EPAENETUS ĭ pe’ nə təs (̓Επαίνετος, G2045, praised). A Christian affectionately greeted (Rom 16:5) as “the first convert in Asia for Christ.”
“My beloved” indicates Paul’s warm affection for Epaenetus; “the first fruits of Asia” (ASV) marks his special distinction as the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. The TR reading “of Achaia” is poorly attested; this wrong reading was prob. derived from 1 Corinthians 16:15. Such senior Christians naturally assumed positions of leadership in the Church. That Epaenetus was an accepted leader is implied in Paul’s mention of him immediately after Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila.
It is not stated that Epaenetus was the personal convert of Paul. He may have been won by Priscilla and Aquila before Paul returned to Ephesus (Acts 18:27).
This mention of Epaenetus has been used to support the claim of an Ephesian destination for Romans 16. But the mention of more than twenty others with no known Ephesian connections blunts the claim.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
One of the Christians at Rome to whom greetings are sent by Paul (Ro 16:5). All that is known of him is told here. Paul describes him as
(1) "my beloved,"
(2) "who is the firstfruits of Asia unto Christ."
Textus Receptus of the New Testament has "firstfruits of Achaia" but this wrong reading is due to 1Co 16:15. He was one of the first Christians in the Roman province of Asia.
This salutation brings up the question of the destination of Ro 16:3-16, for it is argued that they are addressed to the church in Ephesus owing to the fact that Prisca and Aquila and Epenetus are known to have dwelt in Asia. On the other hand, there are more than 20 others in this list who are not known to have spent any time in Asia. Prisca and Aquila had once dwelt in Rome (Ac 18:2), and there is nothing unusual in an Ephesian dwelling in the capital of the empire. An interesting discovery was made in Rome of an inscription in which was the name of Epenetus, an Ephesian.