Setting sail therefore from Tro'as, we made straight for Sam'othrace, and on the next day to Ne-ap'olis. From there we went to Philip'pi, the leading city of the district of Macedo'nia, a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; and on the sabbath day we ventured outside the gate to the riverside, where we anticipated a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered. A woman named Lydia was one of those who had heard us, from the city of Thyati'ra, a seller of purple goods, and she was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to attend to what Paul had to say. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she earnestly supported us.
As the story unfolds things fall into place. Luke has witnessed how the church began in Macedonia. It seems that Philippi and Thyatira were different places along a trade route from Macedonia reaching deep into the province of Asia. Asia was where the Holy Spirit had prevented Paul's party from travelling earlier on. But now, having "come over to Macedonia", the party witnesses the conversion and baptism of a wealthy business woman and her household. The convert's name was Lydia. She was from Thyatira.
Thyatira became one of the seven churches mentioned in the Revelation of John (Rev 2:18-29). To get there from Philippi you had to go to the port city of Neopolis and travel by sea to Troas. You would then retrace the path that Paul and his company had just recently trod.
Earlier I said that Luke has written his story on the pattern of Jesus' sower parable. This can be shown again and again throughout this book. The word gets broadcast in all directions. But some falls on soil that has been prepared by God's Spirit. Lydia is part of that harvest. Lydia's business was the dye trade which meant she sold garments and other material dyed purple. People live in God's world with a variety of responsibilities. They have marriages, families, households and workplaces. They have friends, buy from various shops in the market-place, play games with a local netball team and eat at a favourite restaurant. God's Kingdom comes in all these kinds of relationships. From within such social relationships the gospel is sown, and broadcast all over.
Philippi was the destination of Paul's letter to the Philippians. A strong church grew there. As we read this passage, two thousand years later, we get a sense of the geography of the mission as it was known to the Philippians. People always have to understand where they were in relation to other places. And people do not usually stay in one place all their lives. But if you were sitting there listening to Luke tell the story just after he wrote it, you would want to know where these places were in relation to your own home. It is good to read this part of the Bible with an atlas close at hand.