Hoyt H. Houchen
The conversion of Lydia and her household is recorded in Acts 16:11-15. This case, as is true of all other conversions in the New Testament, impresses us with the fact that God has only one method of saving people. There is only one way to reach heaven and we must make sure that we are on that way (See John 14:6; Acts 18:26; Matt. 7:13-14).
The Holy Spirit had forbidden Paul and his company to preach the word in Asia and Bithynia. Paul’s vision at Troas made him realize that God had work for him to do in Europe, and thus he sought to “go forth into Macedonia” (Acts 16:10). Paul, Timothy, Silas, and now joined by Luke, found a ship ready to sail for Europe. They made a straight course to Samothrace, the day following to Neapolis, and then to Philippi, the chief city in that part of Macedonia and a Roman colony. After tarrying several days in this city, on the Sabbath day they went to the river side and there they found Lydia and other women who had gathered at this place of prayer.
Lydia was a business woman from Thyatira, a city some 300 miles from Philippi; it was south and in Asia. She was a seller of purple dye which was very expensive, and could only be purchased by kings and the wealthy. Even though she was a worshipper of God, she was in error because she did not worship him in the right way. It can be clearly seen from this that it is not enough that people be religious, worshippers of God, but they must be religiously right, worshipping God in the right way.
Of Lydia it is said in verse 14 of Acts 16, “whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.” Paul preached to this company of women and Lydia’s heart was opened to the preaching. How was Lydia’s heart opened? This is the question that has given many a great amount of difficulty. Some have the idea that her heart was opened in some mysterious manner, separate and apart from the preaching of the gospel. If this were true, then her case was different to that of all others in the book of Acts. If Lydia’s heart was opened by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit as is contended by many of the denominationalists, then it is strange that she would be the exception to the rule. But how was Lydia’s heart opened? What saith the scriptures? The expression “whose heart the Lord opened” simply means that her mind was enlightened by the preaching of the Gospel. The Greek form of the word that is translated opened in Acts 16:14 is the verb dianoigo which according to Thayer is the idea “to open one’s soul, i.e. to rouse in one the faculty of understanding.” To the Ephesians who had heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10) Paul wrote: “having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling” (Eph. 1:18). Lydia’s heart was opened in exactly the same way that anybody’s heart was opened who heard the Gospel. On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached a Gospel sermon, the hearts of the hearers were opened. Being convicted, they asked what they should do (Acts 2:37) and they were given the terms of pardon (Acts 2:38) and many of them obeyed (Acts 2:41). When the will of the Lord was made known to Lydia, her heart was opened, and she too obeyed (Acts 16:15). The Gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16) and there is no scriptural example of anyone being saved apart from it.
Why was Lydia’s heart opened? Her heart was not totally depraved as some would contend. She was a long way from total depravity because she was a worshipper of God. She needed teaching and this was supplied by the preaching of the Gospel. Upon learning what the Lord wanted her to do, she obeyed the gospel.
The conversion of Lydia was no different from any other case that we have studied. The circumstances were different, but the conditions were exactly the same. Acts 16:15 reads, “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” Here we have an example of active, saving, obedient faith. It is faith that saves us, but what kind of faith is it? It is the kind of faith that takes God at His word and does exactly what God tells us to do.
Paul preached the Gospel to Lydia and she obeyed it. The Gospel that was preached to her had facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be enjoyed. She believed the facts, she obeyed the commands, and as a result she enjoyed its promises while she lived upon this earth and upon her continued faithfulness she would enjoy eternal life in the hereafter.
Each example of conversion in the book of Acts illustrates the simplicity of God’s arrangement for salvation. It is the one way and no other way will do. When men are not led away by the teachings of men, they will have no difficulty in understanding what to do in order to be saved.