Posted On October 17, 2014

James Buchanan – The Spirit's Work in the Conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)

by | Oct 17, 2014 | Biblical Worldview, Uncategorized

There is one important circumstance which was common to all those cases of conversion that are recorded in Scripture, and which well deserves our most serious consideration; I mean the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the mind of every true convert to the Christian faith, in the way of applying the truth, which is ordinarily the means of conversion. The agency of the Spirit is specially referred to by our Lord himself, in one of the last and most affecting of those addresses, which he delivered to his disciples before his death. And by comparing his words with other passages of Scripture, we learn that there were two very different ways in which the Spirit should act, or that there are two distinct modes of operation by which he carries into effect his great design. The one is external, and sensible; the other is internal, and spiritual. We read of ‘the manifestation of the Spirit which is given to every man to profit withal;’ and we read of the ‘indwelling of the Spirit in the hearts of true believers.’ In other words, the dispensation of the Gospel is called the ‘ministration of the Spirit,’ for two distinct reasons; first, on account of miraculous gifts which were vouchsafed to the apostles and first converts; and, secondly, on account of the enlightening, converting, and sanctifying grace which rendered the Gospel effectual for their salvation. There is a wide difference betwixt the two. They differ in their nature, their use, and their effects; the one being an appropriate evidence, a divine attestation of the truth; the other, a direct operation on the soul, by which it is renewed and quickened, and turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And not only are they widely different; we have reason to believe that they might be separated from each other. Such being the difference betwixt the miraculous gifts and the inward graces of the Spirit, it is a delightful truth that the latter and the more valuable of the two is the permanent inheritance of the Christian Church. His miraculous gifts were to cease when they had fulfilled their end by establishing the truth; but his office did not cease. Nor was his work completed when, by his descent on the day of Pentecost and his subsequent effusion at Cæsarea on the Gentiles, the promise of the Father was fulfilled, and the truth of the Gospel established. Considered as an evidence, the gift of the Spirit was decisive; but evidence is not enough, nor an inspired Bible, nor a faithful ministry. In every human heart there is a spirit of unbelief and enmity, and many a lofty imagination, which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; which is not overcome by any amount of evidence, or by the mere force of truth, and can only be subdued by the inward grace of the Spirit; and hence we learn that it belongs to his office, and forms a part of his blessed work, at all times, to ‘shine into our hearts,’ ‘to renew us in the spirit of our mind,’ ‘to quicken us into spiritual life,’ ‘to open our eyes,’ and ‘to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’

The direct personal operation of the Spirit on the soul of every convert is beautifully illustrated by the case of Lydia. It is said of her, that while she listened to the preaching of the Word, ‘the Lord opened her heart, so that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.’

1. In regard to her state and character before her conversion and baptism, the narrative, although extremely short, contains several intimations, which throw a very interesting light on her case, and that of a large class in our own time who resemble her in the chief points of their character. It is intimated that, like the Roman centurion and the Ethiopian treasurer, she was a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and a believer in the one only, the living and the true God. By birth a Gentile, and a native of Thyatira, she had come to Philippi as a seller of purple; and although a stranger, she maintained in the city of her adoption, and amidst the idolatries, which prevailed in it, a devout attachment to her religion, and continued in the worship of God. It is also intimated, I think, with sufficient clearness, that she was really devout, and imbued with a spirit of prayer; for not only did she observe the Sabbath, in conformity with the law of Moses, but, when probably no other opportunity was afforded of attending the ordinances of public worship, in a city where both the magistrates and the multitude seem to have been easily excited against any innovation in their public customs, she ‘went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made.’ It is deeply interesting to mark, that, at the time of her conversion, this devout woman was attending a prayer meeting, in the open air, by the water side, along with a few other women who were in the habit, it would seem, of assembling together for this purpose, for it is said that ‘they resorted thither;’ and it is not less interesting to notice, that Paul and his companions did not reckon it beneath them to join that humble meeting, but, on the contrary, leaving the noise and tumult of the city, they sought out the little band of praying women, and sat down beside them, and spake to them the word of life. And while they were thus engaged in prayer and conference, ‘the Lord opened the heart of Lydia,’ a striking proof of the immediate efficacy of prayer. Without prayer we have no reason to look for a blessing. God may, indeed, and sometimes does surprise a prayerless sinner: he is sometimes found of them that sought him not, as in the case of the gaoler in this same city; and then the first effect of his change will be the same that the Lord marked in the case of Paul, when he said, ‘Behold, he prayeth!’ But although this may happen in manifestation of God’s sovereignty and the riches of his undeserved mercy, there is no promise in the Bible except to prayer, and that promise is alike unlimited and sure: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.’ ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.’

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