Once Paul and his companions get the green light from the Holy Spirit to enter Macedonia, they proceed to the city of Philippi. Paul’s usual strategy in a new city begins with proclaiming the good news in a Jewish synagogue. The fact that he goes outside the city gates to the river on the sabbath strongly suggests that Philippi does not have a synagogue within the city.
When Paul and his companions arrive at the meeting place, they come upon a group of women gathered for prayer. They sit down on the river bank and share the good news.
One of the women, Lydia, is singled out. She is described as being a Gentile who worships God and who is also a dealer of purple cloth. This business woman listens eagerly to Paul, and “the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message” (ceb).
Lydia’s positive response to the gospel seems dependent upon God’s action. Various translations emphasize God’s proactive stance: “The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly;” “The Lord enabled Lydia to embrace Paul’s message” (ceb); “As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying” (nlt); “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (niv).
It seems that accepting the good news is a two-part process. God opens the door, but we must choose to walk through it. Notice what happens next—once Lydia’s heart has been opened, she acts. She is baptized and then opens her home to Paul and his companions.
Lord, open our hearts to your good news and enable us to embrace your guidance and provision. Once we have opened our hearts, help us to be generous with those around us. Amen.
The kingdom of God is constantly advancing by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, Paul is driven forward in his missionary activity by the Spirit. He moves westward to Macedonia, where a woman named Lydia becomes the first known convert in Europe. This becomes a base for subsequent mission. In Revelation, the Spirit shows John the new Jerusalem, in which the Lamb will provide light for all nations. Jesus’ disciples wrestle with the idea that he would leave them. He teaches them that he will not leave them alone; he will send the Holy Spirit to empower them. The psalmist does not mention the Spirit but declares that all nations, not just the Israelites, will sing for joy because of God’s saving power.
Read Acts 16:9-15. Recall a specific time when you have followed God. How did you discern God’s voice? What did you do to follow through on God’s call?
Read Psalm 67. How do you share God’s blessings with the world?
Read Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5. What would it mean for there to be no separation between nations? no separation between you and God?
Read John 14:23-29. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit as your Advocate?
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