Lyman Stewart was born in 1840 in Pennsylvania. Growing up, he learned the tanning trade from his father, who wanted Lyman to eventually take over the family business. Lyman, however, wanted to be a missionary. He was raised in a God-fearing home that helped to equip him for his ministry to follow.
In 1859, 4 months after the 1st oil well (Drake Well) was drilled in the United States — Lyman invested his savings of $100 to participate in the oil business. He lost that $100. After this, Lyman spent 3 years in the Civil War before resuming his work in the oil field.
In 1883, at the age of 43, he moved his family across the country to California. Then, in 1890, Union Oil Co. was founded through the merging of three companies. Lyman served as the President of Union Oil from 1894-1914. His deep faith and conviction was felt by all who knew him. He deeply cared for his employees — he was highly respected. In fact, it is said that men in the oil fields respected him to such an extent that they would not dare use any foul language when he was around.
He cared for the souls of others and treated them with fairness, gentleness and dignity. He sought with all his heart to live a life that was never hypocritical. He was called an "Ambassador of God." From his youth, he loved the Lord and believed in the teachings of the scriptures. He longed to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and used his fortune to do that. His service to humanity was always in the forefront of his life. When he heard of a need for Bibles in the Philippines, he contacted someone that he could work with to help remedy this problem, and Lyman paid for them and made sure they got there. He felt God's word was so important for all people (not just trained pastors) to know and understand.
His desire and goal for the Bible Institute of Los Angeles were as follows:
• Training men and women to know and use the Bible in service to the Lord — no matter what field of work they went into;
• Engaging in evangelism in areas of the world that hadn't heard the gospel (i.e. Hunan Bible Institute; Bibles in the Philippines and other countries that were without scriptures).
In 1909, he and his brother Milton, invested $300,000 to publish the Fundamentals, a 12 volume set of books that were articles written by leading theologians who wrote on the basic principles of the faith. These volumes were then given away to ministers, missionaries, Christian workers and seekers of the truth. Lyman and Milton felt that "modernism" was creeping into the church and it was critical that Christian leaders had a copy of the "Fundamentals" to preserve the sanctity of the Christian faith.
The last paragraph of Lyman's "Last Will and Testament" says this: It is my earnest desire that my children and grandchildren shall, according to their several ability, support and protect the work of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, first however accepting as their personal Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed us all with His own precious blood."
R.A. Torrey said of Lyman at his death, "One of the greatest Christians I have ever known — a combination of strength and achievement on one hand and gentleness and humility on the other."