THE CONVERSION OF LYDIA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles,
Lord’s Day Morning, November 20, 2011

“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” (Acts 16:14).


The Bible is unlike any other ancient book in many ways. For one thing, women are central figures throughout the Bible. Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Ruth, Esther and many other women are spoken of on the pages of the Old Testament. Two books in the Old Testament are named after women – Ruth and Esther. In the New Testament women also played an important role. Over and over we read about the women connected to Christ in His ministry – His mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, the woman taken in adultery, the woman bent over by Satan, the woman with an issue of blood, the woman at the well, the woman that kissed His feet – and many others. It was women who went first to the tomb and found that Christ had risen from the dead. The Apostle Paul mentioned a woman named Priscilla five times, always with her husband Aquila, and always concerning their ministry for the Lord. Priscilla is always mentioned before her husband, which was very unusual in the first century. But there it is – in the Bible!

Since women are so prominent in the whole Bible it should not surprise us that this woman Lydia is recorded as the first European convert. What the Bible tells us of her conversion could also apply to any man who becomes a Christian.

I. First, the work of providence in her conversion.

The providence of God, according to Dr. Henry C. Thiessen, means, “That continuous activity of God whereby He makes all the events [that happen in the world] work out His purposes” (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., D.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949 edition, p. 177). One of the great texts on providence is Romans 8:28,

“And we know that all things work together for good…to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Notice how the providence of God worked in the life of Lydia. The Apostle Paul was stopped by the Holy Spirit from going to the Roman province of Asia (Acts 16:6). He was about to go to Bithynia but, again, the Spirit of God stopped him (Acts 16:7). Then God sent Paul a vision in the night, calling him to come over to Macedonia, in Greece (Acts 16:9).

“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” (Acts 16:10).

“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 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”
       (Acts 16:13-14).

Lydia was not from Macedonia. She was from Thyatira, in Asia. She traveled from Asia, where Paul had been, to the far-off city of Philippi in Macedonia. By God’s providence Lydia went there before Paul arrived. It was there, in that strange land, that she heard the Gospel and was converted. God had it all arranged and it happened by His providence.

How does this apply to you? I want everyone here who is converted to think about how you came to church for the first time. Virtually everyone who is a member of our congregation was converted here in our church. Dr. Cagan and Mr. Kunz are the only exceptions I know of. I want you to think about how you came here the first time. Whatever happened was by the providence of God. You did not come here by accident. You came here by the providence of God. God made His purpose work out in your life by drawing you to come in to hear the Gospel and be saved. Not one of you came here by chance.

How many of you came because someone invited you on a campus or somewhere else? Please stand. That was your providential moment! If you were born in the church that was also by God’s providence. Every one of us is here by the providence of God. God arranged for you to be here. That’s why you are here this morning. Thus, we have seen the work of providence in the conversion of Lydia.

II. Second, the work of Lydia herself in her conversion.

The text says,

“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us...” (Acts 16:14).

Lydia was a Gentile convert to Judaism. She was down by the river side in prayer with some other Jewish women. They did not seem to have a synagogue, so they went to this place by a river to pray on that Sabbath day. Paul and his companions came and preached to this group of women. And the text says that Lydia “heard us.”

Some unconverted people say, “There is nothing I can do to be saved.” But you are wrong. You can hear us! You can decide to come here again on Sunday morning and Sunday night to hear the sermons! You can decide to hear us, as Lydia decided to hear Paul and Luke. Although you cannot save yourself, or open your own heart, you can at least do what Lydia did. You can gather together with God’s people every week and hear us!

By the way, there are some who come every week and sit in your chair, and pretend to be listening, but your mind is far away, thinking about something else. You don’t hear us! Christ said,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate...” (Luke 13:24).

The Greek word translated “strive” means to “struggle.” To be converted you must strain and struggle to listen with full attention to the preaching. You may say, “I’ll read the sermon later.” That might do you some good. But it is by hearing preaching that most people are saved. The Bible says,

“How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Struggle and strive to listen to the sermons. That is the greatest means of grace by which striving sinners are converted. Lydia listened carefully. That was her part in her conversion.

