How Does the Lord Open the Heart?

QUESTION: “Please explain Acts 16:14. What does the Bible mean when it says, ‘…The Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart…?’ By what means did He accomplish this? Does He open our hearts in the same way today?”
ANSWER: The passage reads, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Several observations are in order. Note:
1. The term “heart” is used here in a figurative sense and refers to Lydia’s intellect. Scripture teaches that when a person engages his or her heart, he/she “thinks” (Matthew 9:4; Hebrews 4:12), “understands” (Matthew 13:15), “reasons” (Mark 2:6), “perceives” (John 12:40 NAS), and/or believes (Romans 10:10). Thus, when Luke through inspiration recorded that Lydia’s heart/intellect was “opened,” he simply meant that she had come to a comprehension and acceptance of Paul’s message (cf. Luke 24:45; Acts 26:18); she had been receptive to the Gospel (v. 15; cf. Acts 8:6,12; Hebrews 12:1,2). Compare Ephesians 1:18, “The eyes of your understanding (heart?NIV) being enlightened…”
2. The Lord opened Lydia’s intellect by means of his Truth (Romans 16; 1 Corinthians 15:1,2; James 1:12). Truth removed all obstacles which would have prevented Lydia from accepting the good news about Jesus being the Messiah. All wrong ideas were removed so she could believe (Jerry Moffitt, “Acts,” Moffit’s Bible Commentary?the New Testament, Vol. I, 180). Likewise, the Lord opens our hearts (Luke 8:15) through the very same agency (2 Thessalonians 2:13,14; Psalm 119:104,105,130, Psalm 19:7a) today (John 6:63; 8:31,32).
3. Lydia’s heart would have been considered closed had she refused to hear and obey. Compare 2 Corinthians 3:15, “But even to this day, when [the law of] Moses is read, a veil [covering?ERV] lies on their heart.” As one author notes:
“The statement that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart implies that previously her heart was in some way closed. It was certainly not closed by the hardness of a sinful life, or by inherited depravity; for such a supposition is forbidden by the steadfastness with which, under great temptation, she had previously clung to the worship of God. It was closed in the sense in which the pious and earnest heart of a Jewish worshiper might be closed. Every Jew, and every Jewish proselyte, was at that time so wedded to the belief that the coming Christ would establish an earthly kingdom, as to have the heart very tightly closed against the conception of a crucified Christ, whose reign as a king is purely spiritual. It was this that had caused the mass of the Jews to reject the Christ while he was still on earth, and it continued to be their “stumbling block” (John 5:44; 1 Corinthians 1:23). Whether Lydia was a Jewess or a proselyte, this was “the hope of Israel” in which she had been instructed, and for which she had been taught to devoutly pray; and if the natural effect of it had not been removed from her heart, she must have rejected the gospel, as did the mass of those who had been her teachers. The statement then that the Lord “opened her heart” means that he removed this mistaken conception [through the Truth?mb] which would have prevented her from receiving the Christ” (J.W. McGarvey, “Acts xvi. 13-15,” New Commentary on ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, 90- 91).

2 Replies to “How Does the Lord Open the Heart?”

  1. This was a very good article and well thought out answer to a question often asked today. This makes a great sermon outline for those preachers looking for a sermon nugget! Great job Mike!

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