Ordinary: Matthew and Bill Wallace (Matthew 9:9-13)



Ordinary. Some want to be ordinary so they blend into the crowd. Others avoid being ordinary because they want to be different and stand out. Bill Wallace considered himself ordinary because he simply believed God and followed what He said.[1]

Bill Wallace was born in 1908 in Knoxville, TN. He was the son of a physician. However, growing up Bill had little interest in medicine but instead loved things that were mechanical. Bill’s interests involved cars and motorcycles. At the age of 17, while working on a car in the family garage he could not shake the question: “What should I do with my life? No, what would God have me do with my life?” On July 5, 1925 Bill Wallace sought God’s will through prayer and reading the New Testament and sensed a call to become a medical missionary wherever God would send him. Following that day, Bill Wallace would never look back or waver from this commitment. He would spend the next ten years of his life receiving education to become a doctor. He turned down lucrative offers of medical practices in his beloved Knoxville, and sought how God would use his medical education and skill to serve Him in the world.

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Today’s message will be unique. It continues our series Ordinary and will examine an ordinary disciple whom Jesus called with an ordinary response with extraordinary results. Together we will see 2 realities of ordinary discipleship with Jesus.


EXAMINE   Matthew 9:9-13                     Title: Ordinary: Bill WallaceOrdinary_logo

Jesus calls us to unreserved commitment and obedience.

The disciples of Jesus were not religious saints or educated scholars. They were ordinary, everyday, common, working men. They were unremarkable in and of themselves, but their faith in Jesus grew remarkable. God often does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. God chooses the humble and inordinary so that our faith might not rest in humanity but in the power of God (1Cor 1:26-30).

Each one of Jesus’ disciples would follow Him with abandon, leaving behind possessions, careers, and even family. Their faith was unreserved in commitment and obedience. Again, the disciples were not perfect by any means. Yet, God used their faults and failures to grow their faith.

Jesus saw a man called Matthew.

Jesus is always seeing people. He sees you; you and your circumstances matter to God. This is comforting. This is also convicting. He sees you; meaning there is nothing you can hide. When you realize Jesus sees you then you have a choice – run toward or run away. Which are you doing?

Jesus saw Matthew. The name Matthew means “gift of Yahweh”, and other Gospel writers call him “Levi” (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). Matthew was a tax collector.

The Romans hired local citizens to collect taxes. Taxes and tolls were extreme on everything from traveling roads, crossing bridges, ships entering/exiting harbors, using a market and making trades, as well as owning property and possessions. The tax collectors had unlimited latitude to levy taxes beyond what was owed to Rome, in order to earn their own living. They were known for being greedy. Even worse, they were considered as traitors for a Jew to work for the evil empire of Rome.

The noted Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim reports that a Jewish publicani was barred from the synagogue and was forbidden to have any religious or social contact with his fellow Jews. Publicans were ranked with the unclean Gentiles and animals, which a devout Jew would not so much as touch. Tax collectors were like swine to a religious Jew. They were identified with sinners (Mat 9:10), drunks (Mat 11:19), Gentiles (Mat 18:17), prostitutes (Mat 21:31), immoral and unjust (Lk 18:11) – the low class and worse of all people.

Interestingly enough, God would use Matthew – a tax collector – to write a Gospel to Jews, quoting OT Scripture 99 times, more than any other Gospel author.

Jesus called Matthew saying, “Follow me.”

“Follow Me” is a command requiring commitment and obedience.

This 2 word command is the summation of Christian discipleship. In fact, there is only one category of disciples: followers and non-followers. There is no such thing as spectators or casual observers in Christianity.

“Follow Me” is a command of relational adventure under God’s authority.

When Jesus called disciples He did not say, “Follow this path”. Jesus was God, so He simply said, “Follow Me”. Following Jesus is about a relationship; He calls us to be “with Him” (Mark 3:14).

“he rose and followed”

Matthew’s response was immediate. He didn’t hesitate but simply acted without reservation. Matthew is modest in his own description but Luke 5:28 says, “he left everything behind and rose and began to follow Jesus”.


Bill Wallace wrote to the Foreign Mission Board (IMB)

“My name is William Wallace and I am now serving as a resident in surgery at Knoxville General Hospital, Tennessee. Since my senior year in high school, I have felt God would have me to be a medical missionary, and to that end I have been preparing myself. I attended the University of Tennessee for my premedical work and received the M.D. from the University Medical School in Memphis. I did an internship here at Knoxville General and remained for surgical residency.
I am not sure what you desire by way of information, but I am single, twenty-six years old, and I am a member of the Broadway Baptist Church. My mother died when I was eleven and my father, also a physician, passed away two years ago. There were only two of us, and my sister, Ruth Lynn, is planning marriage.
I must confess, I am not a good speaker nor apt as a teacher, but I do feel God can use my training as a physician. As humbly as I know how, I want to volunteer to serve as a medical missionary under our Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. I have always thought of Africa, but I will go anywhere I am needed.”

Later, he would stand before his home church and say,

“I want to express to you my sincere and heartfelt appreciation in making it possible for me to go to China as your missionary, your ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ… You may ask why do I want to go to China… and there spend my life and energy. You might say there is much to be done in this country and many have said you can do a lot of good here. Why should I go when there is such hardship and inconveniences? The only answer I have is that it is God’s plan that I go…
I want to go because of the needs. And how great is that need! China today is ready and willing to hear and accept the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In Luke 10:2 we read, ‘the harvest truly is great,… pray ye therefore…that he would send forth laborers into the harvest.’ In our mission field today in China and in other countries, hundreds and thousands are going to their death without knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ because we do not have enough missionaries to tell the story.
I want to go to China because someone has prayed… and God heard these prayers and has answered as he always does when God’s people pray. I would rather be going out as God’s missionary this morning than anything else in the world.”

