Luke (a physician) was a travel companion and missionary with the Apostle Paul. He was the author of the Book of Acts. Concerning the mission to bring the Gospel to Philippi, Luke gave central importance to two people, Lydia of Thyatira and the chief jailer of Philippi’s jail. Luke never told us the name of the jailer (Acts 16).
Lydia is recognized as the first Christian convert on European soil. However, there were most likely other European coverts who, for example, received the Gospel in Jerusalem, and then returned home to Rome or some other European city. On the Day of Pentecost (at or around AD 30), there were many visitors to Jerusalem from all over the known world. Of great importance, this was the day when the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and rested upon the believers in Christ (Acts 2). The visitors included both Jews and proselytes (Acts 2:10). Visitors from Rome were specifically mentioned (Acts 2:10). Those believers received the message of the Kingdom of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit while in Jerusalem. Thereafter, they returned to their homes in Rome.
None of this detracts from the importance that Luke places on Lydia of Thyatira. As mentioned in my last blogpost, there was no Jewish synagogue in Philippi. (Ten Jewish men were required to form a synagogue.) In accordance with his normal pattern, upon arriving in a new city, Paul would first seek to find a synagogue and proclaim to them the Gospel. The missionary team had been in Philippi for several days, but they could not locate a synagogue. They then went outside the city gate hoping to find a place of worship and prayer. Beside the river, Paul and his companions discovered a prayer meeting of women, but no men. Paul’s missionary team sat down and began speaking with the women. Luke identified Lydia as the prominent member of the group, and Lydia identified herself as a worshiper of God (Acts 16). It is important to note that she was not identified as a Jewish woman. She was simply identified as a worshipper of God. As previously discussed, she was most likely a godfearer. Initially, she probably worshiped at a synagogue in her native Thyatira. Having moved to Philippi (probably in conjunction with her business of selling purple fabrics), she had started the women’s Bible study/prayer group.
Luke is implying a very interesting point. While Lydia could never be the founder of a Jewish synagogue, she was the founder of the first Christian house church in Philippi. She and her household believed and were baptized (Acts 16:15). Her household would have included her children, her employees, and any slaves or servants. Interestingly, there was no mention of her having a husband. Maybe, she had never married, or maybe, he had died, or he may have just allowed Lydia the freedom to take the lead in matters of faith. Regardless, she is the dominant actor when it came to matters of faith. Although Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were complete strangers, she invited them to be guests in her home. She must have had a large home. Macedonian women were noted for taking leading roles in society. Clearly, Lydia was not timid. However, most Jewish men of the time would probably have been somewhat surprised by her aggressiveness. However, it should noted that she listened to Paul and the “Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Most importantly, her heart was open to the Lord, and she was willing to do His will.
The text states that Lydia “prevailed” upon the missionary team to come and stay at her home (Acts 16:15). Luke used two Greek words to describe Lydia’s invitation. The Greek word parakaleo means to “exhort, beg, or entreat.” The Greek word parabiazomai means to “compel forcefully” or “strongly urge.” She was probably a very exceptional sales person. She was confident, graceful, polite, forceful, hospitable, strong, receptive, and humble all at the same time. She was a very unique human.
Lydia’s hometown of Thyatira (located in Asia Minor) was famous for the manufacture of purple dye. Manufacturers in Thyatira had learned to produce a purple dye called “Turkish red” from the madder root instead of shellfish. Lydia was a businesswoman involved in the trade of purple fabrics, which were extremely expensive. All of the evidence supports the conclusion that Lydia was a wealthy person who supported a large household. Only aristocrats and the very wealthy could afford her products. Her clients were the economic elite. Considering her confident and outgoing personality, she would likely have shared her faith with any receptive clients. Most likely, the Church of Philippi was one of the wealthier house churches in the region and had the capacity and inclination to support Paul again and again.
As the reader might recall, Paul first met Lydia around AD 50. Later, Paul (while in custody in Rome) wrote to the Philippians from Rome around AD 60-62. Some scholars have thought that it was strange that Paul did not specifically mention Lydia in his letter. Perhaps, she had died, or perhaps, she had moved back to Thyatira. It is interesting to note that two other prominent women were mentioned – Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2). Apparently, the two women were angry with each other, and their dispute jeopardized the stability of the church. Both women were acknowledged by Paul as key supporters and contributors to Paul’s ministry. In fact, Paul said both of their names were recorded in the Book of Life. As I explained in a previous blogpost, “The Book of Life,” it is my opinion that Paul’s compliment identified both of them as being mature and faithful believers. However, if these two important pillars of the Philippine church continued in their dispute, their own spiritual life and the stability of the church could be jeopardized.
Of particular interest, Paul asked an anonymous person to assist in reconciling Euodia and Syntyche (Phil.4: 2-3). Intentionally, Paul did not name the person, but every member of the church new her true identity. Paul called the anonymous person gnesios syzygos, which the NSAB translated as “true companion.” Syzygos can also be translated as “yoke-fellow or yoked together.” From the moment that Lydia and Paul met, they experienced a simpatico of their minds, souls, and spirits in the Lord. Every recipient of Paul’s letter in Philippi would know to whom Paul was referring. Most probably, it was Lydia who was charged with reconciling the two women, and in a roundabout way, Paul was telling Eoudia and Syntyche to listen to Lydia. Writing from his imprisonment in the cause of Christ, Paul said,
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also, help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement as well as the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are recorded in the book of life.
I would not be surprised to learn that Eoudia and Syntyche reconciled.
 “Philippians, Epistle to the.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5, O-Sh. Editor-in-Chief, David Noel Freeman, et al., Doubleday, 1992, pp. 318-319; Also “Lydia.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol 4, K-N. Editor-in-Chief, David Noel Freeman, et al., Doubleday, 1992, pp. 422-423.
 “Philippians,” pp. 318-319; “Lydia,” pp. 422-423.
 “G3870 – parakaleō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Aug, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3870/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3849 – parabiazomai – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Aug, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3849/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “Lydia,” pp. 422-423.
 “Thyatira.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, Q-Z. Gen. Editor Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988, p. 846.
 “Lydia.” p. 423.
 “Lydia.” p. 423.
 “Lydia.” p. 423.
“G1103 – gnēsios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Aug, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1103/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.; “G1103 – gnēsios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Aug, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1103/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>
 “G4805 – syzygos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 29 Aug, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4805/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.