Saint Paul Church MKE Sunday School

LESSON 13 • February 28, 2021

LYDIA: CALLED TO SERVE

MEMORY VERSE:  “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” (Acts 16:15, KJV).

 

LIFE NEED FOR TODAY’S LESSON

Many people have been recipients of generous hospitality or have been in a position to extend hospitality to someone. In what ways can openness and a listening ear provide opportunities to serve? Lydia was an attentive woman who responded to the Gospel message with faithfulness and generous hospitality.

 

BIBLE LEARNING

God chooses women to provide a gathering place for the Apostle Paul and his ministry team.

 

LESSON AIM: By the end of this lesson, we will ASSESS how Lydia used her gifts and her place in society to support Paul’s ministry, REPENT of the times we have looked down on others who have not had the same opportunities or advantages, and SERVE others joyfully through whatever means are at our disposal.

 

BACKGROUND SCRIPTURES: ACTS 16:11-15, 40—Read and incorporate the insights gained from the Background Scriptures into your study of the lesson.

 

BIBLE APPLICATION

Christians model Lydia’s welcoming spirit.

 

STUDENTS’ RESPONSES

Believers are hospitable.

 

LESSON SCRIPTURE | ACTS 16:11-15, 40; 1 CORINTHIANS 1:26-30, KJV

 

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day Neapolis;

 

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

 

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

 

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, 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.

 

15 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.

 

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

 

1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

 

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

 

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

 

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

 

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

 

 

 

BIBLICAL DEFINITIONS

A. Prayer (Acts 16:13) proseuche (Gk.)—A call to God, or a place to call on God

 

B. Faithful (v. 15) pistos (Gk.)—Trustworthy and reliable

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Purple Cloth. The ancient Mediterranean peoples used a dye from a certain kind of sea snail found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. This dye was costly because of its rarity and the labor intensity of extracting the dye. Clothing made from this dye was equally expensive and reserved for notable members of society. The color is now called Tyrean purple, after Tyre, the Phoenician city that perhaps discovered the dye.

 

Philippi. A predominantly Roman city at this time, Philippi was eight miles inland from Neapolis, which was a seaport in northern Macedonia. The city is named for Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon. The city, Philippi, was located near two rivers and connected with coastal cities by several roads that facilitated trade. The area was financially lucrative. Philippi lay along the Egnatian Way, the major east-west Roman road connecting lands in Greece and Turkey.

 

 

LIFE NEED FOR TODAY’S LESSON

AIM: Students consider the twists and turns of ministry and church planting.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Church Planting.

Paul and Barnabas successfully planted many churches in Syria and the surrounding provinces. Now, they were on a new journey to plant churches throughout the Roman province of Asia. Paul and Silas set out from Antioch and were joined by Timothy while visiting a previously established church in Lystra. Soon after, the Holy Spirit altered the group’s plans to go into Asia and guided the men instead to Macedonia. At this point, Luke (the writer of Acts) joined the team, and they set sail from the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea.

 

In Philippi, where they are preaching, the team meets Lydia. They cast a demon out of a slave girl, and her masters provoke an uproar that ends with the arrest of Paul and Silas. In jail, the prisoners sing, and God sends an earthquake to shake open the doors of every cell. The chains also fall off, freeing Paul and Silas. Fearful that he is going to be punished for the escape of his inmates, the jailer is about to kill himself until Paul and Silas assure him that all prisoners are still there. The two apostles teach the jailer about Jesus Christ, and he—and his household—are saved.

 

Throughout their ministry, Paul and Silas benefited from the hospitality of wealthy converts, but Paul also knew that most Christians supported him with sacrificial giving. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to encourage them.

 

 

BIBLE LEARNING

AIM: Students welcome worshippers who are different.

 

I. THE COLONY AT PHILIPPI (ACTS 16:11-13)

 

It took two to five days for Paul and his team to travel from Troas to Macedonia. The first colony they visited in Macedonia was Philippi. On the Sabbath, Paul and the others with him made their way through the city gate to the water’s edge. They had discovered that there was no synagogue in Philippi, probably because the community did not have ten Jewish men living there, which was the requirement for a synagogue. Down by the riverside, women gathered to worship, draw water, do laundry, and enjoy female companionship.