Bill Wallace, like the disciple Matthew, followed Jesus with unreserved commitment and obedience.

à What hinders you from following Jesus? Love for possessions, comforts… people…

Sometimes we can even allow good people relationships to stand in our way of following God.

– boy/girlfriend, – spouse, – a child – family member…

à What is one faith risk adventure that God may be leading you to take?


Jesus calls us to unreserved compassion and outreach.

Matthew invited Jesus to his home. Luke’s Gospel (5:29) says, “Levi made [Jesus] a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and other reclining at table with them.” Matthew had found grace and wanted all his sinner friends to experience it too.

  • Following Jesus does not remove you from your network.
  • Jesus did not huddle and hide the disciples in the temple but spent time in people’s homes and lives outside, beyond the synagogues.
  • God has positioned you around people who need Jesus.
  • You have a family, a neighborhood, a school, a job, a sphere of influence…
  • Noticeably, Jesus was associating in comfort and eating with all the sinners because it drew the complaints of the religious Pharisees.

à Do you remember when you first became a Christian?

  • Matthew’s meeting Jesus resulted in immediate ministry to those around him.
  • SPBC need’s Matthew’s to throw a party at their house and invite people to meet Jesus.
    • Role of the church is not to schedule you at the church building but to send you out into the community.
    • SPBC Sundays Gatherings – – – > lead to weekly Going.
      • Sunday eve plan has built in 1st Sundays for outreach and going.

But when you are in that network,

à What do you rave about? What consumes the content of your conversations?

  • We speak of what brings us pleasure and purpose.
  • If Jesus is not on our lips then He is not likely in our life.

Notice that when you are doing God’s will with unreserved commitment and obedience there will always be opposition. They questioned [with judgment[ the disciples.

  • Note: Questions can be for information or for intimidation. Theirs was the latter showing resistance to Jesus.
  • Note: The Pharisees questioning was to the disciples and not to Jesus. They sought intimidation rather than confrontation of one who spoke with authority and leadership.

The Pharisees were very religious and educated people. They cared greatly about what OT Scripture said. They valued doctrine as well as moral character. They wanted people to have commitment and radical obedience. Yet, they focused on external behavior and following the letter of the law rather than the practical application of reaching people where they are.

The Pharisees did not want to help people but judge. They were resentful of Jesus for coming to call the undeserving rather than themselves, who they considered were more deserving. If the Pharisees were spiritual doctors then why were they not spending time among the sick? Why diagnose people without offering them a cure? They needed to understand mercy and compassion and not mere religious performance.

Jesus responded to the Pharisees questions of why He ate with sinners:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’.”
“For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus’ words make you smile. We know they are true. In fact, more than appreciation for His truthfulness we have attachment to Jesus because He actually cares. He has compassion and we are drawn to Him.

à Who are the sick today?

  • people in transition: students (moving toward maturity); transients/military; immigrants
  • people under tension: finances, family (marriage & parenting; single parents & mixed fams.)
  • people in trouble: addiction, abortion, poverty (emotional/mental; physical (homeless/poor); moral (poor life decisions); spiritual (lostness)

Christians today must have unreserved compassion and outreach for others.

This testimony was given of Bill Wallace

“It was while at Fok-Luk that I saw Dr. Wallace refuse his rice allowance and give it to a nurse who was desperately ill with fever. Most of us were sick with diarrhea or fever. Later on I saw him behind the cook tent we had rigged up. He was eating grains of burned rice, hardly palatable, that had been thrown away. When he realized I had seen him, he was terribly embarrassed.
No, he wasn’t ashamed of eating that food. No one else would have had it, as hungry as we were. I think he was embarrassed because he did not want me to know how hungry he was.
He was so thin I thought he would blow away if a good wind came along. Somehow, however, he stayed well. He showed us how to eat the bones of what few fowl we found, to get needed vitamins. I believe his unorthodox methods saved all our lives during this period. He was so good, watching over each of us, cheering us, caring for the sick, and doing everything he could to provide for our comfort.
We Chinese are not used to seeing Americans or Europeans do things like this. We know the missionaries love us, but there was always a difference. They lived their way and we lived ours, but Dr. Wallace didn’t know about the difference. He was one of us. He accepted our portion – all of it.”


It was said of Bill Wallace,

“If you want to find him, find the sickest patient in the hospital, and there he will be.”


Bill Wallace sought to heal both body and soul as he brought his medical practice as well as the ministry of the good news of Jesus Christ.



Bill Wallace would die in China as the Communists would enter Wuchow in July 1950. He was jailed, treated harshly on the trumped up charge of being “President Truman’s chief spy in South China”. His body was hung and later buried in a crude wooden coffin. After he was buried, the people that loved Dr. Bill Wallace laid a cement terrace on the grave with the words “For to Me to Live is Christ”


What words do you want on the cement marker of your grave?

When people see your life, what do the see?

  • A fake?
  • A follower of Jesus?
    • Salvation is just the starting line. There is a race to run.
      • Imagine at race the announcer says “Gentlemen start your engines”
        • and then never shoots the gun or waves the green flag.
        • or the driver turns the key ignition but then exits car and leaves it on the track.


  • We must finish strong with
    • an unreserved commitment and obedience to Jesus.
    • an unreserved compassion and outreach for others.



[1] This message takes credit and inspiration from Daniel Akin’s Ten Who Changed The World, chapter 3: Jesus Is Everything To Me: Glorious Truth in the Life and Death of Bill Wallace. Also, info from: http://www.wmbc.net/#/welcome/our-history,

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