The First European Converts

THE FIRST EUROPEAN CONVERTS (ACTS 16:13-15). Paul and his friends did not plunge immediately into evangelizing the city though they knew God had called them there. It is not enough to know where God wants us to work; we must also know when and how He wants us to work. Many times God providentially provides the opportunities to share Christ. The partners in the Gospel stayed several days in Philippi relaxing and recovering from their journey.

On the Sabbath, they went outside the city gate to the narrow Gangites river, where they expected to find “a place of prayer.” This phrase was used to indicate the location where non-Palestinian Jews gathered if there were no synagogue buildings. Jewish people preferred to meet in a ritually pure place near water; ritual washing of hands before prayer seems to have been standard in Diaspora Judaism, and excavations show the importance of water to synagogues.

At the river, the worshipers found no Jewish men, but women. So they sat down and began to evangelize them.

One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:14).

Conservative Roman writers often complained that women pursued religions from the eastern Mediterranean, and Josephus attests that tremendous numbers of women (far more than men) were attracted to Judaism. Well-to-do women sometimes became patrons, or sponsors, of pagan religious associations; those attracted to Judaism helped support Jewish causes.

One of the women, Lydia from Thyatira, became the first convert on European soil. Lydia worshiped God, but she was not born again. The Lord opened her heart to respond to the Gospel and she was saved.

Jesus taught:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

Since man is dead in trespasses and sins, and impotent to everything that is spiritual, the Lord must open the heart to respond. Once the heart is opened, the person must believe the Gospel to be saved.

Immediately Lydia shared the message with her household and they were saved. The word “household” implies that the members of her family as well as slaves understood the Word, believed and were saved, and then were baptized. Without hesitation, they identified themselves with the body of Christ.

There is no evidence that infants were baptized, here or anywhere else in the Bible. So-called “household salvation” (the decision of the head of the household brings salvation to the members of the household) has no basis in the Word of God.

Filled with the love of God, Lydia invited the missionaries to stay at her house. When Paul describes the Christian character, he says, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

Whenever the church grows, Satan tries to obstruct the work of God’s servants. He uses two methods at Philippi: a counterfeit and persecution.

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