Peter's spiritual state
Were the disciples regenerate? Oddly it doesn't appear they were. It doesn't appear so, though they are said to "believe in Jesus":
Joh_2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
But they did not yet seem to believe that Jesus would be resurrected:
Joh_2:22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples
remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the
scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
In fact, Peter had denied Jesus:
Luk 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter
remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the
cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
So Peter had failed the test of faith:
Luk_12:9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the
angels of God.
But Jesus had spoken of a day, future to his denial when Peter would be "converted":
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and
when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And Peter testifies that it was not until Jesus was resurrected that he became converted:
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a
living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
At that time Jesus breathed into them the holy breath:
Joh 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his
side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Joh 20:21
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent
me, even so I am sending you." Joh 20:22 And when he had said this,
he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
So hopefully we can glean from this that Peter's denial of Jesus "didn't count" because he was not yet converted. Like Paul's behavior:
1Ti_1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and
injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in
However, had Peter been converted he would have been disqualified from "the kingdom of God":
Luk 9:62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and
looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
So an unregenerate Peter denies the lord, believes with "saving faith" and is forgiven, sets his hand back to the plow and (presumably) never looks back again.
Prayer in Gethsemane
So in the midst of this drama Jesus is in a garden interacting with three of his disciples, including Peter. He tells them to pray for themselves to be :
Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the
spirit [breath] indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I take this to mean:
"Pray that you will not cave when tested; talk is cheap but pain (and
the fear thereof) is a different story because the flesh is vulnerable
I find this usage of "vulnerable" being echoed here:
1Pe 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding
way [in an informed way], showing honor to the woman as the weaker
[more vulnerable] vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace
of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered [truncated].
So the disciples, overconfident, fail to apply to God and fall asleep, unprepared for testing.
So there is no "spirit" in view, only the overconfident protestations that escaped like a vapor from Peter's prayerless lips. His "breath" was heroic but his behavior cowardly because of the influence of the fear of pain and death.
The whole concept that Peter might have a "human spirit" is bogus. There is no such thing. According to Moses, man is composed of flesh (the body, from the dirt) and "breath". I recently explained how Substance Dualism became an unimpeachable fixture of Christianity despite its origin in Greek philosophy, scientifically untenable propositions and the testimony of the scriptures. The translation "spirit" in this OP is a symptom of that disease.
What if Peter had been converted when he denied the lord?
So Peter denied the lord in ignorance and was given the charge to place his hands back on the plow of the kingdom. But what if he had been converted? Would he have had a second chance? Many sermons try to comfort the unfaithful by using the example of Peter of "grace". But what does Peter say?
Peter speaks of "the trial of one's faith":
1Pe 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if
necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 1Pe 1:7 so that
the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that
perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise
and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1Pe 1:8
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see
him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and
filled with glory, 1Pe 1:9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the
salvation of your souls.
From this we get the colloquialism "trial" as in "I'm going through a trial" or "a trying situation". The popular idea is that a "trial" is a "difficult time". But in actuality, a "trial" is an "ordeal". In the ancient world an "ordeal" was a legal process. If you survived the ordeal you were deemed to be vindicated by the gods but if you died, well then you were guilty. For more info, see here:
So for Peter, the "trial by fire" was not just a difficult situation but one designed to separate the gold from the dross. That is, God arranges situations where all the talk ("breath") that is being spouted by people claiming to be faithful to God is put to the test and those who "endure to the end" are saved while those who fail are rejected. Here's a famous example:
Gen 22:1 Sometime later, God tested Abraham. He called out to him,
"Abraham!" "Here I am!" he answered. Gen 22:2 God said, "Please take
your son, your only unique son whom you love—Isaac—and go to the land
of Moriah. Offer him as a burnt offering there on one of the mountains
that I will point out to you."
The purpose of this was forensic. That is, since God can't read a person's mind (more on that later) God had devised a test to reveal Abraham's love for Yehovah, or lack thereof. At the end, God says:
Gen 22:12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to
him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld
your son, your only son, from me."
That this decided the validity of Abraham's faith is mentioned by James:
Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Jas 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? Jas 2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; Jas 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
David welcomed these trials, as James had suggested:
Jas 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of
Psa_7:9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but
establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
Psa 17:1 A Prayer of David. Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my
cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! Psa 17:2 From
your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!
Psa 17:3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. Psa 17:4 With regard to the works
of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the
violent. Psa 17:5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet
have not slipped.
Psa_26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
Psa_139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
So David had passed the tests, proved faithful and he welcomes God's vindication.
Jeremiah knew of this:
Jer_11:20 But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.
Jer 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
Jer_20:12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.
And so on. It is vain to think that one can fail the trial and yet be vindicated with salvation.
1Ki 20:11 The king of Israel answered, "The saying goes, 'Don't brag about a victory before you have even dressed for battle.'"