By Tyson Thorne

September 4, 2014

Lydia large

Acts 16.11 shows us how Paul entered Europe for the first time, through Neapolis to Philippi. The traveling apostle had been through much of the near and middle east, the Province of Asia, but never before set foot on European soil. He was a long way from home, but continued to stick to tried and true methods of evangelism. After all, people are people no matter the country from which they hail.

As was his practice, Paul immediately searched for a synagogue from which to preach. The apostle always started among the Jews then, after being rejected by them, he took God’s message to the Gentiles. Being so far from home, however, there were apparently not enough Jews in Philippi to have a synagogue (10 men are required to start one). In such cases, often the followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would venture to a quiet place less than a Sabbath Day’s walk) to pray and worship. The river side near the city’s main gate was chosen in this case by Jewish and God-fearer women.

Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke approached the group and began to tell them about the Messiah, Jesus. A woman called Lydia, a Gentile convert to Judaism, was the first to respond to the message and became a follower of Jesus. She became Europe’s first Christian.

This woman was apparently wealthy, a weaver of the kind of fine purple linen that made famous her home town of Thyatira, in the region known as Lydia. This woman whom Luke calls Lydia may have had a different name, but women from Thyatira were often called Lydia (similar to how we call some people “New Yorkers”). Some believe her real name was either Eudia or Syntyche since Paul mentions these women in his letter to the Philippian church as having labored with him in ministry (Philippians 4.2-3).

Regardless of her name, she had a home in the city and servants to help her keep it and she invited the men to stay there and use it as a base for their ministry. They did so and, as we see at the end of the chapter in verse 40, the house also became a place for Christians to gather and fellowship and worship. As a result her home became the first church in Philippi and in all of Europe. But there is a long way to go from verse 15 to verse 40, and much work and hardship must be endured before they find a happy ending.

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