III. Third, the work of Paul in her conversion.

The text says that “she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14). The Greek word translated “attended” means “to pay attention” (Strong). She paid attention “unto the things which were spoken [by] Paul.” Paul’s part in Lydia’s conversion was to preach to her. What did he preach? Why, the Gospel of Christ, of course! In verse 10 of this passage Luke, the narrator, said, “the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10). Paul spoke on many subjects, but his main subject was always the Gospel of Christ. In I Corinthians Paul said,

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-4).

In another place Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). In fact, Paul once said, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Oh, how I wish that our preachers would return to the main subject, and preach whole sermons on the substitutionary death and physical resurrection of Christ. Christ crucified and resurrected was undoubtedly what the great Apostle preached to Lydia. Lost people are not saved by the so-called “prosperity gospel” or by other “how to” subjects that so many are now preaching. And it won’t do to just mention the Gospel briefly at the end of a sermon aimed at Christians. Sinners need to hear whole sermons on the Gospel of Christ. “But what about the Christians?” someone may say. Let them hear the Gospel on Sunday morning. As that old song put it, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” If the Christians want to hear more, let them come to the evening service to hear sermons directed more to them. And if you don’t have an evening service, shame on you! You have gone in the same path as the liberals! Start an evening service, even if only a few people come at first. We must preach as Paul preached if we want to see souls saved and added to our churches. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, said this about Paul,

He had but one subject, and that was Christ...the Christ who was able still to save; the Christ who bled upon the cross, to bring men to God, and cleanse them in his blood; the Christ in heaven, interceding for sinners...Paul would not end his talk without saying, “Trust him: trust him. He that believeth on him hath everlasting life” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Lydia, the First European Convert,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint, volume 37, p. 488).

That is what you need to hear – Christ died in your place, to save you from the wrath of God, and to cleanse your sins by His precious Blood. He rose flesh and bone from the dead to give you life. He is now at the right hand of God in Heaven. Come to Christ! Be washed clean from your sin by His Blood! That is what Paul preached to Lydia, and that is what I am preaching to you this morning! The Apostle Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Let our main subject always be the cross of Christ! Christ died in our place, to pay for our sins. Come to Christ as Lydia did when Paul preached the Gospel to her! That was Paul’s part in her conversion. He told her to come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV. Fourth, the work of God in her conversion.

Our text said of Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14). Lydia and Paul were brought together by God’s providence. Lydia listened very intently to Paul’s preaching. Paul preached the Gospel of Christ to her. But now we see that her heart was opened by God Himself.

Lydia’s heart was opened by God, so she understood the Gospel. I am constantly amazed that many people do not understand the simplest facts about the Gospel. There has to be something dark and Satanic about their blindness. Paul himself said this was true,

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”
       (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

Satan is “the god of this world.” He has blinded your minds. Yet some new person comes along and quickly understands that Jesus died for his sins – and is immediately awakened. We can only say, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). Paul said,

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

But more than just understanding the Gospel, Lydia’s heart was opened to Christ Himself. She must have thought, “Now that I understand that Christ died for my sins, and shed His Blood to cleanse me from sin, I will come to Him. I want Christ and I want Him now.” In that very moment she came to Jesus and was saved. I pray that someone here this morning will come to Jesus in simple faith. “He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now!” Amen. Please stand and sing hymn number four.

Come, every soul by sin oppressed, There’s mercy with the Lord,
   And He will surely give you rest By trusting in His word.
Only trust Him, Only trust Him, Only trust Him now,
   He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood, Rich blessings to bestow;
   Plunge now into the crimson flood That washes white as snow.
Only trust Him, Only trust Him, Only trust Him now,
   He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

Yes, Jesus is the Truth, the Way, That leads you into rest:
   Believe in Him without delay, And you are fully blest.
Only trust Him, Only trust Him, Only trust Him now,
   He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.
(“Only Trust Him” by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – or you may
write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 16:6-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Oh, What a Fountain!” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE CONVERSION OF LYDIA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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” (Acts 16:14).

I.   First, the work of providence in her conversion, Romans 8:28;
Acts 16:6, 7, 9, 10, 13-14.

II.  Second, the work of Lydia herself in her conversion, Luke 13:24;
Romans 10:14.

III. Third, the work of Paul in her conversion, Acts 16:10;
I Corinthians 15:1-4; 1:23; 2:2; Galatians 6:14.

IV. Fourth, the work of God in her conversion, II Corinthians 4:3-4;
Psalm 118:23; II Corinthians 4:6.