 

Paul and his friends began to preach Christ to these women. Paul had learned that God did not show favoritism, and the women who had converted to Christ both supported and spread the Gospel in concert with Paul’s ministry.

 

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

 

As the disciples set sail from Troas, even the wind was in their favor. With smooth sailing, their’s was a straight course that took two days. They traveled to the island of Samothracia and stayed overnight. The next day, they sailed to Neapolis. There, they journeyed on foot to their destination—the great city of Philippi.

 

Paul and his companions lodged in the city for several days. No one contacted them. In the past, when the apostles entered new territory, someone was there to meet and greet them (Acts 11:26; 13:14-15). However, the Jewish community had not yet spread from Jerusalem to Macedonia.

 

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

 

The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day of the week, which was a sacred day when the Israelites were required to abstain from all work. On the Sabbath, it was customary for Paul and all Jews to gather for worship, prayer, and read the Scriptures in the synagogue. There was no synagogue of the Jews in Philippi, but the women were still determined to worship God.

 

They met outside the city at a river, which was probably the Gangites River, a mile or two west of Philippi. The apostle found a small group of proselytized women praying, and joined them for worship. The Greek noun proseuche (pros-yew-KHAY) or “prayer,” describes both a prayer addressed to God and a place of prayer. Traditionally, Jews were supposed to wash their hands before prayer, and the river would certainly provide water for such cleansing. The disciples shared the Good News about Jesus Christ with women.

 

Lydia and the gathering of women became the first European converts to our Christian faith. May women’s work and women’s worship ever be heralded in the annals of biblical and local church history as integral, not incidental, to the Good News—to the Gospel preached, taught, and believed!

 

 

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 1

God directed Paul and his team to join the women’s worship service at the river. Why is this significant?

 

QUESTION 2

Why was the river a perfect place to worship in the absence of a synagogue?

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Macedonia. This region of Macedonia is a Roman colony and populated mostly by Roman citizens. Far from the center of Rome, this region was a military conquest that was a part of the Roman Empire.

 

The inhabitants of such colonies were protected and governed by Roman laws. Paul and Silas will use their status as Roman citizens to embarrass the leaders of the city when they are thrown into prison.

 

 

 

II. THE CONVERSION OF LYDIA (vv. 14-15, 40)

When Paul begins to speak, Lydia listens and accepts the truth, and she becomes the first convert in Europe. She is baptized along with her entire household into the Christian community of believers. The joy she experienced in Christ must have been tremendous because she invites Paul and his companions to stay in her home as her guests and refused to let them say no.

 

Paul and the other missionaries traveling with him stayed with Lydia until their ministry in the city had concluded. Her home became the first church at Philippi. Paul later referred to the Philippian church as his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1).

 

Lydia became one of Paul’s financial supporters and was a loyal helper in his ministry. Lydia even fearlessly opened her house church to Paul and Silas after they were released from prison. She did not let the fear of associating with people accused of rabble-rousing keep her from supporting God’s workers.

 

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, 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.

 

Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, the city of commerce in western Asia Minor. It was well-known throughout the region for its dyer’s guild and textiles. Thyatira is a far distance from Philippi—nearly 400 miles. We are never told why she is living in Philippi.

 

Roman law did not prevent women, whether freeborn or former slaves, from engaging in business enterprises on their own. No husband was mentioned along with Lydia, so she was likely a widow since a woman who had not yet married would not live on her own. To support herself without a husband, Lydia was a “seller of purple,” either the dye or cloth dyed this color. Such cloth was an expensive luxury, used for official Roman garments. Hers was a noble profession.

 

The name Lydia is Greek, and Thyatira is in a region of Asia Minor that had been thoroughly Hellenized. It is therefore likely that Lydia was a Gentile. She does, however, worship (Gk. sebo, SEH-bo) the One True God, a word often used to connote a Jewish proselyte (Acts 13:43, 17:4, 18:7). Lydia worshiped God with the knowledge she had. When she heard the truth of the Gospel, the Lord opened her heart, and she wanted to know more about Jesus. While attending this prayer gathering, Lydia welcomed the opportunity to hear the apostles teach. As she learned about the God she worshiped, she accepted into her heart Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

 

15 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.

