What does 1 John 1:6 mean?
ESV: If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
NIV: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
NASB: If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
CSB: If we say, "We have fellowship with him," and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.
NLT: So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.
KJV: If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
NKJV: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Verse Commentary:
Verse 3 was John's first mention of fellowship, both between believers and with God. He picks up on this theme again here in verse 6. If God is light and has no darkness (1 John 1:5), then a believer cannot both walk with God and walk in darkness. To make this claim is a lie, both to one's self and to others.

This verse says that those who claim Christ, but show no signs of a changed life, are lying. This is typically interpreted as a reference to "false converts," or those who do not, in fact, have saving faith. It's important to note that the Bible never commissions Christians as "salvation police," or encourages judgment of another person's salvation. Those who show no change in life may give little evidence that they are true believers, but this is ultimately only something God can know (1 Samuel 16:7).

Though a changed life is the normal, expected condition of a Christian believer, the immediate context of verse 6 is clearly focused on Christians. Accepting Christ does not automatically make a person sinless, or incapable of sin. Nor does it guarantee a close walk with God. Here, in particular, self-professed believers are called out for attempting to walk with God while living in sin. If we are truly walking with God, we will live consistently with our beliefs, offering evidence of a life changed by God.

Even saved believers have a choice whether or not to walk with God in the light, or apart from Him in the darkness. Choosing to sin does not remove our salvation, but it will destroy our fellowship with God. Sin still has consequences, even for those who possess eternal life. A major goal of the Christian life is close fellowship with other believers and with the Lord. This requires walking in the light (obedience) rather than darkness (disobedience).
Verse Context:
First John 1:5–10 opens the main topic of John’s letter. God is entirely goodness and truth, and those who follow God cannot also follow evil and falsehood. John offers a pattern of “if” statements, comparing each to the truth. In particular, John mentions those who claim to be entirely free from sin, or to have never sinned. Such a belief is literally the opposite of the gospel. No person is sinless other than Jesus Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 1 re-states the fact that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. John confirms that he has personally seen and heard the things he is teaching. God’s truth is presented as “light,” while false teachings are presented as “darkness.” Those who hold to the truth are saved from sin; those who claim to have no sin at all are self-deceived.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 sets the stage for the rest of John’s letter. The concepts of truth vs. falsehood, light vs. darkness, and rightness vs. self-deception are explored in more detail later on. By claiming to be an eyewitness, and marking the difference between God’s truth and error, Chapter 1 gives a sense of how serious this subject is. In fact, the distinction between truth and error is a primary marker used for spiritual self-reflection.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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