Conversion 5

Conversion 5


Lydia, A Seller of Purple


This is the fifth article in a series of lessons on New Testament examples of conversion. We have seen so far that each example illustrates some new aspect of the propagation of the gospel. The gospel was preached first in Jerusalem (Acts 2), but after severe persecution arose it quickly spread throughout Samaria by the preaching of the scattered Christians (Acts 8:4). The conversion of the Ethiopian in Acts 8 illustrated the beginning of taking the gospel to all nations and all races, but he was still a proselyte and thus considered to be one of the Jewish nation. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9) was unique in that he was a specially chosen vessel to take his place with the Apostles. We saw last week that the first Gentiles were converted with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10 and 11). 

The next conversion is by far the shortest. It is recorded in Acts 16:14-15: "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, ple of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us." This is the complete record. We hear nothing further of Lydia except that Paul visited with her family briefly after being released from prison in Philippi (16:40). The major distinguishing characteristic was that Lydia was an independent woman, a businesswoman, who was also the head of her household (her husband apparently being deceased). It demonstrates that women have equal responsibility to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ when they hear it (Gal. 3:28).

. . . whose heart the Lord opened . . .

That the Lord "opened" her heart is not subject to question. The word opened here is the Greek word dieenoixen, which means literally "to open thoroughly" or when used figuratively (as is the case here) "to expound." - Strong's Definition. In describing this event, Luke is careful not to credit Paul, Silas, Timothy or even himself with opening her heart. It was the Lord who opened her heart and enabled her to understand these things of a spiritual nature. 

Some have erroneously inferred from this that Lydia had nothing to do with it and that the Lord had predestined her to believe. However, nothing in the context leads to this conclusion. It is clear that the instrumentality by which the Lord opened her heart was the preaching of Paul. Notice (14): "... Lydia ... heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." 

Note first that the phrase "whose heart ..." is the cause of what followed, not what preceded. Thus, her open heart enabled her to "attend unto the things which were spoken ..." If was Lydia's desire to be obedient to the Lord that enabled her to abandon if she was to abandon her preconceptions and understand the true will of God. This, indeed, is a gift of the Lord, for it is impossible without the gospel. 

Lydia is an example of the "good ground," one "that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit ..." (Matt 13:23). When Jesus was asked why he spoke in parables, he said: "because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven ..." Matt. 13:10. Read on in Matthew 10 and see just why it was that the Lord gave this gift to some but not others. It was not arbitrary. The hearers' attitude had everything to do with it. 

Consider also 2 Cor. 3:13f where Paul talks about a veil the prevents Israel from understanding the truth. He concludes: "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." This implies that turning to the Lord itself is what opens the heart. So with Lydia. 

How did Jesus "open her heart?" Was it by predestination or some mystical spell? No, it was his response to one seeking the truth (Jn. 7:17; Heb. 11:6).

Ye often hear it said ...

The Bible records incidents of infant baptism"

but specific incidents cannot be documented.

The conversions of Lydia and the Philippian Jailer are often cited as examples of infant baptisms. The reasoning is: (1) these conversions included the household of the primary convert; (2) these households had to have included children who were under the age of accountability; thus (3) these are examples of infant baptisms. The flaw in this logic is obvious: the minor premise is uncertain. We have no way of knowing the ages of the members of these households. Thus, the conclusion cannot be stated with certainty, and to teach such is clearly a violation of 2 John 9

We have seen in every case of conversion that the convert heard the word, that they believed the word, that they repented (turned from their sins), that they were willing to confess their belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and then they were baptized for the remission of their sins. While Lydia's conversion does not explicitly state all of these actions, the context is far more supportive of their presence than their absence. The preconditions of baptism (hearing the truth, believing it, repenting of sins, and confessing Christ) are not things that an infant can do. And since there is no example of such in the Bible, we conclude that infants are not proper subjects for baptism.