Each of these three forms of song (psalms, hymns, spiritual songs) express the nature and character of God. The psalm speaks of the past: God’s acts over all the years and His work among men. Hymns speak of the present. They talk about His character and extol His nature and work among us now as believers. The hymns were the new form of song that was adopted by the early Church in order to sing of the life and resurrection of Christ. Spiritual songs speak of the things to come. They are, by definition, prophetic. Spiritual songs call us to the ongoing work and character of God in our lives. They teach us of the revelation of God for today and beyond.
One of the most common forms of singing in Biblical times was responsive, or antiphonal singing: Hebrew–anah means to answer; bear witness; cry; shout; testify; speak; lift up. This was a fundamental form of singing in Israel. It appears that the reason for the use of this form, is to teach (Ps 145:4) and to accentuate the words of a song. The repetition causes the hearers to ‘hear’ the message twice, and if a response is required, then there will be a need for greater concentration, and more intelligent and thoughtful expression of worship.