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Women of the New Testament: Lydia

Updated on February 2, 2013
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Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

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Paul's Second Missionary Journey

Paul's second missionary journey began in about 50 A.D. It was quite a marathon; he was really obeying Jesus' command to 'go and make disciples of all nations' (Matt. 28.19)

We can read about it in Acts. The team, which included Dr. Luke, Silas and possibly Timothy, set out from Palestine, and, visiting those who were already Christians, evangelising and setting up churches on the way, they passed through Syria, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Galatia, Lycia, Phrygia, Mysia to Troas, in Asia. From Troas they sailed straight across to Samothrace, an island in the Aegean, anchored there overnight and the next day sailed on, disembarking in the harbour at Neapolis in Macedonia (see Acts 16.11-12).

They had arrived in Europe.

Paul in Philippi

From Neapolis, Paul and his group followed the road for about fourteen kilometres and up the steep hill to the Roman colony of Philippi. They found lodgings in the walled, fortressed city, possibly with friends or relatives of Dr. Luke, as it is thought that this was his home-town. They settled in for a few days to recover from their long, arduous journey and to pray about their coming mission.

There were several temples in Philippi where the local people worshipped many different gods. There were not many Jews living here, so on the Sabbath Paul and his friends went out through one of the city gates down to an area in the valley beside the Angites River (now known as the Zygaktis River). It was a pretty spot, with trees. The river was fed by a number of springs that ran down the hillside, then it flowed through some flatter marshlands and on into the sea.

Perhaps Luke, knew about this peaceful, secluded place, told Paul about it and guided their little group there. It was where some Jewish women met together to pray and worship the one true God.

They found the women beside the river. As was the custom when preaching and explaining the Scriptures in the synagogues, Paul and his friends sat down with the women and told them the Good News about Jesus.

Lydia, the Wealthy Business Woman

A leader of the women meeting there was very devout and holy. She was known as Lydia and was a wealthy business woman who had originally come to live in Philippi from Thyatira, a place in Phrygia where there was a strong Jewish colony.

Thyatira was famous for its clothing trade, especially for its woollen garments made from the fine black wool of the local sheep that are now extinct. These garments were often decorated with purple and other colourful trimmings. The rich purple dye was made from a molusk and was so expensive that only royalty or the very wealthy could afford to purchase cloth like this.

Acts tells us that Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth; she was a rich woman of some influence.

Part of the Animal of the Murex Shells Were Used in Making the Dye
Part of the Animal of the Murex Shells Were Used in Making the Dye | Source

Lydia, Paul's First European Convert

Lydia and the other women already knew the Old Testament Scriptures and the basic Jewish teachings. After listening to Paul's preaching, she became his first European convert to Christianity. She and all her household were baptised in the river.

Lydia began a house church in her large home and invited Paul, Silas and Luke to stay there with her. Paul accepted her invitation, but as his team was on its way to stay there, an incident occurred that incurred the wrath of some of the local people. They were really stirred up and Paul and Silas ended up being flogged and thrown into prison.

However, the event has a happy ending, as the Jailer and all his family were converted and then baptised by Paul.

Lydia

Lydia, purple cloth seller, and devout

Women of God, by the river they met;

Quietly prayed on the Sabbath, and yet

Listened to Paul and they heard him right out.


Lydia's heart was warmed by his speech

She and her household all turned

Accepted the Good News, were concerned,

Asked for baptism, right there on the beach.


God gave them a future in Jesus adored,

Deeply they loved and we should love, too;

Women so giving as he calls us anew,

Gives us a future - eternal life with our Lord.

Lydia Was Leader of the First Christian Church in Europe

The flogging and imprisonment should never have occurred and Paul registered his indignation. Paul and Silas were released from prison and received an apology from the magistrates. They went to stay with Lydia (Acts 16.40) until their wounds were healed and they remained for a while to teach and encourage the new Christians.

