A Warning by Josef Urban
Jesse Morrell is an open air preacher and campus speaker who travels around the USA preaching everywhere. He writes somewhat extensively on theological subjects and operates under the banner of the ministry he founded, “Open Air Outreach”. His influences seem to span wide and far as he is constantly on the move and preaching his version of what he calls “the gospel”.
Yet, despite the outward appearance of zeal in evangelism and devotion to theological subjects, there is reason to have grave concern about this man and the ministry he leads. Not only has he employed unscriptural and cruel tactics of “shock and awe” preaching where crude statements are shouted in the open air in the hopes of offending people so that a heckler will rise up and yell and then a crowd will gather, and not only does he align himself with false evangelists who are known for their shockingly offensive and anti-biblical methods of ministry, but he believes and promotes a theology which denies the essential truths of the Gospel. In this short article, I’m going to briefly explain how Jesse’s theology is anti-biblical and denies the real Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Word of God.
I have already communicated with Jesse on numerous occasions pleading with him from God’s Word to recognize his error and to renounce the false doctrines he believes, and have communicated with him numerous times and even rebuked him sharply, all to no avail. Seeing that he won’t repent, and that his influence is still expanding, I am now releasing this as a public warning to all that this man, Jesse Morrell, is promoting doctrines of demons disguised as Christian dogma.
In this short article, I will briefly explain: (1) The essential Christian truths which Jesse denies, and (2) the absolute heresies which Jesse believes and promotes under the banner of Moral Government Theology. Then I will conclude with a short word of exhortation.
Also let me state that this is not meant to be an in-depth look at the scope and depth of Jesse’s theology and the ins and outs of all its error, or a thorough teaching on what is right theology, but just a brief overview of some of the fundamental errors held by this man. And this is not a personal vendetta against Jesse, but rather a public announcement released in love, looking forward to the possibility of Jesse’s repentance, and looking out for the precious souls who are potentially in danger of being deceived through his influence. Oh, dear soul, if you are in any way in contact with Jesse and subject yourself to his teachings, I ask you in the name of Christ, pray for the truth and search the Scriptures. Keep your eyes on Christ. So, as we continue, read this prayerfully, and measure all things to the Scriptures. Let us begin.
ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN TRUTHS DENIED BY JESSE MORRELL:
-The doctrine of God’s Omniscience: Simply stated and summarized, Jesse does not believe that God immutably knows the future, but that God just makes really good guesses. This is the result of exalting the free will of all “moral agents” to a Deified position, exalting free will even above God Himself. Therefore, Jesse thinks that even God has to submit to the free will of man, and doesn’t know what any man will choose to do before that man actually makes the choice and does it. Because of this, Jesse believes that God doesn’t know the future, but kind of just makes the best choices He can as He finds out what free moral agents decide. This is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the whole Bible! In Jesse’s theology, God Almighty has been stripped of His Omniscience! Yet the fact that God knows the future and declares it immutably is one of the glorious attributes of His character that distinguishes Him from false pagan gods and from every other being in creation:
Isaiah 42:9 – “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Isaiah 46:5-10 – “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Acts 15:18 – “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
Romans 8:29-30 – ”For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
