Acts 16:14, 15, 40
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us…
It may be said, indeed, that "the kingdom came not with observation" into Europe. To the silence, modesty, and unostentatiousness of its first steps, nothing seems wanting. The notoriety came, again, not from the studied purpose of its heralds, who did their bidding in so pacific a manner, but from the vain attempt to crush them. Let us notice in some detail what we know from the present passage of Christianity's very first rooting of itself in Europe. Observe -
I. THE OPPORTUNITY THAT WAS EMBRACED BY THE APOSTLE. 'We must judge that there was little or no choice open to him. We are glad even to take up the position that this, too, was of God. It may be worded, therefore, in this way, that the opportunity Paul used was that which Providence offered. With how many is it the case that opportunity is the very thing which is slighted, unheeded, altogether ignored! The opportunities that life offers, that our existing position offers, that God therein offers, are those that we despise, oh-earning of others, which for that very reason, if for no other, may well be withheld! Let us honor, then, the God who sent and the servant who faithfully used this opportunity, by looking at it somewhat minutely.
1. Landed in Europe, some" certain days" seem to have counted for little at Philippi; the only record of them this: "We were in that city abiding certain days?
2. The sabbath day comes, and there is no fine building into which to enter to preach; there is no respectable synagogue - Judaea is far away now; there is no excited and eager crowd as at Antioch to be harangued, with all the skill of the inspired logician and the Heaven-born orator and the faithful gospel preacher. Dull will the hours of this sabbath pass compared with those of many other of late years fresh in the recollection of Paul.
3. The day is nevertheless to be made use of and to be turned to account. And Paul and his companions resolve to join the humble prayer-meeting of a party of women, outside the city and by the river-side. The occasion is unique, pretty nearly as much so as could be. It must be taken from the tenor of the narrative that there were few, if any, men there. But Paul and his companions neither seem to view themselves nor to be viewed as intrusive. And they sat down and in a most informal manner "spake to the women." It were the essence of preaching sometimes rather to speak; and to speak to a few, and to speak appropriately to them and pointedly and unassumingly and kindly. This was the day, and this was the place, and these were the persons, and this was the manner of Paul and his friends, which made up the opportunity that looked so humble.
II. THE FROST SHOW OF RESULTS. There is one woman among the little group who is to become the first known Christian convert in Europe. And she came from Asia. By all appearance she was a proselyte, and knew and worshipped one God, according to her light and scanty opportunity, among a mere disunited remnant of Jewesses, if it were so indeed. And she was presumably a woman who did a good business, and had a 'house,' to the hospitality of which she could pressingly invite the new-comers, and invite them to stay there, too, days together (vers. 15, 18, 40).
1. Lydia is a woman not altogether shut off from light and knowledge.
2. She is a woman who owns to her own conscience and does "worship God."
3. She is one of no bigoted conservative prejudice, and she "listens" patiently, respectfully, to what the strangers said.
4. For all that, her heart was as yet sealed, shut. There may be some light, some knowledge, some movement and life of conscience in a Person, and yet the heart itself be shut to the pure truth of God and of the soul.
(1) Sin may keep shut the heart.
(2) The pride of nature may obstruct it.
(3) Stolid habit may fearfully close it.
(4) The simple "love of the world" may effectually exclude all better, higher things from the heart. And something of this kind was the state of Lydia. Nature had closed her heart, or nature had not availed to open it, and at this time it was in some material sense shut. And the one first result of this occasion was now seen. "The Lord," with his omnipotent power and with his facile grace, "opened the heart of Lydia " - opened it so that "she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul." It is evident that the change that took place within, under the touch of the Lord, led her to attend with ear, with mind, with heart, and with life. For "she and her household" are baptized speedily.
III. A FURTHER GLIMPSE OF RESULTS.
1. A generous heart is unlocked. More than one prophet's chamber is found, and more than a meal or a day's entertainment.
2. A very graceful way of showing generosity is exampled. Lydia does not proffer hospitality in any patronizing tone. She begs to be allowed to render it; and rests her urgency on Paul's faith in her sincerity.
3. Lydia becomes installed in that place as one who may be "counted faithful "to give an asylum for the persecuted, and a home to the released prisoners (ver. 40).
4. A strangely significant type is given of that elevation of women which Europe should ere long be destined to witness, and which has been just due to one presence - the presence of Christianity. Since the time of Lydia, what influences for good in the Church of Christ, what very Saviors and leaders of the Church, humanly speaking, have women been, whose "hearts the Lord has opened"! Thus the gospel began its course in Europe, thus for "many days" silently, thus condescendingly. And as the Master himself seldom more significantly marked the character of his own condescendingness than in condescending to do the apparently little, to heal only one out of a multitude, to "choose" only a "few," to fill for a long time but a small space in the eye of the world, so has his true Church and its humbler history rejoiced to share his lot; and when it has done so, has then most testified its own approximation in likeness to him. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.