by Matt Slick
Yes, angels have free will. But, in order to answer the question more fully, we must first define what free will is. Without getting too philosophical, free will is the ability to make choices that are not forced and that are consistent with one's nature.
Some people think that free will means the ability to make any choice whatsoever. But that's not the case. We are only free to choose to do what we are able to choose to do. For example, I can want to fly to the moon by flapping my arms, but it won't happen. Also, a person cannot choose something of which he is not aware. But, basically, to have free will means that a person is aware of options, to some degree, and freely chooses between them.
In the case of God, he is holy and he can only choose to do that which is good. He cannot choose to sin. This is why we need to say that free will must be consistent with our nature; otherwise, we would not have a proper definition of free will that would also include God. And, without God being the standard of truth, we would be adopting a form of humanism. We should not define free will by human ability, but by God's. After all, we are made in his image (Genesis 1:26-28).
Good and bad angels
Nevertheless, angels have free will. They have the ability to make free choices that are not coerced. There are good angels, and there are bad angels. The good angels serve God, and the bad angels serve the devil. Good angels can make good choices, but they cannot make bad choices. Bad angels can make bad choices, but they cannot make good choices. Let me explain.
1 Timothy 5:21, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality."
As we can see from the above Scripture, there are chosen angels. The Greek word for "chosen" is ἐκλεκτός, eklektos. It means "to choose, choice, that which has been chosen."1 So, apparently, God has chosen certain angels not to fall. Now, we don't know how God's choosing them affected their natures. We are not told in Scripture. But since free will emanates from the nature of a person (angels have personhood), then free will can only happen in a manner consistent with what a person is.
So, good angels apparently either cannot sin anymore or have the ability to choose to never sin. This must be the case because the chosen angels were chosen by God for a purpose.
Angels have free will. But, their free will is consistent with their natures. Good angels will freely choose to do good. Bad angels will freely choose to do bad.
- 1. Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.