Sunday: Romans 16:5
v5 (continued): The first name Paul mentions in Epaenetus whom he calls my beloved and then designates him as a first-fruit of Asia for Christ. By first-fruit Paul is referring to the first ceremonial cutting of a crop which Israel was to offer to God as an act of worship acknowledging Him as their Source (Ex 23:14-19, 34:26, Nu 15:21; Ro 11:16; 1Co 16:15). Either Epaenetus was the first person converted or among the first group converted in Asia. At the time, Asia was a province covering what is today much of western Turkey (Ac 27:2; Rev 1:4), but when Paul uses the term Asia he particular seems to mean Ephesus which was the regions central city (Ac 16:6; 19:22, 26; 20:16, 18; 1Co 16:19; 2Co 1:8, 2Ti 1:15-18), and a place where he ministered for three years (Ac 19:10; 20:31).
Monday: Romans 16:5
v5 (continued): Epaenetus is not mentioned by name in the Book of Acts, but Luke records an interesting encounter Paul had with 12 men in that city (Ac 18:18-22; 19:1-7). Apparently this group of disciples had been brought to repentance by an Alexandrian Jew named Apollos (Ac 18:24-28) who came to Ephesus prior to Pauls arrival. The message he preached was John the Baptists baptism of repentance which was intended to prepare people to face the righteous judgement that the soon-coming Messiah would bring (Ac 18:25; 19:3, 4; Mt 3:1-12). It appears Apollos did not fully understand the cross and resurrection, nor the righteousness of faith.
Tuesday: Romans 16:5
v5 (continued): These men had been discipled by him before Priscilla and Aquila had filled in what was lacking in his knowledge about Jesus and the gospel (Ac 18:26-28). So they had not yet trusted in the name of the Lord Jesus (Ac 19:5), nor had they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Ac 19:2). When Paul encountered them he told them about Jesus, baptized them in water, and then laid his hands on them for the Holy Spirit to come upon them in power (Ac 19:4-6), much like the Jerusalem apostles did with Philips disciples in Samaria (Ac 8:14-17). Paul may have thought of this group as Asias first-fruits, though we have no way of knowing for sure. If so, his reference to Epaentus tells us he was one of those 12.
Wednesday: Romans 16:6, 7
v6: Paul goes on greeting those he knew who attended the church in Priscilla and Aquilas home. To each name he adds some type of brief commendation. He greets a Jewish woman named Mary and says she labored much for the church in Rome. He honors the hard work she had done while ministering for the Lord in that city. The same word he applies to her he uses elsewhere to describe his own efforts (1Co 15:10). v7: Andronicus and Junias are likely husband and wife, and by calling them his kinsmen he means they are Jews. He adds that they were highly regarded as apostles, which doesnt put them in the same company as the apostles Jesus appointed, but it does mean they had been officially sent out as missionaries, probably by the church in Jerusalem, to evangelize and form new congregations. Paul calls them my fellow captives indicating that at some time in the past they had all been in jail together. Since Paul had been in many jails (2Co 6:5; 11:2-3) there is no way to know which one. Then finally, he honors the fact that these two came to Christ before he did, which means sometime between Pentecost (Ac 2) and his conversion (Ac 9) three years later.
Thursday: Romans 16:8, 9
v8: Ampliatus is a common Roman name, and someone by that name is buried in one of the oldest Christian graveyards in Rome (catacombs), one which was in use by the end of the first century (F.F. Bucco, Romans, Tyndale N.T. Commentaries, p. 276, 1963). The ornate carving on that grave shows that the person buried there was highly regarded by the Christian community. Apparently, Paul was not the only one who loved Amplicatus. v9: The name Urbanus means someone who belongs to the city (urban). It was a common Roman name, often held by slaves (W. Robertson Nicoll, Romans, The Expositors Greek Testament, Eerdmands, Vol. 2, p. 720, reprint 1983). Paul calls him a fellow-worker meaning he was actively engaged in preaching Christ and caring for believers. Stachys is a Greek name meaning ear of grain. It was not common, but there are a few reverences to people by that name among the imperial household of that time (W. Robertson Nicoll, Ibid). Again, whoever this person is, he was dearly loved by Paul.
Friday: Romans 16:10
v10: Paul calls Apelles the approved in Christ meaning that in some way he had suffered for his faith but had withstood the test. It could have been physical persecution, severe temptation or even an assault by teachers of false doctrine (1Co 11:19; 2Co 10:18; 2Ti 2:15; Jas 1:12). Whatever the cause, Apelles had stood firm in Christ. Paul next greets a group of people he calls those belonging to the household of Aristobulus. He may be referring to the believing members of a particular family, but it is also possible that he is referring to believers who were slaves in a household which originally belonged to the grandson of Herod the Great. Aristobulus had gone to Rome to be educated and apparently had died there. Since he became a friend of the emperor Claudius before his death, his slaves were transferred to the emperors household (Nicoll, Ibid). Paul may have addressed them as a group because they were too many believers to name, or by using a general reference he may have been protecting their identity.
Saturday: Romans 16:11
v11: The next person Paul greets is a Jew named Herodion. Coming right after his greeting of the household of Aristobulus (see above) the mention of someone named after Herod, further strengthens the idea that Aristobulus was Herods grandson. This mans name suggests that he also was in some way a member of Herods family. Its wonderful to see Jesus saving members of a household that had tried to kill Him and had brutally beaten Him (Mt 2:1-18; Lk 23:6-12). Pauls next greeting is to those belonging to the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Here is another situation like the household of Aristobulus. A wealthy freedman named Narcissus had been put to death by Neros mother several years before Paul wrote this letter. If this is the same Narcissus, then those slaves who belonged to him became the property of the emperor when he died (F.F. Bruce, Ibid. p. 273). Though severely abused by that society, the gospel was at work setting some of them free (1Co 7:22).