Rebuke - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Rebukeepitimao (G2008) Rebuke
elencho (G1651) Convict
aitia (G156) Accusation
elenchos (G1650) Reproof
One may "rebuke" a person without convicting that person of any fault. In such a case either there isno fault (and so the rebuke is unnecessary or unjust), or although there is fault, the rebuke does not cause the offender to admit it. Thus the distinction between epitimao and elencho lies in the possibility of "rebuking" for sin without "convincing" of sin.
Epitimao connotes rebuking and can be used to refer to the unjust checking or blaming of another. In this sense Peter "began to rebuke" his Lord (erxato epitiman,Matt. 16:22; cf. 19:13; Luke 18:39). Epitimao also may refer to ineffectual blamewhen the person rebuked fails to see his sinas in the case of the penitent robber who "rebuked" (epetimon) his fellow malefactor (Luke 23:40; cf. Mark 9:25).
Elencho, however, is a much more pregnant word. It means to rebuke another with the truth so that the person confesses, or at least is convicted, of his sin (Job 5:17; Prov. 19:25).
The difference between epitimao and elencho can shed a great deal of light on many New Testament passages and give them a deeper meaning. Thus our Lord could demand, "Which of you convicts [elenchei] Me of sin?" (John 8:46). Many "rebuked" him and charged him with sin (Matt. 9:3; John 9:16), but none convinced or convicted him that he was sinful. This meaning of elenchein also illuminates John 3:20; 8:9; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; and Hebrews 12:5. Perhaps the most important passage to consider, however, is John 16:8: "When He [the Comforter] has come, He will convictthe world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." To translate elencheihere as "approve" (KJV), following the Latin arguet, fails to express the depth and full meaning of the Holy Spirit's work. John 16:8 may properly be paraphrased as follows: "He who shall come in my place shall so bring home to the world its own 'sin,' my perfect 'righteousness,' God's coming 'judgment,' and shall so 'convince' the world of these that it shall be obliged itself to acknowledge them, and in this acknowledgment may find [shall be in the right way to find] its own blessedness and salvation."
There is a similar difference in meaning between aitia and elenchos.
Aitia refers to an accusation that may be true or false. It is a term that was used in an accusation made against the Lord of glory himself (Matt. 27:37).
elenchos, however, refers to an accusation that is true, and often implies an inward or outward acknowledgment of that truthfulness on the part of the accused. Thus elenchos represents the glorious prerogative of the truth in its highest operation, not merely to silence its adversary but to convince him of his error. Therefore Job said of God: Aletheia (G225) kai elenchos par' autou("Truth and proof are from Him," 23:7). Demosthenes said: "Very often both reproach and accusation are distinguished from refutation; for it is accusation when one employs a mere statement without furnishing credence in what he says; it is refutation when one at the same time demonstrates the truth of what he says."
The distinction we have drawn between "convict" and "convince" differentiates between the judicial and the moral uses of elenchos. But these two uses will be one in the last day when every condemned sinner will be both "convicted" and "convinced," as the phrase "he was speechless"a reference to the guest whom the king found without a marriage garmentimplies (Matt. 22:12; cf. Rom. 3:4).