-The doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement: The real doctrine of the Atonement as taught in the Bible teaches us that Christ died as a literal Substitute for sinners; that Christ took our sin and was punished on behalf of our sin as our Substitute under the wrath of God so that the righteous demands of God’s holy Law could be satisfied and we could receive the forgiveness of sins and His righteousness and eternal life as a free gift of grace. Simply put, He bore our sins and our punishment so we could receive His righteousness and reward. Any denial of this truth is a denial of the essential truth of the biblical Gospel. To deny that Christ literally suffered in our place on the Cross in order to bear the wrath of God which we deserve, as our Substitute, in order to avert God’s wrath and condemnation from us and to purchase our redemption, is to deny the Gospel. Jesse Morrell believes that Christ did not actually bear our sin on the Cross, that our sin could have never been imputed to Christ, and therefore Christ could have never been punished for our sin. This is heresy, and if this is true, we are all yet dead in our sins and there is no forgiveness in Christ since there can only be forgiveness if He actually bore our sin and took it away. Yet the Bible clearly refutes Jesse’s (and Moral Government Theology’s) heretical doctrine of the Atonement:
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”
Romans 3:23-26 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Galatians 3:13-14 – “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
-The doctrine of Original Sin: This core Christian belief states that all men enter this world with an inherently sinful nature and all men possess an inherent moral corruptness in their own flesh. All men are therefore sinners by nature and apart from redemption through the grace of Christ, are under the curse of the Law, abide under the wrath of God, are by nature children of wrath, are dead in trespasses and sins, do nothing that pleases God, and sin continually against God as a manifestation of the wicked sinful nature in their own hearts. The Bible teaches that we (commit acts of) sin because we’re sinners (by nature), not that we are sinners only because we (commit acts of) sin; that outward acts of sin are manifestations of the moral depravity of our own hearts. Moral Government Theology and Jesse Morrell deny that this is true, and believe that all come into this world in a morally neutral state and deny that all of Adam’s posterity died spiritually in Adam’s original sin in the beginning. Further, they declare that all sin is a choice and only a choice, and therefore all must make the choice to “stop sinning” and become morally perfect in order to be accepted by God. Since Jesse believes that there is no sinful nature in man, therefore he believes that when a man chooses to stop sinning, that man can enter a state of sinless and moral perfection and must keep his right-standing with God based on his own works by maintaining such a state of sinless perfection. The Bible condemns this as heresy:
Genesis 6:5 – “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (See also Gen. 8:21)
Psalms 51:5 –“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”
Romans 5:12-19 – “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
-The doctrine of Justification by Faith alone: The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith alone, apart from works, based not on what we do, but solely on what Jesus Christ did for us. Since all have sinned, there is therefore no difference between men and all are sinners deserving of God’s just punishment, but since Jesus Christ purchased our redemption, we can be saved by believing in Him with a true saving faith in our hearts and upon believing, have our sins forgiven and receive the perfect righteousness of God. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that God doesn’t justify those already righteous, but that He justifies the wicked, the sinner, the rebel, while that person is still a sinner. Of course, with this justification of the sinner comes regeneration, which gives that sinner a new heart and a new nature which will choose to hate sin and love the holy things of God, and this will be evident in his life by a radical change of life. Nevertheless, the Gospel is that through Christ, God justifies the ungodly and makes them Godly, that God transforms the sinner into a saint by His free unmerited grace. Since our sin was imputed to Christ and He bore the punishment in full, now His righteousness is imputed to us as a free gift by faith in Him. Moral Government Theology and Jesse Morrell deny the biblical doctrine of justification by faith and believe that salvation is conditional upon abiding in a state of sinless perfection, that one has to completely stop sinning in order to be justified before God. Jesse denies that Christ’s righteousness could be imputed to us as a free gift, and states that we must earn our own salvation by offering our own righteousness to God. This is salvation by works, not by grace, and is condemned with an “Anathema” in the book of Galatians for adding works to the Gospel of grace, and is refuted by the entire Bible’s teaching on the plan of salvation:
Galatians 1:9 – “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Romans 3:20-22 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.”
