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Lydia was the first believer from Paul’s Ministry in Europe. Lydia has the great distinction of being the first person in Europe to respond to Paul’s presentation of the gospel.
Paul met Lydia in the city of Philippi while he was on his second missionary journey. He had just sailed from the city of Troas in Asia Minor to the port city of Neapolis, which is near Philippi in Macedonia (northern Greece). There must not have been very many Jews in Philippi, because Paul did not go to a synagogue on the Sabbath as he usually did. Instead, he went to a nearby riverbank, where any Jews who did live there would likely have met for prayer.
There he found several women, including Lydia, a “worshiper of God,” which usually meant a Gentile convert to Judaism. She was actually from the city of Thyatira in Asia Minor and was likely wealthy, since she was a dealer in purple cloth. When Paul began to speak to the women about the gospel, Lydia responded, became a believer, and was baptized.
Later she invited Paul and his companions to stay with her family. Still later, after Paul and Silas were released from prison, they returned to Lydia’s house, encouraged the fledgling church that was started there, and then left to travel farther throughout Macedonia.
By the time of Paul, Philippi, while not large, was a significant Roman city—home to many retired Roman soldiers and granted exemption from most taxes.