The early church began as a gathering of people – a movement centered around the person of Jesus Christ – the risen Christ…the son of the living God. They lived out the message of Jesus in every aspect of their daily lives – in their work, in their home lives, with their neighbors. The people were the church. Throughout this series, we will take a look at some of the people who made up the early church and how they made every effort to BE the church to the world around them. This week we will take a look at Lydia.
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. 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.
The book of Acts shows us how the earliest Christians set about their mission to spread the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and preaches in the languages of his audience. Paul shares the good news to the gentiles. In between the sermons and the miracles and the beatings, we are given glimpses of how the early Church was taking shape. What can we learn from this passage?
We often hear pastors calling for believers to return to the ways of the “early Church:” a time when believers spread the gospel in the streets and lived their lives with the urgency of Jesus’ imminent return. Lydia’s conversion in the infant days of the Church also gives us an idea of how God intended people to be saved. She listens to the message, the Lord opens her heart, and Lydia is baptized.
It did not take long for disagreements to divide the Church. Most of Paul’s letters are responses to false teachers who sought to create distinctions between Jews and gentiles, young and old, rich and poor. If the rosy idea we have of the early Church ever existed, it did not last very long.
As we think about Pastor David’s call to BE the Church and look back at the earliest believers as our guide, Lydia’s conversion serves as the perfect starting point. There were no obstacles for Lydia’s salvation. It did not matter that she was Greek, or a Jew, or a woman, or (probably) a widow. Lydia’s heart was opened and she was saved.
Pray: Heavenly Father, we pray that you open our hearts so that we can receive the good news of our salvation. Baptize us with your Spirit, and help us see the truth of your word. End our divisions and bring us together in the unity of your love. Amen.