Romans 4:5 – “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Romans 5:1 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:6-10 – “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
(In fact, read all of Romans chapters 3, 4 and 5 and the book of Galatians for a solid biblical teaching on justification by faith)
Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
-The doctrine of Biblical Regeneration: The Bible teaches that regeneration, or in other words, the New Birth, is a supernatural miracle of God’s sovereign grace that imparts to us a new nature by the power of the Holy Spirit and changes us and transforms us by God’s power to create in us the very nature of Christ Himself and thereby imparts to us the ability to please God. It involves receiving a new heart and a new spirit and being given the ability by God to habitually glorify God and take pleasure in the commands of Christ in the Gospel. Jesse Morrell teaches that regeneration is not a miracle which gives one the ability to obey God (since he believes that all sinners have this ability in and of their own selves), but Jesse teaches that regeneration is simply a change of life that is effected by the sinner’s own willpower. This is a denial of one of the most glorious and essential truths of the Gospel and what it does, essentially, is turn Jesse’s “gospel” into one that calls sinners to exercise their own ability, willpower, and morality in order to change their own selves and make their own selves holy and acceptable to God. This is not in accordance with God’s Word and equates to “another gospel”. The Bible teaches that regeneration is a supernatural miracle performed by God apart from human willpower, ability, or morality:
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
John 1:12-13 – “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:3-8 – “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Titus 3:5 – “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Furthermore, one of the most well known Moral Government Theologians, and a big theological role model for Jesse, is the late Charles G. Finney. Despite his wide acceptance in many “evangelical” circles, Finney’s theology propagated in his theological writings was nothing short of theological heresy (see bottom of page for links to further online resources about Finney which examine his theology and teachings with what the Bible says).
I do not wish to jump on a tangent and speak much about Finney, but I thought it necessary here to mention these facts because Jesse Morrell has been highly influenced by the writings and systematic theology of Finney. Therefore to examine the teachings of Finney and to find out what Finney taught and believed can also be a good way to find out what Jesse himself believes and teaches. Those who actually care about Biblical doctrine and believe what the Bible says with a simple child-like heart of faith and examine the teachings of Finney quickly find that Finney seriously deviated from historically recognized essential doctrines of Christianity, such as those mentioned above (including Justification by Faith, which was the glorious restored truth of the Reformation that caused the Protestants to split from the yoke of bondage of Roman Catholicism –to deny Justification by Faith is to return to Rome).
THE HERESIES BELIEVED (IN ADDITION TO THOSE STATED ABOVE):
Along with this theology, Jesse has embraced some other very serious heresies. These include, under the banner of Moral Government Theology:
The heresy of Pelagianism: This is a historically recognized heresy and has been universally recognized as such since the 5th Century A.D. This heretical system of theology comes from the early monk named Pelagius who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. Pelagius taught that no man is tainted by the sin of Adam but that all sin is only a choice, and therefore since Adam’s since didn’t taint us then Christ’s death doesn’t literally save us but instead provides a good example to us. Thus the cross of Christ is made of none effect in this theology. Thus Adam set a bad example to us and Christ set a good example for us, and now it’s up to us to save ourselves by our own ability and morality. In Pelagianism, salvation is of man, and not of God, and therefore not all of grace.
The heresy of Sinless Perfection: This is a teaching that Christians can enter and abide in a state of absolute sinlessness, being just as sinless as Adam before the Fall of man, or just as without sin as Jesus Christ Himself as He walked this earth. Many of those who hold to sinless perfection also believe that it is essential to attain to this state of sinless perfection in order to be “sanctified” and even saved. This is heresy according to 1 John 1:8, and those who believe this only deceive themselves; furthermore, they don’t understand the grace of God and therefore the Apostle tells us in that verse that the truth is not in them. While it is true that no real Christian will want to sin and will desire perfect holiness, the Bible teaches that all Christians still carry around a corrupt flesh that is affected by sin and therefore needs to be crucified, denied, and put to death all the time (see bottom of this article for links to various articles about sinless perfection).
The heresy of Legalism: This is a teaching that we need to attribute to our salvation by our own works and that there is merit before God in our own works. This is the heresy that is refuted by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians. As one Moral Government Theologian stated, “There can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law.” [Finney’s Systematic Theology]. And thus justification before God becomes conditional upon perfect obedience to the perfect moral Law of God, and justification is conditional upon works, and not solely upon faith. This is not just a slight deviation from the truth, but a serious heresy that is contrary to essential salvation truth.
The heresy of Open Theism: As already stated above, this is a denial that God knows the future, and a belief that God changes His mind regularly and reforms His own decisions and judgments as He learns new things. This is a denial of the Omniscience of God, and leads to tons of other practical theological errors.
