The first thing we know about marriage at all is its biblical definition. "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). (Note, by the way, who defined marriage this way. The text in Genesis could imply that it was Adam (see verse 23). Jesus sees it differently. "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matt 19:4-5). Who said it? "He who created them." As our culture today strives to redefine marriage, it does so not merely against the standard definition or even the longstanding traditional definition, but against God's established definition.) The wife, then, who wishes to faithfully reproduce the music of marriage would be required to "leave and cleave" -- to leave mother and father and cleave to her husband. The parental relationship remains, to be sure, but it is now different, altered, decreased. The single most important relationship to the married woman is her husband.
A key to this marriage music is God's design. Eve was designed to be what the King James calls a "help meet for him" (Gen 2:20). The description is of a "suitable helper", a person designed by God to assist the husband, filling in his shortcomings, shoring up his weaknesses, propping up his failings. A high fidelity wife is the strength behind her husband.
Of course, the defining texts on God's view of the role of a wife in marriage is found in Ephesians 5 and paralleled in 1 Peter 3. Ephesians 5 says:
Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. ... Let the wife see to it that she respect her husband" (Eph 5:21-24, 30).We all know that it says "Be subject to one another." Paul goes on to explain in what sense. For wives, he says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." That should really come across with a jolt. "As to the Lord." This is no small submission. Indeed, when he repeats it, he expands it. "Wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Everything? Not my word. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (and not by some misguided misogyny), used the word. Wives, if you wish to be a faithful wife, truly reproducing the music that God intended for marriage, submission to your husband in everything is required.
"Well, now," some of you might be saying, "submitting to a good husband is a great idea. But we don't all have good husbands." Or, rather, you will be tempted to say that. So Peter interjects, "Wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1). Thus, Error #1 in this "wives submit" objection is to limit the scope. Paul disagrees and includes everything. Error #2 is to assume it is only to good husbands. Wives with bad husbands are exempt. Peter disagrees and includes disobedient husbands.
So far, then, God's definition of marriage for wives includes "leave and cleave", the role of "helpmeet" -- a helper suitable to her husband -- and submission that goes beyond an ungodly husband and extends to everything. Indeed, a key task of wives is found in that last verse in Ephesians 5. "Let the wife see to it that she respect her husband." The word used there for "respect" is phobeo, the Greek word for fear. It is commonly used in the New Testament in the phrasing of the concept of the fear of God. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1). That kind of fear. The fear that includes respect, reverence, awe, and just a healthy touch of fear. Wives, do you have that kind of respect for your husbands? If you wish to reproduce the music of marriage faithfully, that is a necessary component.
It wouldn't do to finish this thought without touching on sex. I know, I know, not a popular subject. Husbands are typically unhappy about not getting what they want (and I've addressed that first). We prefer to think, in fact, that wives are the virtuous ones on this topic. They're above it. They are romantic rather than lustful, not wrapped up in base desires like men and their testosterone are. So it is with a little apprehension that I point you ladies to 1 Corinthians 7.
Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:3-5).I figure you astute women reading the previous piece to husbands would see this coming and recognize that it would come back to bite you. Well, you were right. Marriage includes the wife's duty to her husband. One of the biblical components of marriage, despite what anyone might think, is the sexual union of husband and wife. Paul wrote, "It is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor 7:9). It isn't base; it's a basic component. Further, we have bought a lie fed from the father of lies through the mouths of feminists who have assured us "It's the woman's body; she chooses what she will do with it." Sounds good, I'll admit, but it sounds good in defiance of God's Word. The husband's body is not his own. True. Equally, "The wife does not have authority over her own body." In fact, Paul warns here of a serious danger. Depriving one another can produce satanic temptation. Not good.
Wives need to be as faithful in their marriages as husbands are required to be in theirs. That means more than sexual fidelity. (And let's be honest; women are as prone to lust after someone not their husband as husbands are for those other than their wives. It just likely looks different because it's cloaked in a romance novel or love scene in a movie.) God has designed marriage indeed to be a beautiful song. A godly wife, if she is to fulfill her God-given role, must be a hi-fi bride, faithfully reproducing those tones. They include unity with her husband above all others, a submission that surpasses the character of her husband and extends to all corners of life, a respect for the husband that borders on fear, and providing for her husband's sexual desires. Just as Adam complained to God, "It was that woman you gave me" (Gen 3:16), it's easy to set aside many, even most, of these components and point at that husband. There is nothing in the music of marriage that allows for that. Wives, if you are to be faithful to your marriage as God intended, these are some of the key components. God will hold your husbands responsible for their fidelity. He will also hold you responsible for yours. How faithful are you?