Although the subject of “Fellowship” will come up again. I need to tell you a story of our day today. We had some Church folk travel from the East Rand to Tshwane (Pretoria) for a braai. It was a great time of fellowship, food and community because we were all believers. We started off in prayer and ended with prayer. It is always wonderful when the Body of Christ meet … irrespective of numbers gathered together because the center of the gathering is Jesus. There is another type of fellowship we will see in this passage soon and it is creating evangelistic opportunities. This could also be a great way to enjoy other people whilst demonstrating faith in Jesus by your life, morals and speech. Yesterday we notice that Paul and his missionary team arrived in Philippi (Acts 16) and because there was no synagogue they looked for a place to pray because prayer is the backbone to all ministry, especially mission work.
(2) The place they found was outside the City gate.
Ac 16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.
This is rather spectacular because if they prayed within the City walls it is possible they would have been arrested because they were foreigners and “performing religious rituals” (Christianity was unknown) could have drawn persecution. The best place would be outside the eyes of the “law” and “religious leaders”. The place they found was at a river. This too will become significant later. They had aimed for a quiet, perhaps lonely place for prayer. It is possible that this river was used for ceremonial ablutions. A lesson we are Christians and as a Church need to be cautious about is not going into an area that is Muslim, Hindu or one practicing Traditional Religion (whatever the country), start Gospel Rallies or high profiled outreaches which could upset the community and especially the religious leaders. It is true this happened with Paul and his team and often he was imprisoned, beaten and stoned. We are not Paul and neither are we living in the First Century. Today we need to use different approaches that do not upset or offend people and discredit the Name and Cause of Jesus Christ.
(3) They found women at the river.
Ac 16:13 We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.
This might sound strange to us but we need to remember this was not Judaism or the Middle East. This was Europe. These were not men seeking women for any other reason than evangelism … and would have been the same should men have been present. Notice that
(a) “we” sat down. This would have included the human author of this Book. He was Luke, hence the use of “we”. He is an eye witness of what happened. Observe the strategy they followed. They sat now near to where some women we seated at the river.
(b) Then they starting speaking to the women. I am sure that initially there was some icebreaking chitchat … but soon they we explaining the Gospel. When Christian men start initiating a conversation with women to share the Gospel, their motive must be Gospel. The Name and Cause of Jesus has drawn much criticism because some men use the Gospel Message as an ulterior motive to get close to woman for the wrong reason. We have always advocated that women ought to reach women or at the very least there needs to be one woman in the team reaching out to women.
(4) One of the women was called Lydia.
Ac 16:14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God.
(a) Her name in Greek means “beautiful one”. She might well have been beautiful but as we will see, her personality and character were beautiful.
(b) She came from the City of Thyatira. Today this is the City of Akhisar, far west of Turkey, south of Istanbul and due east of Athens. For many centuries the City was famous for her dyes. There was even a Guild of Dyers in the City.
(c) Lydia was a business woman. It is most likely that she was single because no reference is made to a husband and in verse 15 she invites the missionary team to stay at her house. I would suggest she was an accomplished and good business women. She knew how to sell her products. Look at the end of verse 15 … And she persuaded us.
(d) She traded in expensive “purple cloth”. This was made from a very expensive dye. She was most likely the agent of a Thyatiran Manufacturer. It does seem that she is a wealthy woman trading in expensive commodities and owning her own house. By grace God at times saves wealthy people and brings them into a Church where they can use their skills, gift mix and financial resources to bless the Ministry of the Church.
(e) Lydia was converted to Judaism. She was a worshipper of God. If she was a pagan, Luke would never have said she worshipped God. It would seem as though Lydia and the members of her house (most likely only women), were down at the river to pray. If they were there to pray it is likely that the Holy Spirit used that as a talking point for the missionaries to get into the Gospel. I like to call these encounters “Divine Appointments”. God sets them up so that the Gospel has a ready, willing to hear “target”.
(5) God opened her heart and that of her household.
Ac 16:14 The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
Although this section of verse 14 mentions Lydia, together with the people with her from her household baptism followed in verse 15 … I’m prepared to say “the hearts of the women” were opened. Firstly we read
Ac 16:14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia and then The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
We again return to the Biblical point that God is the one who saves souls. But here we see the procedure God uses.
(a) Paul spoke the Gospel.
(b) The women, in our verse Lydia, listened.
(c) The Lord opened her heart.
The Gospel is … God is good, man sinned, man can’t save himself, God has a rescue plan in Jesus who is in fact God. He comes to earth as Godman, sinless, pays the sin price for the believer through His death, rises victoriously as a guarantee of the believer’s resurrection into eternal life and heaven one day … and that faith in Jesus and what He did, confession of sin and real repentance demonstrates seriousness which God sees and open the heart to believe and surrender. The lesson is that worshipping God as a religious convert to Judaism will not save. Salvation is only possible through accepting the Gospel Message with God softening the heart enabling faith and salvation.
O Lord in our time do this again and again for the Lord Jesus’ sake. Amen.