How often should communion be observed? Does the communion simply replace the Passover sacrifice and therefore is to be observed annually or is it appropriate to partake of it every Sabbath day? Some cite Acts 20:7 to prove that it should be observed each week, but isn’t this passage simply referring to eating a meal together. Also I have noticed that the Greek word artos found in 1 Corinthians 11:26 refers to a leavened loaf. Based on this, shouldn’t leavened bread be used during communion instead of unleavened matzo?
While the word communion appears in 1 and 2 Corinthians, today’s communion is a misnomer. From a biblical perspective, the term “communion” is simply another name for the Passover. This is also true for the Master’s supper. These are not separate observances, but different names for the same event.
For example, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary under “Lord’s Supper” states, “The term the Lord’s Supper is used only in 1 Cor 11:20. The practice is also known as Communion (from 1 Cor 10:16), the Lord’s Table (from 1 Cor 10:21), and the Eucharist (from the Greek word for ‘giving thanks’; Luke 22:17,19; 1 Cor 11:24). The expression breaking of bread (Acts 2:42,46; 20:7,11) probably refers to receiving the Lord’s Supper with a common meal known as the LOVE FEAST (2 Peter 2:13; Jude 12). The institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:1-23; 1 Cor 11:23-25) took place on the night before Jesus died, at a meal commonly known as the Last Supper. Although there is considerable debate over the issue, the Last Supper probably was the Jewish PASSOVER meal, first instituted by God in the days of Moses (Ex 12:1-14; Num 9:1-5).”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia under “Lord’s Supper” agrees that the communion or Eucharist originated from the Passover: “The more immediate background of the Eucharist is the Passover…. The Passover was at once a covenant-recalling and a covenant-renewing sacrifice, and the Eucharist, as corresponding to it, was instituted at the time of its yearly observance, and of the immolation of the true paschal lamb, of whose death it interpreted the value and significance (Ex 12:3-28; compare 13:3-10; Deut 16:1-8; 1 Cor 5:7; John 6:51; 10:10-11,15,17-18; 15:13; 17:19).”
Clearly, communion or the practice of the Eucharist developed through the Passover. It was the church’s practice to deviate from biblical observances and to select days of their own choosing. This was done for two reasons. They desired to appease the growing gentile converts, which also motivated many within the church to move away from teachings that were viewed as “Jewish.”
Regarding the frequency of observance, while some debate, based on Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:25 (“as oft as you….”), that communion can be observed frequently (e.g. weekly, monthly, etc.) the fact that communion refers to the Passover limits its observance to annually.
Regarding Acts 20:7, you are correct, this was simply a common meal. This is not speaking about the Passover.
As for the meaning of Greek artos, while this word can refer to leavened bread, it can also refer to food in general, including unleavened bread. The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon provides two primary definitions: (1) food composed of flour mixed with water and baked, and (2) food of any kind.
Along with Thayer’s, we find the following from the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, “’bread’ (perhaps derived from aro, ‘to fit together,’ or from a root ar–, ‘the earth’), signifies (a) ‘a small loaf or cake,’ composed of flour and water, and baked, in shape either oblong or round, and about as thick as the thumb; these were not cut, but broken and were consecrated to the Lord every Sabbath and called the ‘shewbread’ (loaves of presentation), Matt 12:4; when the ‘shewbread’ was reinstituted by Nehemiah Neh 10:32 a poll-tax of 1/3 shekel was laid on the Jews, Matt 17:24; (b) ‘the loaf at the Lord’s Supper,’ e. g., Matt 26:26 (“Jesus took a loaf,” RV, marg.); the breaking of ‘bread’ became the name for this institution, Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23; (c) “bread of any kind,” Matt 16:11; (d) metaphorically, ‘of Christ as the Bread of God, and of Life,’ John 6:33,35; (e) ‘food in general,’ the necessities for the sustenance of life, Matt 6:11; 2 Cor 9:10, etc.”
There is nothing within these definitions that requires artos to refer only to leavened bread. As confirmed by both Thayer’s and Vines, artos is broad and contains multiple meanings. A good rule of thumb is when we have questions about something, always return to the source. For the Passover this be would Exodus 12, which confirms that only unleavened bread was permitted with the Passover meal.