Later Paul and his team continued their missionary journey, turning towards Thessalonica and then eventually returning to Jerusalem. He probably wrote them other letters that disappeared over time, but one he wrote ten years later has been preserved and can be found in the New Testament: The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians.

The first Christian church in Philippi was the first church to be founded on European soil - and it was founded by a woman, Lydia. Accepted as their leader, she was known for her holiness and generosity and was even referred to in the early church as a disciple. Later she came to be known as St. Lydia, the patron saint of dyers.


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    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      FIRST on the list of women of the gospel is the unsung heroine of faith, a.k.a., MARY OF BETHANY. In a dramatically wild anticipation, she spearheaded the imminent revelation of Christ's GLORY in his death on the cross --now lost in Christian tradition!

      (Matt. 26: 1-13; John 12: 1-8; ff.)

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I'm not sure that it is lost; I have heard sermons based on it over the years, but, yes, there are many women in the New Testament that we often gloss over without realizing their importance. Thank you for your comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Blossom, thanks for doing the research on Lydia. I admire your effort especially because I find it so much easier to work on Old Testament women. Very good presentation . Voted Up!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Thank you Blossom for writing Lydia's story. I found it interesting and useful. I love your poem too..Cheers..

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I love Lydia's heart. I read a novel about her which was very true to the Scriptures. But her story has always touched me. Good research, Blossom.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Blossom: I will be very happy to come across any other source outside the Gospels that recognizes the unusual significance of Mary's action, which was disapproved by the disciples themselves but highly commended by Jesus, "I assure you that wherever the gospel is preached all over the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." What secrets did Mary know?

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      MsDora: Thank you for your comments and your vote. I love finding out more about the women in both the OT and the NT. There were some really lively ones in the NT, but we don't seem to hear so much about them.

      always exploring: I'm glad you enjoyed it - and thank you for your comment about the poem, too.

      lambservant: I didn't know there was a novel about her. Can you remember its name? I'd love to read it.

      EphremHagos: That is an interesting question. I'll have to look into that one.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Thank you very much!

      The only two sources I could find are the following:

      1) The highly intriguing 19th century image No. XIV, a.k.a., the STATIONS OF THE CROSS, depicted in the church at Rennes le Chateau in the south of France, and

      2) Henry van Dyke's classic "The Story of the Otherwise Man".

      Additional sources, if any, will be most welcome!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      How I would describe Lydia-a woman before her time!! Thanks for sharing with us her background here. Sharing!

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: Those sources sound interesting, I'm going to see if I can find out more about them. Thank you.

      midget38: She certainly was! Thank you for your lovely comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I was always inspired by Lydia's story. She represented strength and character to me on womanhood. I would have loved to have seen her cloth of purple. You did a great job in covering this woman's story. Fascinating and inspirational. Blessings!

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      For the record, Mary matched the footsteps of the two sons of Zebedee and their mother (Matt. 20: 20-28) by sacrificial anticipation of the imminent connectedness between Christ's suffering and glory (Ibid., 26: 1-13 ff.)

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: Yes, I find it inspiring, too, a great example for us. Thank you for your lovely comments.

      EphremHagos: Thank you for your interesting comments.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Blossom: you are welcome. Thank you for being a gracious hostess!

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: Thank you for your lovely comment!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      I read this because the name "Lydia" caught my attention. When people talk about women of faith, she is hardly mentioned. (It's usually Mary, Hannah, Esther, Deborah etc) It was nice to have more of an insight as to who she was.

      Thanks.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lady E: She's one of my heroines and I think she deserves attention. Thank you for your comments and your follow, too.

    • profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago

      Please allow me to restart the discussion on MERIT in the women of the N.T. Lydia serves no other purpose than fitting the projection of the image of our contemporary women in the church today. If so, a second look is warranted.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      SIDE NOTE: The distinction between the specific meanings, as strictly given to the terms and the seal of the "new covenant" (Jer. 31: 31-34; Matt. 26: 26-29), and the general connotation of contemporary Cannon of 26 books, favors the qualifications of the 4 or 5 women, viz.: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the wife of Zebedee and Mary of Bethany who were all eye-witnesses to the great vision at hand.

