Every local assembly is made up of different kinds of people, who have come from various backgrounds. The glue that binds them together is their common salvation and life in the Lord Jesus Christ. The assembly at Philippi was no exception.
A Business Woman
Lydia was a seller of purple (Acts 16:14), and thus comfortably able to support herself. This “purple” was a dye extracted from neck glands of Mediterranean shellfish. Trading in such an expensive commodity resulted in great wealth, and Lydia owned a house large enough to accommodate the whole assembly (v 40). Her industry furnishes us with an example, showing that believers must work to supply their bodily needs (1Thess 4:11, 12). Though there is no mention of this in Lydia’s case, it may well be possible for married women with children to work in some capacity to help in the maintenance of the home (Prov 31:13-24) without compromising their domiciliary responsibilities. However, in the face of general trends, it is a healthy desire for Christian women to wish to marry, bear children, and guide the house (1Tim 5:14), the home being the chief sphere of their influence and work. Balance is vital: the home ought to be the principal priority in a woman’s life, but we must not forbid a degree of flexibility.
Her religious activity of praying and worshiping (Acts 16:13, 14) stands in contrast to the uninterested jailer, and led to her keen interest in the gospel. Luke says that Lydia “heard us” (v 14). Indeed, anyone who is genuinely seeking God will always be willing to listen to the gospel.
When “the Lord opened” her heart she became spiritually enlightened (v 14). Her experience was different from the jailer, whose conversion was loud and dramatic; Lydia’s conversion was quiet and perhaps hardly noticeable, but God had still done a work in her heart (1Cor 2:14). Following the pattern given by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19, 20) she was immediately baptized upon receiving salvation (v 15). In Lydia’s case, an opened heart preceded an open door to her home, and she was eager to show hospitality to the believers (v 15) – evidence of her changed heart. In contrast, the jailer’s opened heart followed the opening of the prison doors. Just as Lydia willingly used her home for the Lord, giving hospitality to the missionaries and the assembly (vv 15, 40), we must acknowledge that our possessions belong to the Lord and eagerly use them for Him. All believers should not only be baptized but should also throw themselves wholeheartedly into the activities of a local church.
A Young Girl with a Demon
Demon possession was a living reality experienced by this unfortunate damsel. This particular demon sought to actively hinder the missionaries’ prayers (v 16), so damaging their preaching efforts, for nothing can truly be accomplished for the Lord in the absence of prayer. The demon moved her to soothsaying, for one particular trait of demons is that they refuse to remain silent. For this very reason we must be incredibly discerning regarding error, for every false doctrine finds its ultimate source in demons (1Tim 4:1). Just as demons had recognized Christ (Mk 1:24), this demon acknowledged the genuineness of the Lord’s servants and their message (v 17); such testimony was not, however, appreciated by them (v 18). Although the demon was successfully expelled through Christ’s power (v 18), we must remember that the recourse of Christians today is not exorcism but evangelism. Although the Biblical record does not specifically mention it, there is a strong possibility that this young woman was not only exorcized of her demon, but also saved by God’s grace.
In the jailor’s case, God’s power was revealed in a physically dramatic way, the earth being shaken and then his life. He was most likely indifferent to the gospel since, unlike Lydia, there is no mention of any particular interest in religion. He displayed the characteristic callousness of a jailer, thrusting the beaten prisoners into the inner prison where there would have been neither light nor fresh air, making “their feet fast in the stocks” (v 24). His life, however, would soon be changed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17), for suddenly fear overwhelmed him with the earth being shaken, and “he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling” (v 29). Assuming that the prisoners had escaped, and considering his punishment from the authorities, he would have killed himself (v 27). However, following Paul’s reassurance of the prisoners’ security, he earnestly sought salvation, of which Paul and Silas had no doubt spoken and sang in the prison (v 30). The answer was not “do,” but “believe” in the Lord Jesus Christ, for “by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph 2:8), plus nothing. Just like Lydia, and as all believers should be (Matt 28:19), immediately following salvation he was baptized (v 33). Baptism translates baptisomeaning “to dip,” commonly “used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment.” Therefore Biblical baptism is always by immersion. Here is clear Scriptural progress in the life of the new Christian: having received salvation in all its fullness, the convert was baptized. His conversion was evident in his kindness towards the missionaries, the result of a new nature. He experienced a great joy in his heart that only trusting the Lord Jesus Christ gives (v 34). Perhaps when Paul later wrote to the church established at Philippi, “finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 3:1), he was reflecting on the joy he shared with the newly converted prison warden.
Every assembly is made up of diverse people. It is crucial to acknowledge this and not allow it to cause divisions.