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Europe’s First Convert Acts 16:11-15


Europe’s First Convert.

Text: Acts 16:11-15.  

Have you heard the saying, “From small acorns, great oaks grow.”  Think of the size and influence of the Christian Church in Europe, over the past 2,000 years.  Our whole society here in Europe is built upon Christian influences.   Just reflect on the fact that all those centuries of Christian witness, so many millions of souls saved by grace, all began with one woman, who decided to go to a river in Greece, and meet with some friends, to seek the God whom she knew as the Creator of the visible world, the God who had revealed himself to people called Jews.  That set of circumstances was the acorn, from which the great oak grew! 

Ancient ruins at Philippi. Image by Jim Black from Pixabay

Let’s see:-

1 An Opened Door.  v13  

Philippi was a Roman city, named after Philip II of Macedonia. Roman law prevailed there, and the city legal and administrative authorities answered directly to Caesar.  Look at the charges against the missionaries in Acts 16:20-21 and the influence of the Lex Romana in Acts 16:38.  

There were Jews living in the city of Philippi, but they must have been few in number, for there was no local synagogue, – a quorum of ten male family heads was required for a synagogue to be established, otherwise Jews were to meet under the sky, near a river.  Certainly Paul expected that if he went to the river bank he would find Jewish  worship taking place.

Now note what happened next. The phrase is very specific. They SAT DOWN and began to speak. We’ve already learned from Acts that Jewish rabbis, teachers, sat down to preach.  As usual they had been recognised by the Jews as men of education and learning and had been asked to preach – and as always they found this an opportunity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Their audience was comprised entirely of women!  

2 An Opened Heart. v14  

There was a woman, a particular woman at the meeting that day.   Her name was Lydia.

  • Lydia’s Position in Society.
    • Her name.  Lydia was the original name for the ancient city of Thyatira, the place where she had been born, but now, she is living and working in Philippi.  To some people she is ‘St Lydia.’  Her name is written in the Bible, and what a wonderful thing that is, to be part of the sacred scriptures, along with other notable women of faith.  But what an even greater privilege to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Luke 10:20  
    • Her profession.  Lydia was a businesswoman, a seller of purple cloth.  That means she would have been a wealthy woman, with a significant position in society and a wide sphere of influence. Being a Christian businessman is nothing to be ashamed of if that business is conducted humbly and honestly.   Her conversion would be a significant and notable event!
  • Lydia is Prepared for Salvation.  Now, how does God bring this woman to faith in Christ?   
    • Her spiritual condition.  She was a worshipper of God but please be aware that to be a worshipper of God does NOT make one a Christian.  There are many people who believe in God, who attend churches, who lift their voices in songs of praise, who are not believers in Christ.  Perhaps that why in John 14, Jesus warned his disciples, “You believe in God, believe also in me…:”  Lydia had been prepared by God for this very moment!
    • God’s part.  The Lord OPENED HER HEART!  It was while she was listening to the Gospel being preached that the Holy Spirit did his saving work in the fertile soil of her heart.  Like all sinners her heart was as black as can be.   What happens when a darkened place is opened up?  Light floods in!  In Lydia’s case, immediately the light of the Gospel floods in! Everything Paul is saying suddenly makes sense, as he talks about Christ’s death on the cross for sinners like her.  God has done the work!  Now…
    • Lydia’s response.  She repents and trusts the Lord.  That’s not what saves her, God has already opened the sinners heart to the light of the Gospel, Christ has already died for Lydia…  But when the Holy Spirit does this divine work, applying saving grace to the sinners heart, that grace is irresistible.  God causes Lydia to respond!  The Lord opened her heart to respond!  

3 An Opened Home15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

After conversion comes the practical and visible evidences of that conversion.  

  • Obedience.  I wonder about why the Jews met for worship in the vicinity of a river?   Baptisms were a well known aspect of Jewish religious life, and it was natural that Lydia, in response to her new beginning, her new life in Christ, should submit willingly and immediately to Christian baptism, and the river would have been the perfect place for that!  But not just Lydia.  We are told that Lydia was converted, brought to New Life, and had repented and trusted in Christ, but we are also told here that her whole house were baptised that day.   
  • Fellowship.  She wanted the Missionaries to come and lodge at her home, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Look closely at the words she used.  Do you believe that I am a true Christian? She is a Gentile and Jews don’t attend at the homes of Gentiles!  If the missionaries will come to her home and lodge, it will be a real affirmation of her new found faith in Christ.  ‘If you really think I’m a Christian – if I’m just the same as you, a sinner saved by Grace, then have fellowship with me!’   They did!   Later Paul would urge such hospitality upon all of us, telling us in Romans 12:13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

So the very first convert on the continent of Europe has been saved and the light of the gospel has arrived. A Gentile woman, of high breeding and respectability has come to faith in Christ.  A new church has begun too, among the members of Lydia’s household, and it would become one of Paul’s most beloved churches. Philippians 1:3-6,But salvation is not just for nice, respectable, middle class people, – as Paul and Co. are about to demonstrate in their next gospel encounter at Philippi.  

© Bob McEvoy December 2020

From → Acts, Bible Study

One Comment
  1. Andy permalink

    Learnt something new Bob, thank you 🙏

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