GETTING THE MESSAGE/Conversion is God’s work
Paul and his mission team had been directed by the Lord to take the gospel to Macedonia, so obediently, they crossed the Aegean Sea and eventually arrived in Philippi (Acts 16: 1-2). Luke tells us the city had a strong Roman presence. Apparently there was no synagogue in the city, but Paul learns of women meeting for prayer outside the city on the Sabbath, so they go and join them.
Luke tells us one of the women was named Lydia. She was a business woman dealing in purple goods from Thyatira, and a God worshipper (verse 14). Purple clothes were expensive to dye, so her clientele would have been royalty or higher society people. She was a Gentile who had gained knowledge of the Scriptures and so worshipped with the Jews.
No doubt the women would have been glad to have the men join them, especially experts on Scripture like Paul and Silas. As Paul was speaking, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to receive or adhere to what Paul was saying. Paul would have been speaking of Jesus being the Christ, the Savior the Scriptures testify to. So Lydia embraced Christ. She gave up her name for his, being baptized according to her faith (verse 15). Full of thanksgiving, she insists that the team live with her while they are in the city.
In the conversion of Lydia, you see the Lord Jesus seeking and saving one of his lost sheep. When Jesus speaks of someone going after one lost sheep In Matthew 18, he points to those who would come to him and believe in him. He says, “Your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
It took a lot of coincidences for Lydia to hear the gospel. She was from Thyatira, a city famous for dyes, so no doubt she traveled in her business a lot. Thyatira was on the route Paul had intended to travel to Asia, but the Holy Spirit had stopped him (verse 6). Paul had ended up in Philippi because of a vision to go over to Macedonia and help. So the timing of all these things worked out for Lydia.
But that is not all. We are told the Lord “opened her heart.” Paul’s message was not effective in itself. The Lord worked through Paul’s preaching to convert Lydia. Isaiah wrote, “We all like sheep have gone astray.” Every Christian is a lost sheep Christ has saved.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The initiative is all the Lord’s. He speaks and knows them; in other words, he works a communion between him and them which results in them following him. You see this in Lydia (and hopefully in yourself). The seat of his work was in her heart. All who belong to Christ are debtors to God’s grace.
God calls to men in different ways. There is a universal call to all men. Paul speaks of it in Romans chapter one. The created world testifies that there in one God who made all and is to be glorified, but men have exchanged the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25). Paul means that God is not the least chargeable for the ruin of those who perish.
There is also an external call that goes to men who hear the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Christ the Savior. The gospel includes the command to repent and believe, as well as the promise of forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. But not all who hear believe. We have seen this in the book of Acts. When the gospel is proclaimed some embrace Christ, but many do not.
Those who come to Christ have received an effectual call. Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians the gospel came to them “not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and full conviction.” Lydia was effectually called by God’s Spirit. So were you if you know Christ. The Lord himself sought you out, made sure you heard the gospel, and worked in your heart to embrace him by faith his name.
People come to Christ in different ways: the thief on the cross was converted in the last hours of his life; others grow up being taught the faith; some have dramatic conversions like Paul; others having heard the gospel many times before it was brought home to their hearts.
But if you can testify today that Christ is your Savior and Lord, you should give praise where it belongs. Conversion is God’s work. And having received such a great salvation, give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men (Psalm 107:15).