16:1-16 Paul recommends Phebe to the Christians at Rome. It becomes Christians to help one another in their affairs, especially strangers; we know not what help we may need ourselves. Paul asks help for one that had been helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Though the care of all the churches came upon him daily, yet he could remember many persons, and send salutations to each, with particular characters of them, and express concern for them. Lest any should feel themselves hurt, as if Paul had forgotten them, he sends his remembrances to the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named. He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ.
5. Likewise the church that is in their house—The Christian assembly that statedly met there for worship. "From his occupation as tent-maker, he had probably better accommodations for the meetings of the church than most other Christians" [Hodge]. Probably this devoted couple had written to the apostle such an account of the stated meetings at their house, as made him feel at home with them, and include them in this salutation, which doubtless would be read at their meetings with peculiar interest.
Salute my well beloved Epænetus, who is the first-fruits—that is, the first convert
of Achaia unto Christ—The true reading here, as appears by the manuscripts, is, "the first-fruits of Asia unto Christ"—that is, Proconsular Asia (see Ac 16:6). In 1Co 16:15 it is said that "the household of Stephanas was the first-fruit of Achaia"; and though if Epænetus was one of that family, the two statements might be reconciled according to the received text, there is no need to resort to this supposition, as that text is in this instance without authority. Epænetus, as the first believer in that region called Proconsular Asia, was dear to the apostle. (See Ho 9:10; Mic 7:1). None of the names mentioned from Ro 16:5-15 are otherwise known. One wonders at the number of them, considering that the writer had never been at Rome. But as Rome was then the center of the civilized world, to and from which journeys were continually taken to the remotest parts, there is no great difficulty in supposing that so active a travelling missionary as Paul would, in course of time, make the acquaintance of a considerable number of the Christians then residing at Rome.