 

Lydia’s response to the Gospel of Christ Jesus was to be baptized. Lydia’s baptism and that of her household marked the beginning of the Philippian church. “Baptized” (Gk. baptizo, bap-TEED-zo) means to submerge in water. Since they were already gathered at the riverside, it was convenient to baptize Lydia and her household following their conversion. Lydia’s entire household—made up of family members and servants—heard the Good News, believed, and were baptized. Baptism into the Christian family is a cause for celebration!

 

After becoming a baptized member of the family of God, Lydia extended hospitality to her new found family—the apostles. She was very grateful to Paul, Silas, and Luke, and wanted to show her gratitude by inviting them to stay in her home with her and her family. Although her quantifiable wealth is not recorded, evidently Lydia had the means to accommodate Paul and his companions comfortably.

 

The apostles were reluctant because they did not want to impose. However, Lydia insisted that they stay. She was so emphatic that she “constrained” (Gk. parabiazomai, pah-rah-bee-ODD-zo-my), or made a persuasive appeal for them to stay at her home while in Philippi. Central to this plea was Lydia’s assertion that the apostles found her “faithful” (Gk. pistos, peese-TOCE), meaning trustworthy and reliable.

 

Lydia extended a hospitality paradigm that is simple to follow: Show kindness to one another, especially to those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). When the disciples accepted Lydia’s hospitality, she and her family and servants, as well as her Philippian neighbors, had the opportunity to receive more teaching of the Good News, share in discipleship, and help birth a new Christian community.

 

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

 

After establishing an enthusiastic following in Philippi and leading many to Christ, Paul and Silas are arrested. They cast a demon out of a girl, but this interfered with her master’s income. The master complained to the leaders of the city that Paul’s group was preaching an illegal message under Roman law. Romans disapproved of any religion that did not make allowances for the divinity of the emperor; Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned.

 

While in chains, Paul and Silas sing praises to the Lord, and at midnight, an earthquake rocks them free. The jailer and his entire family become Christians. After their release, Paul raises objections to his treatment, which should not have been allowed since Paul was a Roman citizen. Although he had not caused a political or legal stir before imprisonment, he did so afterward.

 

Our passage continues once Paul and Silas leave prison. They head to Lydia’s house church and experience the same hospitality they did at her conversion. Lydia knows their character and knows they did nothing to deserve a beating or jail time. The missionary team recognizes the rest of the town is too hostile to them and decides to leave, but they know Lydia will provide them with one last stay of hospitality. Lydia is not afraid of her reputation for associating with these men. She takes her stand with God’s men, regardless of the consequences.

 

 

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 3

Why is Lydia’s conversion so significant to the ministry of Paul, Silas, and Luke?

 

QUESTION 4

What effort have you made to lead your family and close friends to Christ?

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

A Heart For God.

It is not enough to worship God the Father. We must believe in Jesus Christ, His Son. There is no acceptance by God except through Jesus Christ as Mediator. God offers us salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus stands at the door to our hearts. It is up to each individual to open his or her heart to the Lord. The choice is ours. God touched Lydia’s heart. She believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she was saved.

 

Lydia’s enthusiastic and attentive listening was fertile ground for God to open her heart to understand and accept the Gospel. The “heart” (Gk. kardia, kar-DEE-ah) represents the soul or mind as the resident place of one’s thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, understanding, intelligence, will, character, and intentions. Lydia’s “open heart surgery” was appreciably more than an emotional response to a well-crafted sermon and loquacious rhetoric. As she listened, Lydia engaged her thoughts, affections, and understanding about God to believe in Christ Jesus! While Lydia had been seeking God, God was seeking her—and this nation.

 

 

III. THE CROSS' POWER (1 CORINTHIANS 1:26-28)

God does not hesitate to call women to spread the Word. Lydia was rich, but many converts were poor or working class. Paul tells these converts that formal education, political power, and economic status are not the requirements in the kingdom of God.

 

1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

 

These verses from 1 Corinthians, one of several letters Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, explain how to live in unity and holiness before God. God calls us to offer what we have to one another. Lydia had a place where the missionary team could stay, so she offers it.

