The First Christian Convert in Europe
Her native place was Thyatira on the borders of Lydia in Asia Minor. Her city was celebrated in ancient times for its purple dyes and fabrics.Among the ruins of the city has been found an inscription relating to the “Guild of Dyers”, showing the accuracy in unimportant details of this Scripture narrative.
She may have been known by a different name at home, but among strangers she was known as Lydia or the Lydian. She was a business woman, dealing in colored material, or more likely goods already died. The color purple was highly prized among the ancients and Lydia was a merchant that sold purple cloth. Given the circumstances revealed in the Bible, it’s safe to assume she was a very successful entrepreneur.
Lydia had settled in the city of Philippi, which was a miniature Rome. Here she carried on her trade, surrounded by her household that seems to have included many servants. She was not a Jewess by birth, but she is noted as having been a “worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14). She had obviously come to a knowledge of the one, true God and as a result, she became a devout follower.
Philippi was the scene of the first labors of Paul in Europe. One Sabbath day he found a company of Jews worshiping outside the city, near a river. He preached to them and Lydia became a Christian. She at once urged the missionaries to make her house their home. Paul, not liking to be dependent on anyone, hesitated, but finally accepted her hospitality.
It is apparent that the home of Lydia soon became a meeting place for Christians. Considering the trials that Paul had endured, he must have found much comfort being cared for in this home. After being jailed for freeing a slave girl from demon possession, Paul and Silas were asked to leave the city. A farewell gathering was held at Lydia’s home and we may suppose that the converted Philippian jailer was one of the company!
Paul departed to carry the gospel message to other cities of Europe, yet he held the church in Philipi close to his heart. The church that began in the home of Lydia, worshiper of God, became perhaps the most loved body of believers to the Apostle Paul and he was their beloved apostle. Though not rich in material wealth, they supported Paul in his missionary work whenever possible, and it was to the church at Philippi that Paul wrote his most loving epistle from the prison in Rome.