Tuesday, 25 April 2023
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:14
Note: The tenses of the verbs used by the NKJV are not in accord with the Greek. An accurate rendering is, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, worshiping God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to attend to the things being spoken by Paul” (BLB). This will be used.
In the previous verse, the group of missionaries went to the riverside of the city at Philippi, sitting down and speaking to the women who met there. Next, Luke records, “And a certain woman named Lydia.”
As often happens in Scripture, a figure is introduced, highlighting him or her. Even though there was an unknown number of women gathered, as evidenced by the previous verse, one is especially highlighted. Her name, Lydia, is believed by some to be connected to the Ludim recorded as early as Genesis 10:13. The Ludim were descended from Mizraim, the son of Ham. From there, Lydia would mean something like From Lud.
Abarim provides details on how this came about, saying, “Someone from לוד (Lud) would be called לודי (Luday). A female Ludite would be called לודיה (Ludyah), which transliterated into Greek would form Λυδια (Luddia). That name transliterated into Latin forms our familiar name Lydia.”
The name Lydia was apparently popular among the Greeks, and so it may or may not be that she was named this because she was a descendant of the Ludim.
Of this woman, possibly from this ancient people group descending from Ham, it next notes she was “a seller of purple.” Purple, or porphura in Greek, was considered a highly valuable color. It was very difficult to obtain, coming from shellfish. A person wearing such a color would normally be quite wealthy. It was the color often worn by royalty. HELPS Word Studies notes that there were three familiar shades of purple in the ancient world: deep violet, deep scarlet, and deep blue.
Being a dealer in this fabric meant that she would be well-connected and of good means. She is next noted as being “of the city of Thyatira.” This was a city found in the old district of Lydia which was in the Roman province of Asia. It will be mentioned three more times in Revelation 1 and 2. Albert Barnes notes the following –
“This [Thyatira] was a city of Lydia, in Asia Minor, now called Akhisar. The art of dyeing was early cultivated in the neighborhood of Thyatira, as we learn from Homer (Iliad, iv. 141), and as is confirmed by inscriptions found in that city - a circumstance which may be referred to as confirming the veracity of the statements of Luke even in his casual allusions.”
Of this woman, Lydia, it next says she was “worshiping God.” Being a present participle, it indicates that this was her regular conduct. Being a Sabbath, and being present with others who met, it may be that she was a proselyte. However, this may not be the case.
In Acts 10, it said that Cornelius was a devout man who feared God. This does not mean he was a proselyte. Like him, Lydia may have simply gone and worshipped God without knowing anything directly about Him from a Jewish context. However, with the arrival of these missionaries, it notes that she “was listening.”
The verb is imperfect. She listened and continued to listen. Her ears were attentive to what was being said, taking it in and processing it. During this time, Luke notes that, “The Lord opened her heart.”
Of this, Cambridge states, “St Luke recognizes that without this the word would have made no entrance.” There is no reason to assume this at all. They equate the reception of the word to an active participation of the Lord in opening her heart. This is completely contrary to what Paul writes elsewhere, such as, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Rather than an active zapping of the heart of Lydia by the Lord as suggested by Cambridge, it is a passive action resulting from hearing the word of the Lord. The Lord opened her heart through the message proclaimed. This is perfectly evident from Luke’s next words. He says that her heart was opened by the Lord “to attend to the things being spoken by Paul.”
It clearly says through the use of an imperfect verb that she was listening and continued to listen. It then says that her heart was opened by the Lord. How? Through listening to the word of God being spoken forth. The word of God is an extension of who God is. He is presenting Himself through the word. If Paul and the others accurately presented the word of God to Lydia, which is what occurred, then the Lord was speaking through them. Thus, her heart was passively opened by the Lord through the process.
Life application: The Calvinistic thinking that God must actively and supernaturally intervene in each person who comes to Him dismisses the notion that the word of God is sufficient to do what it is purposed to do. Further, it dismisses the fact that the word of God is, in fact, a supernatural tool, given by God. To them, the word is insufficient to do what it was given to do. But the word itself says that it is sufficient –
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:1
The claim of Cambridge that without the Lord’s personal intervention in the process the word would have made no entrance is exactly the opposite of what is said by Jesus to the Jews in John 5. First, He says –
“Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.” John 5:34
The point of Jesus speaking was for those who heard to be saved. He makes that perfectly obvious in His statement to them. A few verses later, He says –
“But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:38-40
Jesus ties their rejection of Him to their failure to accept the word, not God’s failure to actively change their heart through external stimulation.
God does not provide a zap with a cosmic defibrillator to suddenly jump-start a person’s heart, opening it so that His word will suddenly be palatable to a person. The word is like a defibrillator all by itself. It provides all the zap a person needs to be opened so that they can respond to the call of God.
Some hearts, however, are un-zappable because they are predisposed to dismissing what the word says. The Calvinistic model of regeneration fails because it dismisses the purpose of why the word was given and it dismisses the power of the word to do what it is set forth to accomplish.
Whether you are saved or not, if your life is currently not geared towards the things of God, you need to have an attitude change. With that, pick up the word, read it, and receive the necessary zap to get you into the game or back into the game. The word is active and alive. It is ready to change you and mold you to the image of God in Jesus Christ. Let it do so!
Lord God, thank You for the wonderful word You have given us. It will make a difference in our lives if we simply allow it to do so. It is that powerful and it is that wonderful! Help us also to convey it properly so that others may hear and be saved. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.