ANSWER: The general definition of rape is that it is the forcing of one person (usually a woman), against their will, to have sexual intercourse or commit sex acts with another person. You question centers around the unique relationship of a husband to his wife.
Does the above definition of rape also apply to those who are husband and wife? What does the Bible teach about the proper sexual relationship within a marriage? Does God give a husband control over the body of his wife? Let us look at what the Apostle Paul has to say on the subject.
Let the husband render his conjugal dues to his wife, and in the same way also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have power over her own body, but the husband . . .
Do not deprive one another of conjugal dues, except it be by consent for a time . . . (1Corinthians 7:2 - 5, HBFV throughout).
It is clear from the above verses that sex within marriage involves a concern for the needs of the other person which, of course, rape does not consider. Each person in a husband and wife relationship transfers the right to use their body as they wish to the other person. In marriage, each one loses the sole authority they had over their bodies as when they were single.
The duty to fulfill the other person's sexual needs does not stop unless by mutual (not one-sided, as when sex is used like a weapon to get one's way) consent. Once the reason for refraining is fulfilled, the duty of providing for the other's needs goes immediately back in effect and for not any time longer.
A very good example for women to follow regarding their duties and responsibilities in marriage is the story of the righteous or virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul offers additional vital information on the relationship between a married man and women.
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies . . . (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28).
The relationship between a husband and wife transcends the physical. Paul repeats his teaching of mutual submission in marriage but also offers a standard or template by which each person can gauge themselves. The man is the head of the woman and should serve her selflessly as Christ, the head of the church, gave himself totally for it.
A husband's example of love and concern should lead his mate to a godlier life. On the other side, the wife should reverence her mate and take her responsibilities within marriage with the same attitude of submission as she has to God.
Given the definitions above and the teachings of Paul, a husband can rape his wife. A godly relationship is one that has mutual submission, respect and love.
A man who physically forces any woman, whether or not he is married to her, to have sex against her will, is committing an act of rape. A man who forces his wife to have sex is violating the Biblical principles regarding the marriage covenant.