These are doctrines that deny the essential truth of the Bible and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore anyone who holds to them dogmatically must not be considered a brother in Christ, but treated as a false believer or false teacher, pleaded with in love to repent, and shunned from Christian fellowship until they come to be ashamed of their false doctrines and repent. We cannot tolerate false teachings that deny the core truth of the Gospel of Christ but must stand firm and earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jesse Morrell does not believe in evangelical Christianity. He believes another system of religion that makes the grace of God of none effect and denies the most central, important truths of the Gospel. It is nothing short of a cult-like system of belief. Therefore, Jesse is not fit to be in ministry, to be preaching anywhere, and is not fit to be recognized as a brother with Christian fellowship and acceptance. He is to be pleaded with in love and in boldness to turn from his wicked dogmas and come back to the simplicity of Christ in the Gospel of God’s wondrous grace. I have personally confronted Jesse numerous times and strove with him and corrected him with Scripture and have even rebuked him sharply and dis-fellowshipped him, all to no avail.
Zeal in evangelism means nothing; the Pharisees themselves were zealous to travel land and sea to make a single convert but were still rebuked by Christ (Matthew 23:15). That’s because when they made the convert they indoctrinated him with their traditions and false beliefs and brought him under the bondage of legalism and therefore made him twice the son of Hell. This is what Jesse is doing. His doctrine is at least just as bad as the Pharisees whom the Lord rebuked because he makes salvation the work of man’s own works and abilities. Don’t be deceived by Jesse’s desire to preach all over the world. Instead, examine his theology in light of the Word of God and obey what the infallible Word of God teaches.
I know assuredly that Jesse will state that the points brought up in this article, and the disagreements I have, are all a result of my “Calvinism”. Anything that disagrees with him he calls “Calvinism” and is out on a wild witch-hunt against the doctrines of grace with the same ferocity that the Pharisees themselves attacked the doctrines preached by the Son of God. However, let me be clear, what I am promoting in this article is not just the doctrines associated with Calvinistic belief, but these are things that historical Arminians and Calvinists alike agree on. Both “Arminians” and “Calvinists” believe that God knows the future, that Christ is the substitute for our sins, that there is a such thing as inherent sinfulness in all men (original sin), that all that are saved are justified by faith alone apart from works, and that regeneration is a miracle of God. The majority of both “Arminians” and “Calvinists” alike agree that Pelagianism is absolute heresy, that sinless perfection is false, and that there is no merit in striving to obey the Law of God to earn our own righteousness. Only cults and offshoot heretical sects disagree on these essential truths of the Gospel.
Jesse Morrell’s theology is false and is “another gospel”. Though I care deeply for him and long for the day when he would renounce such deviations from the truth of the Scriptures, and would rejoice to see him do such, I must stand firm and speak out against the deceptions that he is promoting which are leading many astray. “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1-2)
A WORD TO JESSE MORRELL:
Dear Jesse, mark my words, you will face the Judgment Seat of a holy God and give an account for all those you influenced and led astray from the grace of the Gospel. Yet I believe that as long as you have the breath of life in you that there’s hope for you to repent and believe the Gospel and trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ alone to save you. Salvation is by grace, not by works. Your works profit you nothing. Trust in Christ alone and renounce your own will and ability and yield it all to Christ and beg Him to have mercy on your soul. Cry out for a real revelation of the grace of God in the Gospel. I fear for you Jesse. You are in grave danger and have chosen a slippery path that promises Heaven but leads to Hell. My greatest fear though is that you’re not content to hold such doctrines to yourself, but must spread such lies around and indoctrinate as many as you can on your path of deception. Turn from the doctrines of men, the doctrines you learned from Finney, and Olson, and Pelagius, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ alone and the truth of the Gospel as revealed in the Bible. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Further online resources about Moral Government Theology:
Further online resources about Open Theism:
Further online resources about Charles Finney:
Further online resources about Sinless Perfection: