Lydia: Seller of Purple in the Book of Acts

God opened Lydia’s heart and she opened her home to the Church

Lydia in the Bible
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Lydia in the Bible was one of thousands of minor characters mentioned in Scripture, but after 2,000 years, she is still remembered for her contribution to early Christianity. Her story is told in the book of Acts. Although the information on her is sketchy, Bible scholars have concluded she was an exceptional person in the ancient world.

The Apostle Paul first encountered Lydia at Philippi, in eastern Macedonia. She was a "worshiper of God," probably a proselyte, or convert to Judaism. Because ancient Philippi had no synagogue, the few Jews in that city gathered on the bank of the Krenides River for sabbath worship where they could use the water for ritual washings.

Luke, the author of Acts, called Lydia a seller of purple goods. She was originally from the city of Thyatira, in the Roman province of Asia, across the Aegean Sea from Philippi. One of the trade guilds in Thyatira made expensive purple dye, probably from the roots of the madder plant.

Since Lydia's husband is not mentioned but she was a householder, scholars have speculated she was a widow who brought her late husband's business to Philippi. The other women with Lydia in Acts may have been employees and slaves.

God Opened Lydia’s Heart

God "opened her heart" to pay close attention to Paul's preaching, a supernatural gift causing her conversion. She was immediately baptized in the river and her household along with her. Lydia must have been wealthy, because she insisted Paul and his companions stay at her home.

Before leaving Philippi, Paul visited Lydia once more. If she were well off, she may have given him money or supplies for his further journey on the Egnatian Way, an important Roman highway. Large sections of it can still be seen in Philippi today. The early Christian church there, supported by Lydia, may have influenced thousands of travelers over the years.

Lydia's name does not appear in Paul's letter to the Philippians, written about ten years later, leading some scholars to guess she may have died by that time. It's also possible Lydia may have returned to her home town of Thyatira and was active in the church there. Thyatira was addressed by Jesus Christ in the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Accomplishments of Lydia in the Bible

Lydia ran a successful business selling a luxury product: purple cloth. This was a unique achievement for a woman during the male-dominated Roman empire. More importantly, though, she believed in Jesus Christ as Savior, was baptized and had her entire household baptized too. When she took Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke into her house, she created one of the first home churches in Europe.

Lydia's Strengths

Lydia was intelligent, perceptive, and assertive to compete in business. Her faithful pursuit of God as a Jew caused the Holy Spirit to make her receptive to Paul's message of the gospel. She was generous and hospitable, opening her home to traveling ministers and missionaries.

Life Lessons From Lydia

Lydia's story shows God works through people by opening their hearts to help them believe the good news. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ through grace and cannot be earned by human works. As Paul explained who Jesus was and why he had to die for the sin of the world, Lydia showed a humble, trusting spirit. Further, she was baptized and brought salvation to her entire household, an early example of how to win the souls of those closest to us.

Lydia also credited God with her earthly blessings and was quick to share them with Paul and his friends. Her example of stewardship shows we cannot pay God back for our salvation, but we do have an obligation to support the church and its missionary efforts.


Thyatira, in the Roman province of Lydia.

References to Lydia in the Bible

Lydia's story is told in Acts 16:13-15, 40.

Key Verses

Acts 16:15
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. ( NIV)
Acts 16:40
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left. (NIV)

Resources and Further Reading

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Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "Lydia: Seller of Purple in the Book of Acts." Learn Religions, Sep. 8, 2021, Fairchild, Mary. (2021, September 8). Lydia: Seller of Purple in the Book of Acts. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Lydia: Seller of Purple in the Book of Acts." Learn Religions. (accessed May 30, 2023).