Friday, 6 June 2008

Greece Trip (6): Philippi: Lydia the First Convert - Part 2

Only a few Jews lived in Philippi, in fact there were less than 10 male Jews. For this reason, there was no synagogue where Paul could begin to preach the gospel according to his usual custom.

On the Sabbath, Paul and his co-workers left the city and walked about a mile east to the bank of a branch of the River Strymon (cf. Acts 16:13). There they would have expected to find a place of prayer where the few Jews in the area would have gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. On their arrival, they found several women and spoke to 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. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us." (Acts 16:14-15)

Lydia, a gentile convert, is the first person and a female specifically mentioned in the Bible as being baptized in Europe. A merchant of fine purple cloth, she was a woman of some means and wealth (as evidenced by her trade of expensive garment and possession of a house). She was also an example of an upwardly mobile woman who not only became a follower of Jesus, but also one that had a generous heart in opening her home to Paul and his mission. In addition, she would also have, in some ways, provided leadership in the early Christian communities. As such, it is not too far-fetched to think that Lydia's house then became the headquarters for Paul's mission and the newly established church in Philippi (cf. Acts 16:40). In view of this, the narrative in Acts seems to emphasise the significant role women played in the expansion of the early Christian communities.

Today, the baptistery of Saint Lydia and the Church of Saint Lydia are erected in her honour. While this may not be the exact spot where Lydia would have been baptised, these monuments serve as reminders of the first wealthy and influential Christian who was a woman in Philippi.


Alex Tang said...

walked east or west?

Present church and baptistry build over the western cemetery.

Kar Yong said...

Oh...maybe the original site of the river could be east? :-P

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