.