The exact phrase, the gift of the Holy Ghost, is used two times in the Bible. The first time is on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and the second time is at the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:45). The Acts 10 passage further defines this gift as having "received the Holy Ghost" (Acts 10:47). In the next chapter, Peter defines the event as being an extension of the baptism of the Holy Ghost as received on the day of Pentecost (Acts 11:15-16). So we know that the gift of the Holy Ghost is directly connected to the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
This baptism was promised in all four gospels and once in the first chapter of Acts (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5). For instance, in Mark 1:8, Christ said, "I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." In Acts 1:5, immediately before Christ ascended up into heaven, He told the disciples that this event would occur "not many days hence." That is, it was an event that would occur at a particular time and place (since they were to wait for it in Jerusalem).
This event was also called "the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). They were instructed not to depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise there. Therefore, in Acts 1:4, the gift of the Holy Ghost was something for which the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem because it would come not many days hence. In Peter's sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (when the Holy Ghost came), he said, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:33). Here, he calls the baptism of the Holy Ghost by the name of "the promise of the Holy Ghost." And, he declares that they had received this promise from the Father. In other words, He had come and the gift had been given. They only needed to repent and be baptized in order to receive Him themselves. The baptism with the Holy Ghost is also called an enduing with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The baptism itself was an event that occurred on a particular day in a particular place.
Further in the book of Acts, the baptism was extended to include those groups that were not included in the pentecostal experience found in Acts 2. In Acts 8:14-17, we see the Samaritan believers being included. In Acts 10:44-48, the Gentiles are brought into the blessing. And finally, in Acts 19:1-7, the disciples of John the Baptist who did not know about the coming of Christ were brought into the baptism. Therefore, we can see that the baptism with the Holy Ghost was an event with several addendums to include all types of believers.
However, even though the baptism with the Holy Ghost as such was a historical event, that does not mean that it has no effect on us today. Two major changes in how God deals with believers were marked on the day of Pentecost. First, this event marked the coming of the Comforter promised by Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 15:27; 16:7; Acts 2:33). The Comforter, being the Holy Ghost, has now taken the place of Jesus Christ in the work of God on earth. Second, the time of Pentecost began the time when the Holy Ghost indwells every true believer of Christ. The Spirit of God, who was WITH believers, is now IN believers (John 14:16-17). Today, if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). That is, he is not saved.
The great blessing of this is that all who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Saviour and are born again also have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. We do not have to be baptized. We do not have to speak in tongues. We do not have to wait. When we get saved, we have received the Spirit. All who are saved have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Praise the Lord!
Now, this does not mean that there is not more to the spiritual life than what we have at salvation. It is only that we do need more of the Holy Ghost as is often taught. Actually, the problem with the spiritual life of most believers is not that they need more of the Holy Ghost; the problem is that the Holy Ghost needs more of them. This is much of the meaning of being filled with the Spirit. He is in all believers, but most believers have not allowed Him to fill their lives.
In this dispensation, we are not commanded to seek the gift of the Holy Ghost. That teaching was made before the Holy Ghost was already given to every believer. Today, we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), and to be led of the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). We are never told to seek to speak in tongues. Even when tongues were a bonifide spiritual gift, all believers were not to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30).
Today, we need the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. However, the baptism with the Holy Ghost is not for us. It was the event brought on by the departure of Christ from earth. It brought the Holy Ghost to the earth as God's special presence here. As an event, it began the universal indwelling of every believer by God's Holy Spirit. As Jesus said during His earthly ministry:
John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Well, now Jesus IS glorified and the Holy Ghost IS given. We no longer wait to receive Him. And, if we allow Him to fill us, He will flow as rivers of living water out of our bellies. Thank the Lord for this precious gift.