Wright ( Paul and the Faithfulness of God ) provides a superb summary of Paul’s teaching concerning baptism, starting with the essential point: “Baptism is a community-marking symbol, which the individual then receives, not first and foremost as a statement about him- or herself, but as a statement which says ‘This is who we are ‘” (421).
This is the one infelicity in Wright’s discussion, since his formulation implies an individual-community tension of some sort. One should rather say: Baptism is about the individual who receives baptism, and what it does is precisely to bring the baptized among the “we” that are such.
Otherwise, Wright’s summary could hardly be improved. Filling out the point with reference to Romans 6, Wright writes:
“the meaning of baptism in Romans 6.2-11 is this: you are the new-exodus people, the people defined by the death and resurrection of the Messiah. If you have been baptized, you belong to the people thus defined, and you must therefore draw the proper conclusions: you, too, have died and been raised. ‘You, too, must calculate yourselves to be dead to sin, and alive to God in the Messiah, Jesus’ (6.11). You must work out the fact that you have been brought out of slavery, and stand now as free people on the way to your inheritance” (422).
Importantly, he adds that “reckoning” here is “not a fresh act on the part of the baptized by which they become something which before they were not. ‘Reckoning’ simply means ‘calculating,’ working out what is in fact the case . And what is the case is that they are not in some strange intermediate state. They have died and they are ‘alive to God.’ Baptism marks out this community as the new-exodus people who must therefore live in the appropriate way” (423).
And that qualification that the baptized must live out of baptism shows that “Baptism does not afford entry into a magically shielded space where one is automatically immune from danger.” Whoever enters the koinonia of the church in baptism “must continue to be marked by it” (421).