Now, this account of conversion is relatively small—just four verses. We will learn why Lydia is Baptized in a moment (Acts 16:11-15), but first, let’s go back to a couple of verses for more context.
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Amazing! Go speaks to Paul in a vision and tells him to go. That it is time to meet a man in Macedonia, hold onto this verse for a moment.
Paul & His Team
Just like that, Paul jumps in a boat and heads to Macedonia. On his journey, he reaches a city named Philippi, and they stay there for several days. What is fascinating about this scripture is that it is the first time the author of the book, Luke, uses the word “we” (Acts 16:11). Has Luke caught up to the group now? In the past, he was recording a story, and now, finally, we are together.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
If there is one group you would like to travel with, this is it. Paul and his team could do anything. Paul is a church planter. His helper, John Mark, is a prophet from Jerusalem. Timothy, his young buddy, was a gifted teacher in Ephesus and later wrote a book of the Bible. And Luke is now a physician, historian, and writer. This team could do anything. Paul can teach in Judah. Luke can teach in Greek. Timothy can relate to the youth and John and prophesy. I believe Mark E. Moore expounds upon this in his Acts lectures.
Lydia Is Baptized (Along With Her Family)
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 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.
So as this band of brothers takes a break in town, they go down to the river looking for a place of prayer. A Temple, probably, but there was none. This most likely is because there were not at least ten heads of households. I heard once that historically if there were not at least ten heads of homes, a synagogue would not have been built. So instead, what he found was women probably washing clothes and bathing in the river along with some children.
Paul then decided to gather the women and teach them. We also learn that in Philippians 4:1-2 that there were Euodia and Syntyche listing as well. As he writes back to these women, he refers to them as their fellow soldiers in the kingdom – an impressive comment about women in that day that shouldn’t be quickly overlooked.
As Paul was teaching these women, the Lord opened their hearts (Philippians 2:13), and Lydia was baptized along with her entire family.
Paul & His Vision
Rember the first verse we reviewed? Acts 16:9-10. Paul had a vision and was traveling to Macedonia to meet a man. As he traveled, he stopped and spoke to the women at the river, and Lydia, in Acts 16:15, persuaded him to spend extra time with them. So time went on, and, as we will learn about in the following conversion experience, Paul was imprisoned. As we continue to read through the book of Acts, we quickly notice that Paul never did make it to Macedonia.
So what happened? Did God really speak to Paul in a vision? Did Paul disobey God, and his consequence was to be thrown in jail? Questions like these are what we ask ourselves when God speaks to us – we obey – and the outcome is not what we expect. So we begin to get discouraged and start questioning God about all our lives.
I read this bit of scripture as encouraging. God spoke to Paul, and he obeyed. As he was following, he paused, spent time with God, and invited others to do so. They became Christians, and as Paul was teaching more people about Jesus, he was thrown in jail, and never once did he doubt he was doing the right thing. Sometimes our lives don’t work out the way we intend them to. But never stop having faith in Christ.