      (Matt. 27: 55-56; John 19: 25-27)

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: Thank you for your comments. Jesus said how blessed were those who believe and yet have not seen, which is one of the things that helps Lydia to be so important as an example for us today.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Blossom: My comments are not discrediting Lydia in any way. I am only suggesting that focus on the first generation women (with history), who were "standing close to Jesus' cross", will elicit their motives and passions from which we can learn more.

    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Hi Blossom,

      This was so interesting having some of the details of Lydia and Pauls stay there, filled in.

      It is an amazing thought isn't it, that the first church in Europe was founded and led by a woman. All Glory to God.

    • profile image

      Ephrem Hagos 4 years ago

      BLOSSOM: Based on the double entendre of the word "seeing", viz.: eyesight (overruled) and insight or vision (the rule), our understanding and Lydia's of "How happy are those who believe without seeing me" (John 20:29) are not likely the same.

      SHOFARCALL: It is a common error to believe that "the first church was founded and led by any man or woman". (Matt. 27: 50-53 according to blueprint given in 16: 13-28)

    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Hi Ephrem,

      I did not write....the first church.....it says the first church in Europe.

      Ephrem, we know who is the head of our Church. There is only one head of the church. Perhaps we can alter the wording so that it does not bring discomfort? Lydia offered hospitality to Paul at her home and it was there that people first began to meet in Yeshuas name. She was known for her 'holiness and generosity' and seemed to be accepted as the person who 'led' 'read the scriptures' 'offered a place for the newly formed church to meet'

      She did play a part and is part of the great cloud of witnesses and I honour her as I do all those at that time and through the ages,who were prepared to be exposed as believers in Yeshua, 'The Way' at great cost to their personal safety. God Bless.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 4 years ago from Southern Minnesota

      Interesting background information on Lydia and the events surrounding the apostles encounter with her. I so enjoyed your summarization of her founding the first church on European soil. How interesting!

      Lydia is such a neat testimony of the work of God in a human heart and how far reaching the work that He does is.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Ephrem Hagos: There is so much that we can learn from those who have gone before, isn't there?

      shofarcall: It is amazing and she seemed so humble about it, too. All glory to God indeed. Lydia is a great example to all of us.

      Ephrem Hagos: I am not sure of the relevance of your quotes to shofarcall, as she pointed out, it was the first church in Europe that was under discussion. Her response puts it much better than I could have done, so I hope that this has helped. May God bless you.

      Tamarajo: Thank you for your lovely comments. It is always amazing just how much can be achieved for the Kingdom when even one person believes and shares the wonder of God's love. Bless you.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      BlossomSB: Originality is lost if we do not learn from the same and exclusive "source of sound doctrine", a.k.a., Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness, the first-born from the dead" (it is real), just like those who have gone before us learnt from who are not themselves our teachers. (Matt. 17: 1-8; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Thes. 1:6; 1 Tim. 1: 10-11; Rev. 1: 4-9)

      The relevance of my quotes to shofarcall is to question the meaning of the church which in its popular usage is a significant deviation from the original.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: The church is the Body of Christ, but it is not perfect - yet- because it is made up of people who are not perfect.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      BlossomSB: What Jesus called "My church", (which) “not even death will ever be able to overcome", is an altruistic term for who he is. This is proven on the day of the crucifixion and defines the gospel of immortality. This is also an elaboration of "Son of the living God" and identical to “a new way, a living way”. Therefore, the church is perfect!

      On the other hand, there is no church or corporate body made up of people in the Bible.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: Thank you for your comments - and for boosting my views.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Blossom SB: I cannot say "you are welcome" since the "boost" is interactive, which I also need. God bless you.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      EphremHagos: And may God bless you, too.

    • EphremHagos profile image

      EphremHagos 4 years ago from Addis Ababa

      Amen!

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