As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Lydia of Thyatira was the Apostle Paul’s first convert to Christianity in Europe. Her conversion came after hearing Paul’s words in Philippi proclaiming the Gospel of Christ during his second mission journey. She is remembered on March 27 and June 25.
As described in the Acts, Lydia was a “seller of purple”, a person who traded in purple dyes and fabrics for which the city of Thyatira was noted. Purple goods were part of a high value industry and were used by emperors, high government officials, and priests of the pagan religions.
Tradition relates that she and her husband may have been involved in this business. At some point Lydia and her household moved from Asia Minor to the city of Philippi in Macedonia. The reasons she moved may have been business related as Philippi was a Roman colony on the major east-west trade route, the Egnation Highway, between Rome and Asia. Also, she may have been a Jewish convert who no longer could worship in the custom of the Thyatirans.
The words of The Acts quoted below describe Lydia's meeting with the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey about the year 50. Paul and his companions started their journey visiting the established churches in western Asia Minor when he answered a vision in which he saw a man dressed in a Macedonian manner calling upon him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.“
Paul's custom was to find local synagogues in which he would preach. But, apparently the Jewish population in Philippi was not sufficient to allow holding Sabbath Services for the Jewish men. Thus, Paul's party walked out of the city following the Gangites River (now called the Angista River) when they came upon a group of women praying in the manner of Jews, along flowing water. After greeting the women, Paul and his companions sat down and shared the good news of Christ's salvation with them. Lydia, among the women, had listened attentively and took the message to heart. She and her family were then baptized in the Gangites River along which they had been praying. Thus, Lydia became the first person in Europe to become a follower of Christ.
As Acts notes, Paul and his companions were well received by Lydia as they stay at her house after their release from the Philippi prison. Surely, during their imprisonment, Lydia and those who assembled in her home spent the night in prayer for the release of Paul and Silas, making her home the first Christian Church in Europe. When Paul departed from Philippi he left Luke behind to preach the Gospel and to establish firmly the church in Philippi, using as its core Lydia, the jailer, and their households.
Paul speaks fondly, in his letter to the Philippians, of the brethren who were members of the church of Philippi, calling them ”…my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown…”. (Philippians 4:1)
Chapter 16 (KJV):
- 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
- 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
- 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
- 11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neopolis.
- 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
- 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
- 14 And a certain women named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatria, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul.
- 15 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
- 17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried saying, These men are servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.
- 18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
- 19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place unto the rulers.
- 20 And they brought them to the magistrates, saying. These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city.
- 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
- 22 And the multitudes rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
- 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely.
- 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
- 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
- 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
- 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing the prisoners had been fled.
- 28 But Paul cried out with a strong voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
- 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas.
- 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
- 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
- 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
- 33 And he took the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightaway.
- 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
- 35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the sargeants, saying, Let those men go.
- 36 And the keep of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
- 37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
- 38 And the sargaents told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
- 39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
- 40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.