One of the seven cities of the Roman province of Asia Minor, Thyatira was situated in a valley with no natural fortifications.
Lydia, mentioned in Acts, was from Thyatira.
And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 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. Acts 16: 13,14
Thyatira was specially noted for the trade guilds which were possibly more completely organized there than of the other ancient cities. Every artisan belonged to a guild, and every guild, which was an incorporated organization, possessed property, made contracts, and wielded a wide influence. Each guild had its own ‘god’ and feasts were held to honour that god. All guild members were required to attend.
This posed several problems for Christian artisans…
You shall have no other gods before Me Exodus 20: 3
To belong to a guild, meant breaking the first commandment.
Not belonging to a guild meant not being allowed to practice a trade.
Was that why Lydia was in Philippi?
In Thyatira, there were guilds for carpenters, dyers, tanners, weavers, silversmiths, sellers of goods, tent-makers, coppersmiths and potters… it did not leave many options for the members of the early church whereby they could earn a living.
Yet there was another problem for the Christians.
Belonging to a guild meant they had to attend the feast or banquet… but this was followed by a feast of sexual immorality.
And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you form the peoples, that you should be Mine. Lev 20: 26
God did not change His mind between the Old Testament and New Testament.
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 1Pet 1:15
In recent parlance, the brethren in Thyatira were ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Yet some chose to keep their calling pure, and found ways to support themselves and their families, without joining the very powerful guilds.
When I researched all this for the Apostle John series of books, I was awed by how many pressures those brethren had to stand fast against.
Are we ‘soft’ in our age?
What do we ‘accept’ in order to obtain or keep a job?
These are questions I found myself asking myself as I worked through all that our early Christian forefathers endured. Yet many of them, perhaps most of them, were faithful. We still have the ‘faith once delivered’.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. Jude 1: 3 NIV
So, we leave the ancient brethren in Thyatira, and are presented with some ponderings.