11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
The author (Luke?) now sets sail with Paul, Silas, and Timothy – perhaps there were others along – from Troas. They sail across the Aegean Sea at the northern end, coming to Neapolis. From there, they make there way down to Philippi, a leading city of the region. They had always gone first to the synagogues to preach the message of the Lord, and from there had gone out to also preach to the Gentiles. But in Philippi, they do not find a synagogue. They hear, however, that there is a place of prayer beside the river, and go down there. There they find, not a “minion” of Jews (adult Jewish males), but a group of women gathered. The leader of these women was a business-woman named Lydia, a “worshiper of God”. She came from the region of Troas, and was a dealer in purple cloth. Purple dye in those days was made from the shells of a murex snail, found in the region of Tyre and Phoenicia. Cloth dyed purple was a luxury item, used by royalty and the very wealthy. Lydia, apparently, made a good living for herself and her household from her business, as she was clearly the head of her household and owned a home large enough to house this group of disciples, as indeed, they all went home with her.
Lydia was also a believer in God – a “God-Fearer” as the Gentile believers were called. She had gathered the women there beside the river to pray together. When she heard the message brought by Paul and the other disciples, she believed, and her whole household was baptized. Notice throughout Acts, that when the head of a household believes in Christ, the entire family is baptized, including children – this was true earlier of Cornelius and his household on hearing the message from Peter, and it will be true of the next story as well.
Another thing to note here, Lydia was the leader of the little group of God-Fearers in Philippi, and she would be the leader of the house church that would form and meet in her home. Regardless of what Paul may say in a couple of places in his letters, his actions towards women were always to recognize leaders and encourage them just as he did male disciples.