Lydia Becomes a Christian

3_LydiaScripture Reference: Acts 16:10-15

Suggested Emphasis: Emphasise that baptism is the natural response to hearing the good news of Jesus. Baptism (which means immersion) in water identifies a person with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

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Story Overview:

After sailing to Macedonia Paul arrived in the city of Philippi.  When he found a group of women gathered beside a river praying he told them about Jesus.  One of the women was Lydia, a businesswoman who sold very expensive purple cloth. When Lydia heard about Jesus she was baptised.  Then everyone in her household was baptised too.  Lydia was so happy that she invited Paul and his friends to stay at her house.

Background Study:

Click here for an overview of the Book of Acts

Up until this point in his 2nd Missionary Journey Paul had struggled to find a firm direction for his mission work.  He and Silas, a Christian from Jerusalem, had visited Derbe and Lystra to follow up on the churches  Paul had established there on the 1st Journey.  In Lystra Paul invited Timothy to join his group and then Luke joined them in Troas.  It was in Troas that Paul received a vision of a man begging him to come to Macedonia to help. After the vision Paul and his group set out as the first missionaries in Macedonia (and subsequently the first missionaries to enter what is today Europe).

Travelling from Troas to Philippi (Acts 16:11-12)

“From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.”
Acts 16:11-12, NIV

Troas was the chief port city on the north-west coast of Asia Minor.   The few ruins left of this once large and thriving city are located on the western coast of Turkey in the modern day Canakkale Province.  After leaving the port of Troas it would be common for a ship to stop and anchor off the Island of Samothrace for the night.  Paul and his group landed in Neapolis which was Philippi’s port before heading to Philippi.

Philippi was a Macedonian frontier town, Roman colony and military outpost.  A section of the 1,120 kilometre (696 mile) Roman road system called the Via Egnacia passed through Philippi.  This meant the city was on a direct trade and military route that connected what is now modern day Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, and European Turkey (information taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Egnatia).

Philippi must have seemed very different from the cities they had visited in Asia Minor.  No one was there to greet them and there was no Jewish synagogue for them to connect with.  After all the rush to get there Luke records that they “remained in this city some days”.

Going Where the People Are At (Acts 16:13-16)
When there was no formal synagogue in a city people would often use the setting of a nearby river to gather together.  This was treated as a place of prayer.  This was the case in Philippi.  A group of women indicates that there were not any Jewish men living in the city.  Paul’s informal approach of sitting down and speaking with a group of women reveals the cultural barriers he was willing to cross to share the Gospel with others.

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. 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

These two verses reveal a lot about the woman, Lydia:

  • She was a woman of business:
    Lydia was from the wealthy city of Thyatira in Asia Minor and a dealer of purple cloth.  Thyatira was well known for its trade guilds and the dye trade was one of the most important trades in the guild.  Lydia was probably living in Philippi to take advantage of the trade route.  There is no mention of a husband so Lydia seems to be supporting herself and her household with her business.  Her house must have been big enough for Paul and his companions to later stay there.
  • She was a woman of faith:
    Lydia was from a city whose trade guilds later opposed Christianity and she was living in a military outpost where there seemed to be no formal worship of God.  Yet Lydia was a “worshipper of God” who gathered with other women to pray.
    Information concerning Thyatira was taken from http://bibleatlas.org/thyatira.htm 
  • She was a woman of influence:
    Lydia’s household was baptised along with her which insinuates their respect for her.  She was persuasive with Paul and convinced him to stay at her house.

When she heard Paul share the Gospel of Jesus Christ Lydia’s response was to be baptised.  Although there are a variety of practices today the original Greek word for baptism actually means to be immersed.  In the physical act of baptism a person identifies with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus by dying to self, being immersed (buried) in water and coming up again to live for Jesus.

Since this story is a bit shorter than other conversion stories in Acts use the extra class time to talk about baptism and its importance in our Christian journey.  Other Scriptures About Baptism and how our response connects to Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection:

  • “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Romans 6:3-4, NIV
  • “When the people heard [about the crucifixion of Jesus] they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’…Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”  Acts 2:38, 41, NIV
  • “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”  1 Peter 3:18-22, NIV

After baptising Lydia Paul and Silas continue teaching people about Jesus in Philippi.  Read about the Jailer Who Became a Christian to learn about another person who is baptised in response to the Gospel message.

As time goes by a church is established in Philippi.  Paul will later write letter to them and the letter, the Book of Philippians, can be read in the New Testament.

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Way to Introduce the Story:

How many of you know someone who has been baptised? What happened? (Share your own experience) In today’s story we are going to learn about a woman named Lydia who was baptised.
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The Story:

Paul and his friends Silas, Timothy and Luke were missionaries. Missionaries travel wherever God wants them to go so they can tell people about Jesus.

Paul and Silas had travelled all the way from Antioch. Now they and their friends were on their way to Macedonia. Macedonia was in Europe so this was the very first time that people in Europe heard the good news about Jesus.

The first place that Paul and the other missionaries stopped was in the city of Philippi. The Roman government was in charge and there were many Roman soldiers in Philippi.

Usually Paul and the others would have gone to a synagogue on the Sabbath day. A synagogue is a place where Jews gathered together to worship and learn about God. But there was no synagogue in Philippi.

So, on the Sabbath day the men went down to the river to find a place of prayer. There was already a group of women at the river and they were praying.

One of the women was Lydia. She was a business woman whose job was selling purple cloth. She had her own house and workers. Lydia was a worshipper of God but she did not know about Jesus.

So Paul began to talk to Lydia and tell her about Jesus. Jesus was God’s Son and he had died on the cross for her sins. Lydia learned that after Jesus died he was buried and then rose again on the third day.

When Lydia heard about Jesus she believed in him. She told Paul that she wanted to be a Christian. She wanted to be baptised.

Jesus was buried and then came alive again. Being dipped under the water and coming up again is like being buried and coming alive again.

Lydia and all of the people in her household were baptised that day. When they were dipped under the water it was like they were being buried with Jesus. When they came up again they were rising up again with Jesus.

Lydia wanted to spend more time with Paul and his friends so she asked them to stay at her house so she could give them food and take care of them.

What a happy day for Lydia and all the people with her. Now they were part of the Christian family.

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Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Click here to download the slideshow or click here for the printable illustrations.  Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.

Or use the video below.  Thank you, David!

Review Questions:

  1. What was Lydia’s job? A seller of purple cloth
  2. Where did Paul meet Lydia? By the river where she and some women were praying
  3. What did Lydia and the people in her house do when they heard about Jesus? They were baptised.
  4. What is baptism? A Greek word that means to dip or immerse in water. Baptism identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Song Suggestions:

Learning Activities and Crafts:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

Activities:

Experiment with crushed berries and paint to dye cloth

  • Collect and bring pictures taken at people’s baptisms
  • Invite a guest to class to talk about their baptism
  • Use the church song book to look up and sing songs about baptism
  • Experiment with various natural purple dyes using unbleached or white cotton cloth.

Crafts:

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