 

The Corinthian believers thought they had wisdom, strength, and social standing to offer God. Paul reminds them that while such things are impressive and perhaps even helpful to the world’s viewpoint, to God, they are weak. Paul outright tells the Corinthian church that they do not have the socially admired attributes they think they have. They are not wise or strong or powerful. And yet God calls them.

 

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

 

Even though Paul writes that the Corinthian church has nothing much to offer God, he also asserts that God specifically chooses those without much to offer to do His work. The foolish confound the wise. God makes Jesus our wisdom (v. 30), and we are in Christ, so we do not need to worry about how much wisdom we have. We will have the knowledge we need when we are unified with Christ.

 

The weak confound the mighty by the work of God. The “base” things are the elementary things—things so obvious and common that no one regards them. These “base” things are what God chooses. “Things which are not” means “things that do not exist” and is paired with the phrase “things that are,” meaning “things that do exist.”

 

God uses those who are considered by some as lowly and despised. The “things which are not” may refer to things that don’t exist, but God brings “to nought” or nothing the things people considered necessary.

 

This is a reference to systems of behavior and interaction that are powerless in light of God’s power. God gives us the strength we need to make a difference in our world.

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 5

Why is Paul’s message to Corinth a wise summary of this lesson?

 

QUESTION 6

How has God used the weaknesses in your life to show His glory?

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

What About You?

God chooses explicitly those whom the world disregards to show His glory. The Lord ordained twelve social outcasts to be His disciples and learn from Him. Empowered with the Holy Spirit, they, in turn, were responsible for sharing the message of the Cross worldwide.

 

Perceived as a powerless baby born in a manger, Jesus escaped the murderous rampage of a king. A despised Cross and physical death, instead of ending Jesus’ existence, demonstrated His wisdom and power over sin and the grave itself. You, too, have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Why not allow God to use you?

 

 

BIBLE APPLICATION

AIM: Students practice hospitality.

 

Missionaries and those who travel to Africa report on the beauty of hospitality throughout much of the continent. Whenever anyone needs food or shelter, the members of the church take them into their own homes until they can correct whatever problem might have caused their circumstance. Such hospitality is not uncommon across the world. Many Christians in America practice hospitality, too. What are some examples that you have seen in your church or community?

 

 

STUDENTS’ RESPONSES

AIM: Students will use their gifts to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ.

 

Through Lydia’s successful trade of purple, God provided for her to house Paul’s team. How has God equipped you? Find a way to use your gifts to continue the work of ministry this week, and just like Lydia, don’t take “No” for an answer!

 

 

PRAYER

Father, we are inspired by Lydia’s example to use all that we have for heaven’s sake. Thank You for giving us talents and resources to continue spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we remain attentive to your voice and obedient to do whatever the Holy Spirit guides us to do this week. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

 

DIG A LITTLE DEEPER

The early church started in homes, often called house churches. These small groups are where teaching and spiritual growth occurred. Today, we call this process “discipleship.”

 

Many Sunday school classes function as discipleship groups and, like Lydia’s home, are the perfect setting for Bible study. Attendees usually feel more comfortable studying together and asking questions here than in larger groups. Intimate settings promote accountability and are ideal for individuals to mature spiritually. Search the Internet for small group guidelines.

 

 

HOW TO SAY IT

Troas. TROE-as.

 

Samothrace. SAH-moe-thray-ss.

 

Neapolis. nee-AH-poe-liss.

 

Thyatira. thigh-ah-TIE-rah.

 

 

 

DAILY HOME BIBLE READINGS

MONDAY

Don’t Complain but Serve One Another

(1 Peter 4:7–11)

TUESDAY

Everyday Expressions of Hospitality

(Romans 12:9–19)

WEDNESDAY

Hospitality Practiced in Jail and Home

(Acts 16:35–40)

THURSDAY

Hospitality Practiced by Widow and Bishop

(1 Timothy 5:9–10, 3:2)

FRIDAY

Christ, God’s Power and Wisdom

(1 Corinthians 1:8–25)

SATURDAY

Know Jesus Christ Crucified

(1 Corinthians 2:1–5)

SUNDAY

Lydia, Model of Hospitality Practice

(Acts 16:11–15, 40; 1 Corinthians 1:26–30)

 

 

PREPARE FOR NEXT SUNDAY

Read Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and next week’s lesson,

“Moses: Prophet of Deliverance.”

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