St Paul makes a clear distinction between soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma) in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. What does this distinction mean? Are they separated realities in men?
Re: St Paul's distinction between soul and spirit
The understanding that I have received is that all living things have a soul, and in man -- the ultimate animating/forming principle is the spiritual soul. Notice in the passage that Paul is saying that the "whole" is body - soul - and spirit. He is not dividing these things, but saying they are a unity regardless of how his audience accounts the parts.
A distinction is made, however, here:
"Hebre 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The comparison shows that the distinction is of a very subtle nature -- one might even say that they are aspects of the same thing. eg:joints and Marrow, the outside of the bone is the joint -- the inside is the marrow. eg:thoughts and intents -- an intent is a thought held and pursued, but a thought may or not be held firmly on its own.
I don't think they are separate "realities" but rather distinctions in the quality of a particular reality or another. Definitely Marrow is not "separate" from the bone -- but is the very thing which the bone grows from as intentions grow from thoughts.
The distinction is only with respect to the quality and or its persona, (likeness/analogy) being thought of. So, inasmuch as we call them different "qualities" they are different "things" -- but this is a distinction based on how we as humans categorize things by outward appearances.
A plant and animal can be said to have a "soul". An animal can be said to have a mortal soul giving a physical life force, by the breath of God. A human being, however, has an additional quality to his life principle ("the spirit") which animals do not have, without Devine intervention.
One can speak of the "soul" of man, by which one may only mean that which is mortal, or the breath (the soul life force) of man which is also mortal. These are the physical breath and animating principles of the body. (eg: since the human "seed" leaves the man's body and yet is still "alive" for a time, it can be said to have a "soul", but until it truly becomes a viable seed -- that is, it becomes fused in the conception of a child, there is no life until the joining of the seed of the woman (ovum) and the seed of the man sperm. Then the process of life begins.
Another idea which might help is the theme of the book of Ezekiel -- and the valley of "dry" (empty of soul/blood) bones. Ezekiel speaks of them being sewn back together, and yet not having a spirit -- which he sees as an additional factor to the physical substance of the bones and sinews, etc.
This being in my estimation and hearing with understanding, is what is being said by the separation of soul and spirit and even the bones and marrow. If before Christ became my spirit, I
Had the spirit of my father the devil, which ruled my soul and was dead to God because my Father Adam believed a lie and believing Satan, died to the Spirit of God, "the tree of life".
What happened when I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the spirit of Satan was out and the Spirit of Christ came in of which if I don't have I am "none of His". I was crucified with Christ and yet I live. Now it is not longer I who live But Christ who live in me. How was the exchange of Spirits accomplished if the soul and spirit are not separate but One. Now comes the Oneness of the Christ in me, "but Christ who lives in me, not soulish, but Spiritually, who not I am to consider myself one with Christ. For now I have the mind of Christ, which I attained by the Spirit of Christ in me. So, it no longer I who live but Christ who liveth in me, and "the life I now live I live by the Faith Son of God.
This is the reason I proclaim Body, Soul and Spirit, only separating them to attain the Oneness God intended before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
This proclaims ROM 7, separated by sin and but claimed again and set free in Christ. The epitome of this freedom completed in ROM 8.
This is outside of Gnosticism, leaving the Spirit, Soul and Body to deal with as God see's fit. Christ, whose Spirit is now our Spirit.
Ro 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Ro 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Ro 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
And also the Holy Spirit:
Ro 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.
We are His Temple.
In Christ: Phillip