How did God open Lydia’s heart? Was it through Paul or some other means?
It is only because of God’s love, not ours, that we were saved (Rom 5:7-8). This leaves no room for us to brag about it (1 Cor 4:7). Only God can change a person’s heart to whichever way He pleases (Prov 21:1), so when the Scriptures says that “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart,” this means that she could not have opened her own heart to receive the gospel. It had to be an act of God, and it was. Those who are walking according to the course of this world are as good as dead, and can only be quickened by God’s Spirit (Eph 2:1-6), so it wasn’t Paul’s apologetics or powerful persuasion that made Lydia believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The verse I refer to is in Acts 16:14 where it says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Paul didn’t convert Lydia. God did, but God did use Paul as a means to do so, and He can use you too! God opened her heart…but she paid attention to what Paul said. It’s highly likely that Paul used Scripture to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of God. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44), and the fact that Jesus said, “no one can,” leaves no room for exceptions. To think that we could come to God on our own is like expecting Lazarus to cooperate in Jesus resurrecting him. Unless God calls and regenerates someone by His Spirit, and through His Word; and unless God grants them repentance (Acts 5:31, 11:18, 16:14, 2 Tim 2:24-26), no one at all can come to the Father. That’s only possible through Jesus Christ and Him alone (Acts 4:12).
Scriptures often mention that someone or a group of people were appointed unto salvation. That sounds very much like the work of a sovereign God; one Who can bring to pass whatsoever He wills. The effect of Paul’s preaching the Word of God was that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). God saved them, but He used His Word and His preacher as a means to do so, so who is it that will be saved? Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Did Jesus believe in the eternal security of the believer? It sure sounds like it (John 3:16-17, 3:36). He said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). It was the Father who called us and Christ Who redeemed us (Mark 10:45), so it is “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). God’s Word assures us that we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13b-14), and what God has sealed, no one can break. Ask yourself, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect,” and then answer it yourself: “It is God who justifies” (Rom 8:33). The bottom line is “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
When the Spirit of God quickens us to eternal life in Jesus Christ, we finally see that there is only one way into the kingdom (Acts 4:12), and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). You cannot enter the kingdom any other way. Jesus said He is “the” way, not one of many ways, or just another way. Even though that strikes many as being narrow, remember the road that leads to salvation is narrow. The Lord said that we must “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-14). Even though the way is narrow and difficult, at least there is a way. God could have decided to leave no way at all! A few years ago at a family reunion, I wanted to drive by and look at my uncle’s old farm, but I couldn’t remember how to get there. There was only one person available that new how to get there. He was the only way I could get to the farm for sure, so in similar fashion, Jesus is the one and only way to the Father…and the only One Who can bring us into the kingdom. There is no other way, but at least there is a way.
It takes the Spirit of God and the Word of God shared by a person of God to make the children of God for the glory of God. In other words, it is all about God, and never about us (Psalm 115:1). God can and does use people as a means to save, but it doesn’t depend upon us. It is not their response to our ability, but their response to His ability, but it is our responsibility to tell them. God alone saves, but what joy to be involved in the salvation of a precious soul. I pray you have repented of your sins and turned to Christ, and have opened your heart to the truth (Rom 10:9-13).